The film at the bottom of this post shows Shane Dorian dropping into one of the largest waves ever caught by hand, at Peahi, or Jaws, on Maui, Hawaii.
Dorian’s wave is a late-entry contender for this year’s Billabong XXL big-wave competition. It came when the North Pacific lit up in mid-March 2011 just before nominations for XXL waves were closed.
The same swell later went on to hit California and, a day later, claim the life of another Hawaiian big-wave stand-out, Sion Milosky when he got held under at Mavericks – a fact which only underscores just how dangerous this big-wave game is.
Dorian, from the Big Island of Hawaii, is in a class of his own when it comes to riding giant waves. Last winter he blew minds when he, too, flew over to surf Mavericks and proceeded to get the best barrel that anyone had ever seen at break.
Dorian, and the late Sion, are part of an upsurge in paddling, as opposed to towing, into enormous waves. After a decade or so of jet-ski assisted tow-in riding, the world’s top big-wave riders have begun to tire of the easy way giant waves can be caught when a four-stroke engine pulls you in. In recent years they’ve abandoned the skis and attempted to catch the same sized waves by arm-power alone.
Peahi has been paddled by a small group of Maui surfers for a few years, but 2010-11 has been the first year that multiple teams of top big-wave riders have been taking it on with their bare hands. In this case, Dorian made the drop, held on through a sketchy, choppy bottom turn, but eventually got nailed when the giant tube engulfed him before he could properly regain balance.
There’ll be more paddling in at Peahi, we can be sure of that, but this late in season, chances it won’t be till later in the year.
The film below is by Michael Neal: