H O L D D OW N
clocks up months of big tubes, contest or no contest, sponsor or no sponsor, cameras or no cameras. "I remember times in Hawaii when we were making A Dingo'sTale and the surf'd be massive and everyone would be hitting Waimea and we'd try to find Deano then you'd hear he gone and paddled out at Phantoms with one other guy. No cameras or anything just doing it for himself. That's what he's like. He's just going. Doing his own thing. Whatever it may be he just wants to experience new things and it doesn't matter if anyone's watching," says Shagga.
Now that he's no longer competing Dean prefers to wait until the crowds have settled down before he wings it across the Pacific. Last year he flew in early, eager to see Fanning battle it out for the World Title. But then the swell came up from the West and, well, spectating has never been Deano's strong suit. So when his Coolie mate was paddling out for the first of his do or die heats in the Pipe Masters, Deano was paddling his 10'6" towards the humping horizon at Jaws.
"I've surfed it four or five times and I'm keen to chase it more," he says of the world's premier giant wave. "I mean you've seen those waves that Dorian got. For paddle-in waves and huge barrels – it doesn't get much better than that place. It's definitely a spot where you can push yourself and learn a lot about yourself."
In March this year Morrison had his biggest paddle session to date at Jaws. He surfed for eight hours straight, pausing only to chug water, chomp energy bars and reinflate his vest. It was big, windy and mega crowded and there was carnage galore. A boat capsized, local surfer Dege O'Connell was rushed to hospital, and Dorian was held down for two waves, amid other calamities. At the end of the session Morrison learnt more about himself than he may have liked to.
"I'd been surfing for seven hours and it felt like the swell was dropping. The crowd had dropped off and we were sitting on the inside when all of a sudden this thing broke so far out. The first was one was like 20-25 foot and the next one was way bigger. I've never been caught by a 30-foot wave in my life and it's a whole different ball game. I came up after it had cleaned us all up and I was the only one who didn't take my leash off. Everyone was washed in, so I sat out the back by myself and waited for a big one. When it came I took off a little too deep and the white wash just engulfed me. I was thinking: 'oh no I'm in it here'. Then my board smacked me in the head so hard and I nearly blacked out. My vision was going and I couldn't make out where I was. I remember telling myself: 'Ok, you've just got worked and there's another wave behind it'. The next one rag-dolled me really violently. Luckily there was a ski right there after that to pick me up. I didn't know what was going on at that point."
Ever since he was a kid Dean has relied on gifts from the ocean. It's got him through hard times when his family life was imploding. It's been his solace, his source of joy and inspiration. Surfing has been his one and only provider and his career path. It's provided direction and has taught him to face fears that no normal human will come close to and to conquer those fears. It's no surprise that he still sees surfing as his job and his identity. Pushing himself further in huge waves is a goal but it's not the only one. "I want to do trips to places that people haven't seen. I want to get barrelled in pumping waves and I want to do another movie."
Not so long ago a surfer of Dingo's calibre wouldn't have had much trouble transitioning into the role of a hard-charging freesurfer but today's endorsement market is much tougher. To make his ambitions come true he will need a backer. But even if that doesn't eventuate you get the feeling that he'll always find a way to chase swells and to grow as a surfer. He'll turn up in Indo and Hawaii and WA and go mad when the swell of the year is on. It's who he is. As Rabbit says, "I used to say years ago that by the time Dean Morrison's 40 years of age he'll have ridden more barrels than anyone in the history of the world. And I think that predictions on track."
Atkinson is ready
By both his pro surfing peers and the astute Hawaiian observers, Dean is recognised as one of the best in the world at Backdoor.||