Shane Dorian: paddling into Belharra

Tow-in surfing is history. The days of diesel power are almost over. The challenge of paddle power is gaining followers and Winter Storm Hercules has opened a new chapter in big wave surfing.


The mega-swell that has stormed Europe in the early days of the year 2014 was closely analyzed by surf experts. Where would you score the biggest ones? Where could you make history?

This time, and given the swell angle, the large majority opted for Belharra, an offshore reef break located in the Bay of Biscay, in the Southwest of France.

Belharra is one of the best European surf spots, despite its semi-vertical wave profile. You can't get the steepest drop in the world, but you can find perfection quite often.

Saint Jean de Luz got more tourists and media professionals in wintertime than in a regular summer day. As an added bonus, Shane Dorian was there to tackle the local beast.

"I was pretty nervous because there was some heat behind the swell. I had some serious butterflies in my stomach", Dorian tells The Guardian.

"It is very, very scary. Everything in your gut and your instinct is telling you to paddle over the wave and you have to overcome those feelings and dig deep. Overcoming that is very stressful, but it feels very good afterwards".

"It is like staring down the wall of a building. There's a feeling of accomplishment in overcoming what your mind and body wanted to do. At the end of a day it is pretty taxing because you have been on an emotional rollercoaster, but that is the pursuit: overcoming your fears", adds the Hawaiian daredevil.

Grant Baker, Peio Lizarazu, Ruben Gonzalez, Benjamin Sanchis, Justine Dupont joined the high blood pressure party, with adrenaline served as main dish. Broken boards, sure.

Belharra also confirmed that safety comes first, when we're talking about 60-foot wave riding. There was one jet ski assist for each paddle surfer.

The third week of January 2014 will deliver more surprises, and it looks like Ireland may get the jackpot.