Hawaiian surfer Shane Dorian nabbed the prestigious Ride of the Year honor for the second time in his remarkable career at Friday’s Billabong XXL Big-Wave Awards show. The 40-year-old friend (and former rival) of Kelly Slater on the ASP World Tour (he was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world) has been a dominant force in the big-wave surfing community ever since retiring from full-time competition back in 2006. He proved it again last October when he paddled into a behemoth at Jaws, on Maui, a wave once considered impossible to ride without motorized assistance. The wave earned him Ride of the Year and Best Tuberide honors, netting him a single wave total of $55,000.
Dorian narrowly edged out Shawn Dollar of Santa Cruz, California, for the Ride of the Year honor. But Dollar walked home with two awards of his own, not to mention a new world record for the biggest wave ever paddled into: a 61 footer at Cortes Bank. Like Jaws, Cortes Bank was once considered impossible to ride without tow-in assistance from personal watercraft. Yet Dollar and Dorian are at the forefront of a new movement in big-wave surfing that is destroying such myths. More and more surfers are letting go of the tow-rope, and electing to challenge the world’s biggest and fastest moving waves by hand. It’s akin to climbing Mount Everest without oxygen.
Cortes Bank breaks off a submerged seamount 100 miles off the coast of Southern California. The same day Dollar scored his record breaking wave, former Billabong XXL Champion Greg Long nearly drowned out there, after wiping out behind big-wave surfer Garrett McNamara and enduring the wrath of a three-wave hold down. Long was unconscious when rescuers got to him, but quickly revived. His heart never actually stopped.
Long, who had an incredible year despite the incident, was honored with the Men’s Performance Award. But he remains humbled by the experience. “Simply put, at Cortes, I drowned. Had I not had a water safety team near right there in that very moment I wouldn’t be here today,” he confided. “It forced me to open my eyes, to not just the surfing world, but the safety aspect, and it has helped others too. We’re here to learn and grow and share that information with others. I took life lessons from that moment.”
Dorian was quick to acknowledge Dollar’s achievement. “For Shawn Dollar to paddle into the biggest wave, tow or paddle, all year is absolutely incredible,” he said. “We’re seeing a change; we’re seeing the best big-wave surfing we’ve ever seen. I’m pretty psyched.”
Dollar dedicated his record-winning wave to fallen big-wave surfer and friend Sion Milosky, who drowned at Mavericks in March 2011. “Death and drowning are absolutely prevalent,” he noted. “I’ve seen people die out there with me. It’s the real deal out there. I’ve kissed the ground when I’ve come in.”