Shane Dorian is the undisputed, heavy-wave champion of the world. He’s never won the Eddie, doesn’t chase massive swells with the regularity of some nuts, and has never surfed Mavericks. But it doesn’t matter. Ask anyone in the know, and they’ll tell you the same: Dorian is golden when it’s Condition Black.
Maybe it’s because he’s one of the greatest surfers of all time even without all the big-wave cred. You remember that fresh, raw, “Gecko”-like style. Broken-back-arm airs over huge sections. Power slides in the pocket with nose-tweak recoveries. Listening to Slayer and pulling into Second Reef bombs at Pipe. Slater may have been the headmaster of the Momentum Generation, but Dorian put the “cool” in New School. There is a good reason why Hawaii is home to so many good young surfers today. From Andy and Bruce all the way down to Kalani David, they’re all following Dorian’s blueprint.
But there’s one part of this blueprint that no one can duplicate, laid down back when Brock Little and Todd Chesser used to drag him out to oversize reefs with cleanup sets. It was boot camp at the House of Pain, and Dorian graduated with distinction. That eventually evolved to a World Tour-level approach in waves most ASP surfers prefer to ignore, or avoid. His behind-the-boil drops at Waimea—full control, all-rail—define proper technique in big-wave paddle surfing. And if Laird was the first man on the moon with The Wave at Teahupoo in 2000, Dorian was the first on Mars five years later— going deeper, and bigger than any man has gone before.
It wasn’t his bravado that got him out of the largest tube in surfing history; it was his skill. A skill that will remain unreachable no matter how high surfers fly. —Evan Slater