Why Not To Wear A Leash While Towing-In At Teahupo’o

When most people retire, they enter a life of golf, Geritol, and dinner at 5pm. Not so with Shane Dorian. After dropping off the WCT tour a couple years ago, Shane has actually stepped up his surfing in a massive way.

The day of the year at Jaws?

Shane ruled it.

The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau at 20 foot Waimea Bay?

Third place.

And the biggest swell of the season at Teahupo’o?

Dorian was all over it, flying in at just the right time.

I caught up with Shane a couple days after the now-famous swell in early May (my tow board wasn’t ready in time–damn!) and we had a little chat about what went down as we threw chunks of bread to the huge freshwater eels that lurk below the bridge at the end of the road.

TransWorld SURF: Who was driving you on those tow days?

Shane Dorian: Brock Little.

Have you worked with him before?

Yeah, I’ve done a little bit of stuff with him back in the day. It was cool, because, for the contest, Brock and Kai (Garcia) were doing water safety and Brock was telling me, Andy (Irons) Ian (Walsh), and Bruce (Irons) that if we fell, they’d come get us. So that was good to know.

What’s your tow board like?

I used to ride a little 5’7 pintail out here, but this year I had a new one made. I felt like I could go shorter, so I got a 5’4 made, the thing is like this big (holds his hand near his chest), it’s ridiculously small.

Does it have a rounded nose? That seems to be a trend lately.

No, it looks normal. It looks like I stole a little kid’s surfboard.

Is it weighed down with lead bb’s or anything?

Yeah, it’s pretty heavy, but not super heavy–you don’t need it really heavy unless it’s windy. The thing went insane, went really good.

Who shaped it for you?

John Carper.

Walk me through the one you ate on, how did the leash get wrapped around your neck? Don’t tell me you guys were paddling into those waves.

Yeah, at first we thought it was like 8-10 feet, you know? So we all paddled. Then, Manoa (Drollet) and Malik (Joyeux) towed into one wave and Malik fell. While Manoa was waiting for him to come back out, there was a big set coming in. I was right next to Manoa, on my normal 7’0 with a leash and everything, and I was like, “Hey, Manoa! Look at the set, I wanna go! And that was it, that was the first wave. I just towed-in with my normal board, and I came out of the barrel, into the channel, and rode right into the back of Brock’s ski and started getting the tow rope out. He was like, “What are you doing? All I said was: “It’s on, dude. You know? There were huge ones, like 12-foot waves, coming in. I mean, no one was really looking at the 8-to-10 footers. There were 12-foot triple ups coming in! So, that’s how Andy, Bruce, Ian and myself started towing-in with our normal boards.

About that scab running from ear to ear, how’d that happen?

It was the biggest one I caught–one of the bigger waves of the day. Coming into the spot where you let go of the rope, everyone was right there, so I let go, figuring I was in the perfect spot but as soon as I let go and dropped in a little bit, I realized I was probably going to be too deep.

Not much you can do at that point, eh?

Yeah there’s not much you can do at that point–especially on a normal board. On a tow board, I could’ve pumped, but not on a normal 7’0.

What’s it like eating it on a wave like that? Does it just annihilate you or what?

It can do anything, it just depends if you get lucky or not. I was kinda in between–it didn’t smash me on the reef but I got held underwater for almost two waves. I came up, and literally as soon as my head popped up and I was taking a breath, I got mostly water and not air from the next wave. But I was lucky because the next wave hit me and threw me up and down, and I was able to get a breath. All the while, my leash was wrapped around my neck.

What’s the maximum size for paddling in ouut there, 8-10 feet?

A real 8-10-foot wave out there is hard to paddle into. Every now and then, you can paddle into a 10-foot wave, like Andy’s wave, Cory’s wave, and CJ’s wave.

So you’d call C.J.’s wave a 10-footer?

I would say that was a 10-foot wave no matter what.

How does the whole priority thing work out there? Is it kind of a free-for-all?

Priority depends on the Tahitians really. If it’s up to me, the Tahitians have priority over anybody. If it’s Raimana (Van Bastolaer) or Manoa and we’ve all been waiting the same amount of time, then those guys should be going no matter what. That’s totally cool because this is where they live. The locals are really cool, and it hasn’t gotten out of control to where it’s a fight for waves.

Right as we finished up the interview, the rain started pouring and didn’t let up for eight days. While the WCT guys were literally stuck in the mud, Shane flew home to catch the swell back in Hawai’i. Retirement should be this good to all of us.