Derek Dunfee Discusses His XXL Monster Paddle Award

La Jolla’s own Derek Dunfee, a first-time nominee, took top honors at the Billabong XXL awards in the Monster Energy Biggest Paddle category. Using his own power, “Double D” caught the largest wave of the global big wave season for 2009, a monster somewhere in the 25-foot mark on the Hawaiian scale, 40 plus feet on the wave face.

First of all congratulations. Seemingly out of nowhere, you snatched top honors in a very prestigious category.

Thanks a lot Scott, I’m honored, I’m very, very stoked. Couldn’t be happier.

Hey, at the awards ceremony, there was a guy with a tee-shirt on that said “Go Double D!” and it had an image of two large breasts. Did you see that guy?

Yeah, Volcom actually made them. They made this shirt last minute; they said that’s all they could think of, my friends call me “Double D”, so yeah, those shirts are classic.

You looked pretty surprised when they called your name out as the winner. You didn’t have an acceptance speech prepared. Were you not expecting to win?

You know, I was so nervous to be up there. I had never been nominated before. I thought Twiggy was going to be tough to beat, he was charging so hard on those two epic days at Mavericks. I wouldn’t have been bummed if I lost to Twiggy or even that wave that James Taylor rode at Dungeons was big. I didn’t know if I’d win or not, and I didn't write a speech because I thought it would be bad luck. I was nervous. The whole thing just went by as a blur. I had never been in front of a bunch of people like that.

I looked long and hard at the Monster Paddle in Nominees. It was very obvious that it was between you and Twiggy Baker, both waves at Mavericks. The camera angles provided on the Billabong XXL site, especially your wave, was cropped in very tight. But after a long hard look, your wave, in my opinion, was the biggest. It was very close.

It was close. I never even thought about winning. It wasn’t even in my mind, until one of my friends sent me the article that you wrote which predicted that I would win. I was so stoked to read that. Thanks for writing that. That’s when I started to get nervous, after reading that. But yeah, the water angle was cropped tight. Eric Nelson, from Powerlines Productions had a land angle and it was sent in to Billabong. So the land angle was there, I’ve seen it. I would have been stoked to see the land angle on the site too.

You won $15K, what are your plans with the money, what was the celebration like after the awards?

Yeah I am really happy, fifteen grand is a lot of money for me. I’m in a lot of debt. That was a big win for me. That’s more money than I make all year. I’m used to being broke. I just go from surf trip to surf trip. That was a big win. I hadn’t touched any alcohol for nine months. I broke my leg last June, and when I did that I wanted to get back to 100 percent so bad that I quit drinking. I focused on exercising, you know, just focused on rehab and big wave surfing. It was a big celebration. I had my whole crew from La Jolla up there, so we partied up the venue and I had a few shots and got all emotional and left with my friends and family. We all had a great time.

You recently penned a great article in THE SURFERS JOURNAL regarding the unique experience of ordering and riding a Pat Curren gun. Tell us a little about that.

It was incredible! The best surfing experience of my life. Dealing with Pat, I was lucky, he is such a legend. And of course his son, Tom Curren, is a guy I’ve looked up to my whole life. At first, I dealt with his wife for about a year before I even talked with Pat. It was tough fro me to know if I was ever going to get the board. So it was the most incredible surfer/shaper relationship I’ve ever experienced. It took so long to get the board and it meant so much to me. That’s why I documented it. I have so much respect for Pat. He’s a legend. I have nothing but respect and love for Pat. He built me one of the greatest guns I’ve ever had. I think the relationship that we built gave me confidence and made me really put the board to the test. I tried it on one of the heavy days, I rode it Nov 29th, the day before I caught the wave in which I won the Monster Paddle award.

You wiped out on the very first wave on that board.

I was pretty shocked. I was so convinced that I had that wave. But it was that day when it was 25 second intervals. The waves were moving so fast and they were so doubled up. I was underneath it when I paddled for it. I had stretched for 30 minutes and I was really mentally prepared. I thought I had it. I wasn’t really scared because I thought I had it. I felt good and was so pumped up. During the wave, I just thought I had it, you know. I caught it so late, it just doubled-up. The wave was moving so fast I just had to do a bunny hop to penetrate. I never had any thought about the board not working. It just turned into a crazy double up, just bad wave judgment. I didn’t have any thought about the board not working.

Well the next day you caught the Billabong XXL Monster paddle wave. Was that biggest wave of your life?

Oh yeah, by far that was my biggest wave I’ve ever paddled into. I couldn’t be happier especially after coming off my broken leg. It was the hardest I’ve ever worked toward a goal, getting back to 100 percent. I got so worked on that day, just paddling out.

How big was that wave? Was it a forty-foot wave?

Yeah I think so. For sure, I think so. Everyone was calling it 25-foot on the Hawaiian scale. I wish the Billabong guys would have given it a number, you know, just so I could say it.

Let’s just round it up to fifty-feet!

(Laughs) Oh, I dunno.

The day you broke your leg last June, that was at Cloudbreak.

I broke my leg out there. The waves were pumping, ten to fifteen foot on the face. I was tired. I’d been surfing for days on end. I’m backside out there and I pulled in under the lip, but my head caught the lip and I got compressed. My whole body compressed into my board and my toes sort of curled up and smashed into my leg.

Well, changing subjects, what about quad fin guns out at Mavericks? Some guys are riding quad guns out there. Do you have any quad guns?

Yeah, I think the quad fins work really well. My shaper, Stu Kenson, has shaped me some great tri-fin guns and they work really well. If Stu shaped me some quad guns for Mavericks I’d ride them. The tri-fins he’s made me are great. I think the quad works because Mavericks doubles up so heavy that you can’t take off straight all the time. A lot of time you are underneath it and it’s jacking and you have to take off at an angle, and on a rail. On a tri your fins release easier, and on a quad the fins hold that line and you can stay on a rail. Instead of having to commit to the straight line and air drop. If anything I’ve heard that you go too fast and it’s hard to ballnce that speed. I just go with what Stu shapes me. I’ve been taken care of by Stu and I really appreciate our relationship.

Derek, again, congratulations! We here at SURFER are very happy for you.

Right on Scott. Thanks a lot.