The feat took place on December 21, 2012, at Cortes Bank, an offshore reef about 100 miles west of San Diego. The record-breaking wave measured 61 feet from trough to crest. This exceeded the 57-foot wave ridden by prior record holder Shane Dorian from a 2011 session at Jaws in Maui.
So how does one go about catching a bomb so big? Dollar told Solspot, “When I first saw the wave, I thought it was going to break on top of me…it was not just fear I felt, but dread. It was the biggest wave of my life and I was wondering if I could even survive taking a wave like that on the head. So I paddled as hard as I could out and towards the shoulder and then the wave backed off as I was paddling up, I realized I was going to make it over. A split second after, I realized I could catch the thing and went for it.”
Shawn explained, “[While I was on the wave] I had totally narrow vision, all I could see was the track in front of me. I was concentrating 100% on not dropping down. I was going so fast through such rough water, I was just really holding on at times. As soon as I got to the bottom I was able to hit a smooth patch of water and that was the point where I became so stoked because I knew I had made it.”
While he had not gone to Cortes intending to break a record, Shawn knew something incredible had happened just after riding the wave: “It was pretty clear to me after I caught the wave that it was a world record or that at least it should be. But you never really know. Shane Dorian told me it was the biggest wave he’s ever seen anyone catch right after I got back.” The rest is history.
32-year-old Shawn Dollar from Santa Cruz Dollar told Solspot has had a remarkable year as a pro surfer. This season he won the Billabong XXL Biggest Wave award and competed as a finalist in other competitions including the Mavericks Invitational. Shawn doesn’t exclusively surf big waves. As he told Solspot, “I still go out in 2-3 foot surf, I love surfing small waves too. I don’t need huge sets to get excited about surfing.”
Shawn is looking forward to next winter when he will be surfing Mavericks, Jaws, and perhaps even the Eddie if invited in 2014.
The entire Solspot crew is stoked to see surfing and humans being pushed to their absolute limits. Stoked on Shawn and what he and the crew of big wave surfers are doing. It just so happens their Solspot happens to be at the bottom of a 61 foot monster.