Guns Over Skis: Shane Dorian Interview

Shane Dorian

He looks like a totally normal person... Photo: Dorsey

Are you choosy about waves?

It depends on the day. If I’m feeling cautious or not 100 percent there mentally, then yeah, I’m really, really choosy. I’ll put myself in position for a wave, and if the exact one comes to me that I want and has the exact look to it and no one else is near me then maybe I’ll go. Otherwise, I’ll just lay low. But if I get a few under my belt, or if I’m feeling confident, then I’m less choosy, like bring it on. I’ll put myself in position where all the best waves are coming and have a go. It just depends on your mental state.

If I’m feeling good and my timing is on, and a big one comes in and looks gnarly, and I might make it or I might eat shit, I might go anyway just ‘cause I’m feeling confident. But if I don’t have that confidence level up, then I’ll let waves like that pass. The most important thing to me is coming home to my family, that’s my number one goal, not catching a big wave.

Do you think some of the bigger waves from the last few Peahi sessions are the ceiling?

We definitely haven’t seen the ceiling. It’s more psychological, not physical. Under the right conditions and the right swell direction you could do it at Mavericks, Cortes Bank, or Peahi. It’s more about the right wind, day, and swell direction—you could ride a wave ten or fifteen feet bigger on the face than what’s ever been ridden.

If you’re paddling you’d have to be hanging out around the impact zone on a day like that, dealing with 70-foot waves and some rogue bigger ones.

That’s part of the deal. You have to assume you’re going to get caught inside on the biggest wave of the day. If you think any different, you’re kidding yourself. I saw it last year at Jaws when Ian and paddled. There were three or four guys out there paddling, who where psyched to be out, but they just wanted to check it out and didn’t really want it. Which is fine, but they thought they were playing it safe sitting on the side, farther in close to the channel. And those guys got smoked on the biggest set of the day. They definitely didn’t think that was going to happen.

If you’re out there paddling, either stay in the channel or assume that you’re going to be in the worst spot on the biggest wave of the day. If you don’t think you can handle that, you shouldn’t be out there. I don’t mean to come off like people have to charge or anything, it’s just super dangerous out there.

Is there room to push the paddle boundaries at really square, slabby waves like Teahupoo?

There already has been, but on those slabby waves like Teahupoo and Shipsterns, there’s more of a clear ceiling. Every single 15-foot wave at Teahupoo is super gnarly and can’t be paddled. I don’t care if you’re Bruce Irons, CJ Hobgood, John John, or whoever, all those guys would pull back paddling into a 15 footer. There’s been a few instances, like Andy Irons slip sliding down the face, and CJ’s huge one, there are a couple waves that stand out, but they’re really only a touch bigger than the other biggest ones that’ve been paddled into.

The wave that Andy caught was around ten years ago, and there hasn’t been anyone that’s really got one bigger, and there’s been people charging every single swell. 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. There’s a limit to how fast you can paddle and stand up. Those waves are just impossible to paddle into when they’re big—period. The wave moves too fast and you become part of the lip. With existing equipment—I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future—no one can paddle fast enough and get down the face when it’s 15 feet.

On the other hand, my world record for the biggest paddle in wave—and I feel like a kook saying that—but the biggest paddle wave is far from the ceiling. They said my wave was 57 feet, but I think a much bigger wave could be paddled in to in the right situation. It could be closer to 70 feet.

Shane Dorian Peahi

The main peril of big wave paddle surfing—getting caught inside by the biggest wave of the day. Dorian at Peahi. Photo: Russo

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