Riding the eye of the storm (cloned for SW 1346903168)
Riding the eye of the storm (cloned for SW 1346903168)

They chase giant ocean storms for a living, so it was only fitting that big-wave riders Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones rolled into Perth during a week in which wild weather has battered the WA coast.

But two-time world surfing champion Carroll and tow-surfing legend Clarke-Jones were more than happy to leave the local boys to it when they stopped off in Cottesloe yesterday during a nationwide tour to promote new documentary Storm Surfers 3-D.

"Yeah, it's a bit flat at this time of year," Clarke-Jones said looking out at a group of surfers taking advantage of the 2m swell, nothing compared with the behemoth waves he and Carroll are seen tackling in their film.

Narrated by Toni Collette, Storm Surfers 3-D follows Carroll and Clarke-Jones during the winter of 2011 as they travel the country with their surf-forecasting guru mate Ben Matson in search of the ultimate wave.

The film, co-directed by Justin McMillan and Chris Nelius, encompasses a number of surf spots around WA, including an uncharted break at Turtle Dove Shoal, off the Geraldton coast, and Cow Bombie in the State's South West, although both incidents still send shivers down Carroll's spine.

It was at Cow Bombie that Carroll, now 50, almost killed himself and his best mate of 30 years while towing him into a wave on a jet ski. Just as Clarke-Jones let go of the rope, Carroll's ski was clipped by the chop, sending him and the 700kg machine over the wave with his mate underneath it.

Ross Clarke-Jones and Tom Carroll at Cottesloe Beach ahead of the Subiaco screening of Storm Surfers 3D. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

"For me, I was just lucky to go through the experience and come out of it the other side," Carroll says. "All I was thinking about was that I was going to hit Ross and that was really scary."

Storm Surfers is visceral filmmaking but Carroll and Clarke-Jones, 46, admit they had their work cut out trying to concentrate on surfing while taking directions from the production crew. Holding 3-D GoPro cameras while riding 6m waves, in particular, proved to be challenging.

In the other incident at the previously unsurfed Turtle Dove Shoal, Carroll almost came a cropper.

"It's a bummer that I went down," he says of the wipe-out that left him pretty shaken. "When I got on the wave, it felt pretty good but I was a bit put off by using the camera. I didn't have my hands in front of me which I usually do."

Carroll lost the camera in the incident - one of six that became casualties in the surf. However, both he and Clarke-Jones say it was worth it for the end product.

"I think they saved the whole production in terms of getting the viewer closer to the action," Clarke-Jones says. "You can see the audience literally squirming in their seats."

Indeed, Storm Surfers 3-D, has been a massive hit around the country, and not just with surfers.

More screenings have been added to what was meant to be a limited release, while the film has also been selected for the Toronto International Film Festival, which opens today.

Clarke-Jones admits while footage of the pair riding waves is incredible, it is the story of their friendship and what drives them that is really striking a chord.

"I think we have removed the arrogance and replaced it with humour," Clarke-Jones says. "We are making fun of ourselves and not taking it too seriously. I think people see us having fun and being kids and it's infectious."

Storm Surfers 3-D is screening at selected cinemas across Perth from today until September 24. For full details, visit stormsurfers.com.au.

Tom Carroll loses control of the jetski during filming at Cow Bombie. Picture: Jamie Scott

The West Australian

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