Yeah, that's a heavy place. I've surfed there, and I've surfed Reef Road, on the other side of the inlet.
I've surfed Reef Road at double-overhead plus, and Pumphouse (where they were towing at head high.
Trust me, those guys couldn't have been bothering anyone paddling.
Nobody belongs out there paddling around at Pumphouse on a day like that. Pumphouse is outside the north side of a jetty, and this day was a hard north swell and north winds. That translates to super current.
If you COULD have paddled out (which you couldn't... I wasn't there, but on these types of swells, the wave period is too consistent and the sandbars are too shallow to make it out) you SHOULDN'T have. There's no way you could hold your position in the lineup. And if you caught a wave you'd be headed to the rocks in that swell. The only way in would have been to paddle across the inlet to the south side in that swell. But then you're stuck. You just got off one island, with no way back to it.
We have some unreal surfers in Florida. But nobody belonged out in that stuff except the guys who were doing it... the Hobgoods, who are the best in the world in these conditions. Both twins made the quarterfinals at 'Chopes last week, the most evil wave on the world tour. And both are sitting in the top six in the world in surfing.
They can handle it. I can't. And they can have it!
Damien Hobgood made the finals versus Kelly Slater at 'Chopes, but the wave broke on him so hard, it dislocated his shoulder during the final.
Man, that's some heavy stuff.
I have nothing against them towing that swell at Pumphouse. With the hairball conditions all around (the rocks, the currents, the boat traffic, the shallow sandbar) I'm still surprised they pulled it off so easily. The kickout / pickup looked way easier than I expected it could ever be out there. If I didn't know better (and I do), it looks doable. On a big drifty Nor'easter, they can have that place.
P.S. About tow-at's in Florida, it's not a problem. Where I live, they're doing them either at breaks way out at inlets (where nobody ever paddles) or down the beach away from the main breaks. I haven't seen it as a problem.
For a frame of reference, it's Reef Road in the foreground, and Pumphouse in the background...