People are always asking me, “Could you paddle that wave?” Shane Dorian tells me, about two seconds before I was about to ask him whether he could paddle that wave. “And I always answer,” he continues. “The question isn’t could you, but would you? They are two very different things.”
We are talking on the front porch of Shane’s shaper, John Carper’s house at Leftovers on the North Shore. JC’s front wall and a scratch of white sandy beach is the dividing line between a sparking blue Hawaiian Pacific, where about 150 yards out three foot runners peel down a submerged reef. Shane Dorian glints into the ocean, says it’s looks fun, although the board at his feet doesn’t looks suitable for the conditions. He has just picked up one of his 10”6” Jaws boards from John, who had painstakingly rebuilt it after it had been tossed like a toothpick through the Jaws rocks last year. “It had 132 dings, the fins were embedded, the wrong way about three inches deep,” John told me, “But there was no structural damage and there’s no problem about making it heavier, so I figured it was worth bringing back to life.”
Shane, bareshirt and so ripped he looks like a condom packed with walnuts, picks up the gun with ease. Buoyed by his confidence I go to pick it up. For a split second I almost shit myself with the fear that I don’t have the strength. It is only the adrenalin shot from the impending humiliation that allows me to tuck it under my arm. If I’m petrified about just picking it up, imagine riding the thing down a wave 65 feet high, that has a 300 yard barreling section down the line?
That’s what Shane was doing last month on the same swell that claimed Kirk Passmore’s life at Outside Alligators. “That was one of the bigger sessions we have had out at Jaws,” he said. “It was a north swell, which Jaws likes. But the key was that it was so uncrowded. That made such a huge difference to have it that big and perfect and with just mainly the local guys out there.”
We talk about the board and how its pretty much signifies the end of tow surfing at Jaws. Three years ago, Shane wouldn’t have had this board in his quiver, and every time Jaws broke it was a circus of two stroke fuel and buzzing machinery.
“The major difference between paddling and towing is that back in the tow days there would be 60 skis buzzing around and every single one of those guys wanted to ride the biggest wave of the day,” Shane says. “These days there are still 60 guys in the water, but when that biggest wave of the day comes, there are three guys that want to ride it.” Now Dorian didn’t put himself forward as was one of those three. He is too modest, too fucking cool for that shit. Cause he doesn’t have to, he is Shane Dorian. It’s a given.
But my time is up. Shane Dorian has a million things to do, and a million places to be, none of which involve talking about his role in big wave paddling with a weakling surf journalist who can’t pick up a 10’6”. I drag myself away from the idyllic front yard, the swaying palm trees, the offshore breezes and Shane’s toned torso. It’s not easy, but I do.