The Surfersvillage Interview
From encounters with giant sharks to giant, horrific slabs of water - Dan Ryan has a few good stories to tell
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 7 May, 2017 - Western Australian big-wave charger, Dan Ryan was humbled to be shortlisted in the 2017 World Surf League Big Wave Awards in the category of Tube of the Year. He didn't win, that honor went to good mate Shanan Worrall. But Dan's epic wave at the notorious Right in May of last year and caught on film by friend Trent Slatter is one of the most perfectly ridden waves we've ever seen. Had Dan drawn any other line or done it differently he would've fallen and been sucked over the falls (something he's done a few times at the spot.) Fortunately he made this wave.
Between travelling from Oz to the States for the WSL Big Wave Awards Dan found time to join us for The Surfersvillage Interview.
How would you describe what you do for work to a very small, inattentive child?
I’d give them a visual image of a massive wave with dolphins, whales, sharks, turtles and all sorts of sea creatures all swimming amongst this immense, barrelling wave, to give the impression of the entire ocean rising up. That would get their attention and start them asking questions!
How do you wipeout at The Right and not die? I mean, you hit rocks each time don’t you?
I train the body and mind all year round so I can enjoy moments where most others would be terrified. So much about surfing big waves is mind over matter. Meditation and breathwork really allow you to be able to remain calm through the wipe-out so you don’t burn extra oxygen. Fitness, of course, has a lot to do with it as well, but keeping calm or panicking is the difference between life and death. I haven't yet hit the bottom - thankfully. It goes from a shallow rock slab to very deep quickly.
Dan Ryan © Trent Slatter
Share with our readers a horrifying tale of near death please!
I've had a few of these, ha ha! A few years ago I woke up and said to my girlfriend "I just had the strangest most vivid dream. I will tell you when I get back from the beach". So I'm on my way to North Point, WA, I'm going over the dream - I was on the front page of the local newspaper that I'd been killed by a shark.
I rocked up to North Point and it was pumping with no one out, a friend was watching it from his car. I asked if there had been more sets like the bomb I watch roll through the lineup. He said yeah, so I'm like, ‘why aren't you going out?’ He looked at me weirdly and said, ‘I’ll go out if you are’, which was strange as he was usually always one of the first guys out.
I suited up really fast and my friend hadn't even got his wetsuit on yet, so I paddled out and I was out at the peak for maybe three minutes when I saw this huge fin - it didn't even look real it was so big - coming towards me. As it got closer it slowly went under and I could see the girth of it – it was an absolute beast. I froze and just waited to get belted by it. At the same time this tiny wave that wouldn't usually break on the peak popped up. A second later I paddled like crazy and got onto it, surfing it straight up on the rocks. My friend was on the rocks with other people who all saw this happen, I apparently spoke to them but to this day have no recollection of it. They said I was ghost white and speaking really fast.
I drove towards home and stopped half way, got out of the car and started dry reaching. When I got home I just jumped in bed and cried as the dream was the exact same as the whole experience, that bit was pretty emotional. I went surfing the next day to a spot not many surf and had a solo surf just to let it go and move on from it.
What are you currently working on that you’re really excited about?
For the last three years I've been working on an all-natural sun care range called Under Our Sun, which is all about protecting yourself outdoors without the use of nasty synthetic chemicals, protecting our oceans, giving back to people in need and grassroots projects.
As a surfer, I use sunscreen all the time, and I work outdoors too, so I’m constantly being hammered by the sun. About four years ago, a good friend of mine alerted me to all the toxic chemicals in sunscreens that bleach coral reefs, poison the ocean and build up in our systems. Some of these chemicals even make us more susceptible to skin cancer, rather than protecting us against it. I felt that it was my responsibility as an ambassador for the ocean and big wave surfing to make a difference, so Under Our Sun was born. Most of the packaging is organic and biodegradable and the ingredients are 100 percent natural and sustainable, without any compromise to the effectiveness of the product, which actually feeds and nourishes your skin as it protects you.
It’s so important that we all become more conscious of our impact on the planet in every possible way we can. Under Our Sun helps people look after themselves and the world, and to give back too, with a percentage of profits going to environmental and humanitarian causes.
Share with us your biggest Rocky Balboa moment (you know, punching meat in a freezer then running up the steps of City Hall with your own special theme music blaring.)
Sitting out at huge Chopes (Teahupo’o) by myself at dawn after my mate had just been washed over into the lagoon with a snapped board. I scratched over these huge sets for 30mins trying to pump myself up to go one (I hadn't surfed anything over 8ft in 10months after dislocating my shoulder). I finally went on one, I paddle in hard, then realised as I was in the pit I've got no chance of making it. I got smashed but was just so pumped to be out at my favourite wave in the world with no one else out!
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? Selling shoes?
I'd be doing some kind of extreme sport in nature, Or the opposite of radical and live in the mountains of China studying Qigong and martial arts.
OK, you get to drop into five moments in history – surf or otherwise. Please name them and why.
1) Be the first explorer to arrive in Tahiti, the waves, people and culture would have been the most amazing experience.
2) Ali versus Foreman - Rumble in the Jungle. The energy would have been surreal.
3) Being on the streets of South Africa when Mandela was released and gave his speech! It marked a time in history showing that we are all one, regardless of our colour, and to never give up what you believe in.
4) Being alive when ancient cultures built things like the Pyramids and understood their land in a way that is still unexplainable by modern science!
5) Being part of the first group of surfers that rode waves thought to be impossible. (Shane) Dorian paddling jaws and being barrelled for example.