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During this year's Jaws Challenge, Shane Dorian elevator dropped 15 feet. It's courses like Mark Visser's Ocean Warrior Course that prepare Dorian for the worst in heavy surf. Photo: Morris/WSL

During this year’s Jaws Challenge, Shane Dorian elevator dropped 15 feet. It’s classes like Mark Visser’s Ocean Warrior Course that prepare Dorian for the worst in heavy surf. Photo: Morris/WSL

The Inertia

Learn more about The Ocean Warrior Course here.

If you looked up the word “badassery” in the Oxford English Dictionary, you wouldn’t find any pictures. But, if the folks from Oxford are reading this, might we recommend a photo of one Shane Dorian, who, by all accounts, embodies the term?

Following his retirement from the World Championship Tour in 2004, Dorian spent the next decade-and-a-half at the fore of big wave surfing’s paddle resurgence. In the process, he’s stuffed a handful of the biggest barrels we’ve seen dished out at Jaws.

But, as a husband and father, Shane Dorian understands the importance of pursuing the biggest waves possible while mitigating risk. Indeed, in his lifetime Dorian has experienced gripping loss. Not least of which was the death of his friend Todd Chesser–a serious blow that he, Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, and others talk at length about in HBO’s Momentum Generation.


Mitigating risk is precisely what propelled Dorian to pioneer the inflatable vest, which many professional big wave surfers have adopted. Beyond that, though, Dorian trains body and mind for the worst: lengthy hold-downs and ragdoll-related disorientation.

He recently test-drove Mark Visser’s Ocean Warrior Course with bud Kelly Slater and explained that it was hugely beneficial to his big wave survival toolbox.

Kelly Slater and Shane Dorian test out the Ocean Warrior Course.

Kelly and Shane laugh during a break in wrestling each other in the pool. Photo: Ocean Warrior Course

“I love learning from someone who studies [this] and is always developing bigger and better things with people who know what they’re talking about,” said Dorian of the Ocean Warrior Course. “If I wanna learn how to have a longer breath hold or survive surfing  giant waves, I wanna go to the people that are studying it and developing these courses with real research and feedback.”


The Ocean Warrior Course was developed by Mark Visser, big wave aficionado in his own right and the loon who famously surfed Jaws at night. After a near-drowning as a kid, Visser spent years absolutely terrified of the water. It took time to overcome those fears. Now, he’s pioneering a course that’s equal parts safety, awareness, and simulation. Surfers are trained in CPR, rescue, and basic first-aid, and taught simple techniques to increase their breath hold and stay calm under the surface during an extended hold down.

“What’s most interesting to me is learning the actual techniques that allow you to increase breath hold, and just get your mind in a much better state to where you’re much more efficient,” said Dorian. “You’re able to think more clearly, and you’re able to perform at a higher level.”

While surf specific, these techniques aren’t just for the big wave inclined.

“I think you could apply this a lot [to small waves],” explained Kelly Slater. “The mindset you go into surfing small waves. Being aware of getting winded after a wave. How you’re paddling back out. The way you breathe while you’re on your way back out or sitting there waiting for a wave.”

For Dorian, the course is all about breaking old habits and replacing them with others backed by science and human physiology: “There are a lot of things that are sort of ingrained in us as patterns from past personal experiences that we’ve taught ourselves–and a lot of the things that Mark has taught me have been about unlearning some of those patterns.”


Learn more about The Ocean Warrior Course here.


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