On Wednesday, social media feeds across the surf world exploded as a tumbling image of Tom Dosland, falling head-first into the maw of a massive Jaws peak, appeared on our phones. Thankfully, Dosland surfaced, dazed but alive. In the day following his now-famous wipeout, he graciously took the time to walk us through what went so horribly wrong.
How did that day start for you?
We were all watching this swell pretty carefully and we all knew it was going to be solid, so I flew back to Maui early on the morning of this session. We made our way to Jaws around mid-morning. At that point, the swell hadn't completely filled in yet, but it was definitely coming up fast. So we paddled out around midday and it was just macking. At this point, pretty much everyone was out. All those guys that are really on it were there. Dorian, Albee — pretty much everyone.
Was it hard to get one with the crowd?
Yes and no. I mean, it was crowded, but there were a lot of waves coming through. So if you wanted one, you could get it. And I really wanted one. I was kind of tripping because during that last swell, when Aaron Gold got that bomb, I didn't get a wave. That really bothered me for some reason. Sometimes that's how it is, but for whatever reason, I couldn't get a good one that day. So by the time this swell had hit, I was itching to get a bomb. I wanted one really bad.
Which leads to the next question: Let's talk about the wipeout that broke the internet.
[Laughs] That's crazy, isn’t it? It kind of baffles me how fast that spread across the internet. Before this wave, I had paddled for a few and pulled back because it wasn't quite lining up right. But when this wave came toward me, I was totally committed. It looked like a sea monster rising out of the ocean when it came my way. But I was going. No matter what. So I flipped around and started paddling to get into it. You can't really tell from the video, but there was some wind blowing spray up the face as I was about to drop in, which pretty much blinded me for a few seconds. I could only see out of one eye, and only partially. So I was pretty much just going off of feeling for that brief second before you drop in. Then, I was able to open up both my eyes, and I realized what was about to happen.
That’s crazy you couldn’t see. Can you walk me through what happened next?
Once I started to drop in and could open both my eyes, I instantly realized that this wasn't going to end well for me. So I sort of hit the eject button hoping to make the best of it and penetrate. I was free-falling for a while. It felt like I jumped off a cliff. That's when my leash stretched out all the way and flipped me over head-first. From there, I hit the face and it was just a brutal beating, like I was in a car crash. It was so intense that I basically froze and forgot to pull my vest. Toward the end of it, I realized I hadn't pulled the chord, so I finally did and popped to the top of the water. But yeah, it was rough, man.
Once you made it to the surface, what was going through your mind?
To be honest, I was sort of in shock from the wipeout still. That wave was so heavy. Once I came up, D.K. Walsh grabbed me on the ski and had this crazy look in his eye. I knew it must have looked nuts. He told me it was a pretty heavy wipeout and was sort of tripping that I was okay. We had a moment on the ski where we both laughed and tripped out that I was still alive. My board was completely destroyed, though.
When did you first see a photo or video?
Actually, I saw it the second that I made it to the rocks. A friend of mine met me down there to show me the photo. It looked pretty bad in the shot, as just about everyone can tell. But to me, and I guess it's weird, but I thought the wave was going to be bigger. I mean, it was solid, but it's hard to put into words what it looked and felt like free-falling on that thing.
People are claiming that this was one of the heaviest wipeouts they've seen this winter. How do you feel about it?
Well, I'm not really sure. It would have been great to make that wave, but that obviously didn't happen. I've always thought it would be cool to get a Wipeout of the Year award. Wave of the Year would have been better, but that's how it goes, I guess. There's still hope.
You surfed Jaws again the next day?
Yeah, I got a few the next day. Nothing really special, but I got a couple. It felt good to get one for sure. I was riding a borrowed board at that point and wasn’t really feeling it. Plus, my neck was really stiff, but it was good for me to be back out there.
So what's next?
I'm heading back to Oahu in just a few hours to get ready for the Volcom Pipe Pro. They're one of my sponsors, and I'm really looking forward to getting a few barrels at Pipe and hopefully making a few heats. After that, I'll be here on the North Shore trying to make the most of the rest of this winter.