[26, SANTA CRUZ]
A little over a year ago, Mike Douglas and I came up with the idea to ski on waves. We're both longtime surfers and professional skiers, so the idea came naturally. Very few people knew about the project when we arrived in Maui. We were sure we'd get blasted out of there as kooks if locals heard about some haoles trying to ski on waves, but everyone was supportive. The technology is pretty far behind. It's like skiing on hickory skis 50 years ago. We used alpine ski boots and super-fat wake skis. After one ride, a wave sucked me down and gave me the worst hold-down of my life. I was standing on a reef below the surface. Even with a life jacket on, I couldn't get up. My skis felt like 200-pound weights on each leg. But we also got up to 25-second rides on some big waves with 20-foot faces. It felt like skiing on top of a slow, wet avalanche. It'd be the easiest way ever to get barreled. On a surfboard, you often get spit out, but on skis you can stall out in the tube. By the end of the trip we knew exactly what equipment we'd have to design to make it better.
Townsend is a professional skier, surfer, and watersports innovator.