Tow surfers waiting for 40ft surf in Chili

The Association of Professional Towsurfers (APT) was started in 2003 to support the growth and development of Tow-In Surfing. Now in its fifth year, APT has embarked on promoting world class tow-in competitions (and in the midst of a five month holding period in Chile), FUEL.TV caught up with APT President and Founder, Eric Akiskalian.

He gave us the goods on his involvement with the sport, the APT World Tour Tow-In Surfing Circuit and what it’s like being at the mercy of mother nature when you’re trying to run a pro tour. Here’s what Eric had to say…

I’ve always been drawn to the edge, being extreme and doing crazy things in life. After spending some 30+ years surfing some good-sized paddle waves, I was ready to try something very new and different. Laird Hamilton, Buzzy Kerbox, Derrick Doerner along with a few others known then as the ‘Strapped Crew’, introduced tow-in surfing in Hawaii in the early ‘90s.

It wasn’t until ’98 that the crew at Mavericks, Peter Mel, Ken Collins, Flea, Barney and others started towing on the West coast. That was when I made the decision that I was going to begin my journey but didn’t know how to get started. I knew that there would be a lot of training involved and equipment to invest in. So I bought a Yamaha PWC, started taking training courses, and baby stepped my way into it. Now, almost eight years later my journey continues and what a ride it has been to this point.

In 2000 I launched Towsurfer.com to get more involved with the sport and its athletes by promoting the big wave sessions that happened with documented photos and video clips then doing interviews with the big wave riders. That’s when I met guys like Laird Hamilton, Raimana Van Bastolaer, Peter Mel, Greg Long, Garrett McNamara, Kealii Mamala, Chuck Patterson, Scott Chandler, Don Curry, Chris ‘Brownie’ Brown, Jamie Sterling along with many others and started traveling the globe and towing with the best in the sport.

Somehow Towsurfer.com became very popular on a global level and that is when I was able to turn my interest in tow surfing into a viable business. It just kind of happened without any initial intent. Starting the Association of Professional Towsurfers, Inc., (APT) was a natural progression for me.

Being a promoter at heart, I saw a need for an organized and professional tow-in surfing tour and new a competitive circuit would become the future that would advance the sport of big wave surfing. It’s taken a good five years to create and develop the beginning stages of this tour, but with the help of my good friends Jimbeau Andrews, Co founder/Executive Director and Rodney Kilborn, VP/Event Sanctioning Director, a lot of hard work and support from the competitors, the APT has begun to carve its way in the world of extreme competitive action sports.

Of course the biggest obstacle we face with running a competitive circuit of this nature is mother nature. The APT is divided into nine global regions: Mainland USA, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, Europe, South Pacific, Australia, South Africa and Japan. The waiting periods are fairly basic. We follow the winter swells in the southern hemisphere from April to October and from October through March we monitor the winter swells in the northern hemisphere.

But in order for us to run an event, we need a solid 17'-20' deep water ground swell reading, which will produce minimum wave height requirements of 40’. We will wait for the biggest and best conditions, but sometimes they never come. Take the Red Bull Big Wave Africa competition. They just celebrated their 10-year anniversary, but have only held four events over those 10 years. It’s hit or miss in our business.

The last event we held was on Oahu in January of ’06. Right now we’ve been in a holding period in Chile for four months and have had to extend the holding period to September 15th. Thanks to our APT V.P. of Chile, Rodrigo ‘Flecha’ Escobar, he’s handling the entire Pichilemu event, and has done an amazing job organizing and getting sponsors together so that when the amber alert says it’s a go, we are ready at a moment’s notice and on a plane.

Being patient is all part of the game, especially since big giant waves are what set our tow-in surfing tour apart from the rest of the industry.

Our number one priority this year is to have the Chile event and turn it into a major success. We are currently working on this event everyday as we wait for the right swell to come. From working on media exposure, to dealing with other event promoters and other global event locations, there is a lot of communication involved as well as a degree of open mindedness necessary for all of us to work together.

The APT believes that everyone should try to make an attempt to work collectively as a group, in order to support the growth of our sport and the future for our big wave tow-in surfing tour. Our best asset today is the support from our competitors and their desire to see the tour grow. The competitors have a lot of input and we respect what they have to say. So a special thanks to all our competitors and members that continue to support our efforts.

For more information on the APT and to check out daily event forecasts and swell updates tune into protowsurfers.org.

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