Guns Over Skis: Shane Dorian Interview

Dorian on towing at Teahupo‘o: "All the gnarliest guys in the world are going to look at a 15-foot wave out there and go right over, not even look at catching it." Photo: Bielmann/SPL


What was it like after surfing it last year with basically just you and Ian, compared to this year where that first session had 40 or more guys paddling?

We thought there might be a few more guys who wanted to surf it, but I was baffled when I showed up and there were a ton of guys. It was too crowded. For how many waves there were and guys who were out, there weren’t that many really good waves. It was really windy, too. It was difficult to put a session together out there.

It’s pretty technical out at Jaws, it’s not an easy thing to do. On a normal day that size in the past there would’ve been 30 guys towing in, and a lot of them had literally never paddled into a six-foot wave. There just out there like, “Woohoo!” It’s no stress at all to tow into those waves. People with no big wave experience wouldn’t even be scared getting towed in to the biggest wave that day. But paddling, there’s only a tight crew of guys who are going to whip around and go for it, and every last one of those guys was out there that day.

Did you think guys would be going on everything?

Jaws is a scary place to paddle, I don’t care who you are. If you’re out there on your big board and a huge wave is coming in, and you’ve gotta turn around and paddle, and it’s all windy, it’s no joke, it’ll scare the shit out of you. Seriously, it’s easy to look at the pictures and be like, “Oh I’d go on that one.” But when you’re out there under fire, it’s a whole difficult ball game.

Most guys are on 10’6”s or 11-foot boards, and you add chop to that, it’s like hitting a huge speed bump going 80 in a Cadillac, it’s not meant to be. Knowing that it’s going to be really difficult to make it to the bottom of a wave is gnarly. It’s not just a drop, it barrels across the reef top to bottom, super powerful. It’s pretty damn intimidating.

I got about seven waves in three hours the first time. The second time I got three waves, but I spent an hour and half trying to get my board off the rocks ‘cause I broke my leash.

Was the inflatable suit you invented a factor in that many guys being out on the January 4th day?

Yeah, no doubt about it. It’s a factor, but to be expected. It’s human nature, when you feel more comfortable you’ll put yourself in more risk. But you don’t want to rely on any safety equipment. Like someone on a ski doing water safety might say to you, “If you eat shit I’ll come and grab you.” Well, what if the ski doesn’t work, or he’s rescuing someone else? You don’t want to rely on any safety equipment, whatever it is. It’s something to hopefully increase your safety, but it’s not meant to be relied on, which is something I tried to convey to people. I don’t want people thinking they can just go on a huge one just because they think they’re coming up no matter what because they’ve got it on their back. I’ve barely even tested the thing, it’s at a prototype stage and hasn’t been tested enough.

Yeah, Dave Wassel told me had some trouble with it at Mavs.

That’s happened to me before as well. it’s attached with two snaps and Velcro, which was the best thing we thought we could come up with at the time. It’s in a testing phase. Mine got blown off on an early prototype, which is a scary situation. You’ve got it on your back, but you can’t inflate it, and you get really scared. But that’s part of the process of refining it, and that’s something we’ve already fixed.

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