Shane Dorian Exclusive Interview

Shane Dorian is awesome. He rides the biggest and most-critical waves that have ever been ridden, is surfing them better than anyone else, and does it with style. He charges with skill.

His game is not limited to big waves, either. Shane is one of the best surfers in the world in all conditions.

He just won two of the five categories in the prestigious 2011 Billabong XXL competition. The awards ceremony celebrates the biggest and heaviest waves surfed over the course of a year. Shane is nominated, or wins, every year.

At the ceremony, Shane was also honored with holding the world record for the biggest wave ever paddled into, 57 feet, surfing Jaws. He is making history.

Stoked we caught up with him for a little inspiration and insight, just before the Irons brothers Keiki surf contest in Hawaii.

John:
That session you just had paddling Jaws took big-wave paddle surfing to another level; you packed what looked like one of the biggest paddle waves ever! What was it like in that barrel? How was the wipeout; could you get a good breath in the barrel?
(One week after this interview, he took the biggest paddle-wave world record for this ride.)

Shane:
That was one of the most memorable waves of my life for sure! Jaws is unique in that it breaks like a smaller wave on a huge scale: once you make the drop, the wave grinds down the reef. The barrel was big, but when I pulled in I didn’t have much speed and the barrel filled up with foam from below me and bucked me off. Wish I woulda made it!

John:
The first time you surfed Mavericks was some of the biggest and cleanest it has been paddled, and you got blown out of one of the best barrels ever ridden out there right off the bat. The next day, you went down on a bomb that no one else even thought about paddling for and suffered a crazy-long and violent two-wave hold down. What do you think about Mavericks — the wave, the potential, the surfers in the lineup, surfing in the cold  — compared to warm-water big waves?  Wipeout Link

Shane:
The wave itself is so insane. The crowd factor, the cold weather, and the danger factor make it hard to leave home for, though. The wave definitely scares me. And I hate booties!

John:
When you paddle-surf giant waves these days, are you wearing an impact vest? If you are, which model are you using? How do you keep it from blowing off underwater; do you wear it under your wetsuit?

Shane:
I wear a Billabong short john that I designed that has a lot of flotation in the back and the sides of the thighs. I am also using a manual inflatable device that I designed, and am testing, that works insane.
(The suit has recently been released and is a complete game changer.)

John:
A couple years ago while we were working Tavarua together, you flew from Fiji to L.A. for the day to accept your XXL Ride of the Year award for the ridiculous mutant Teahupo’o barrel. It looked like you were on the verge of going over from the bottom turn through the entire ride, but you stuck it! It was so gnarly! What was happening once you decided to let go of the rope?

Shane:
I was late to let go because I was really deep and was trying to get more speed. That made me drop over the ledge late, and that threw my balance off. But it made the ride really exciting and challenging. I was basically trying to recover during the whole ride.

John:
Other than surfing, you love to bow hunt. You do some hunts where you are alone for many days in the wilderness. Where did that passion come from, and why do you enjoy it so much?

Shane:
I really don’t know how I became so obsessed. I love surfing because it is a release for me — a time to be out in nature and enjoy life. Bow hunting is the same thing for me, but I also enjoy the solitude and adventure of being solo in the wilderness. That sounds really lame.

John:
You put on an awesome surf contest for the kids near your hometown of Kona every year. Brandon Lillard [Tavarua boatman and surf marketing manager at Skullcandy] told me that the kids have to get good grades in school to get in the contest. Cool that you do that — why do you feel that good grades are important? Did you get good grades in school?

Shane:
I did horrible until 10th grade. My board got taken away for bad grades and I freaked out. I got my act together really quick and never looked back. We do have a grade [point average] minimum of 2.25 to encourage the kids and give them some incentive to do good in school. Not everyone has to be a great student, but anyone who tries hard can get a C average.

John:
When you work and surf Tavarua, everyone on the island and in the lineup gets so much inspiration watching you make what look like impossible barrels. You always have so much stoke for surfing, which gives everyone surf energy around you. Who, if anyone, in or out of the water, did you look up to for inspiration growing up, and who do you look up to today? Was there anyone in particular who pushed the envelope and motivated you to rush so hard [who] you got to share waves with growing up?

Shane:
Growing up I just loved to have little rivalries with my buddies. Later on, when I was in high school, Brock Little and Todd Chesser took me under their wing and encouraged me to push myself in bigger surf. I lived with them, and I had to push myself or they would give me a hard time. I am grateful for all they did for me.

John:
How do you stay healthy and positive? How do you train for surfing when you’re not surfing?

Shane:
I do like to train a lot. I think it helps tons to be physically fit, but much more importantly, I think the hard work in the gym readies you psychologically and gives you a mental toughness and confidence that translates directly to big waves.

John:
Do you have any places you want to go, whether they’re surf destinations or not, new things you want to do, or new things you want to learn in the sort-of near future?

Shane:
Most of my goals have to do with my family these days. I would like to travel and show my kids some of the epic places around the world that I love. My son loves to surf, so hopefully we will go on some epic adventures together.

John:
Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for the kids?

Shane:
It sounds like a cliché, but follow your dreams. Life is very short, and you never know what the future will bring. I had a great friend who was my age die from cancer last year, and he taught me to be grateful for every day and to not waste time on things that don’t matter much.

John:
Where is surfing headed?

Shane:
Not too sure. People are still surfing because it’s fun, and that is the whole point. That’s all that really matters to me.

Photo: Scott Winer

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One Response to Shane Dorian Exclusive Interview

  1. John Maher says:

    Thanks ShaneO! Hope your scoring amigo.
    Big Bula Vinaka Vaka Levu!

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