For every perfect wave, there are a dozen stolen chances; the swell missed by a day, the one paddle too few – or the ride that went horribly wrong.
The global surfing community held breath and winced in unison this week as filmmaker Chris Bryan’s spectacular, 1000 fps footage emerged of a nauseating wipeout at Western Australia’s notorious big wave spot, The Right. Collectively we wondered what happened next, whether he was injured, and what it was like to take a beating of that proportion.
The man in question was Aussie charger Dan Ryan. Originally from Yamba on the East Coast of Australia, Dan headed west solely in pursuit of big waves.
Bodyboarding through his youth and relishing bigger swells, his move to the west coast began a self-funded quest for some of the biggest and deadliest waves to break upon Australian shores. With very little sponsorship, he purchased a ski and began towing in to mountains of water on his bodyboard, with spectacular results.
Not content to leave himself entirely at the mercy of his driver, with bodyboards offering far less control in bigger surf, Dan began riding surfboards, elevating himself above water level and the spray kicked up by the ski and his bodyboard. This newfound perspective allowed him to better read and judge a wave, placing the control in his hands and opening up a whole new world of potential.
A lifetime in the ocean has also been a lifetime in the sun. After a chance meeting with a kinesiologist, Dan began to realise the toxicity of most chemical-laden sunscreens. Through several years of tireless research and a thousand kitchen experiments, he came up with a formula for an all-natural, organic sunscreen that rejuvenates and replenishes the skin while protecting it from harmful UV rays.
Field tested in the extreme conditions he and his surfing mates experience, Dan’s creation, Under Our Sun sunscreen, has proven itself as a natural, nourishing and beneficial alternative to leading market brands, but without the damaging effects of the toxic chemicals they contain.
With every ingredient, the manufacture and even the packaging being thoroughly researched, Dan has ensured that Under Our Sun is as kind and ethical to the environment, the planet and your skin as possible. Partnering with the BUY1GIVE1 foundation, he also contributes a portion of every sale to helping the less fortunate and the world around us.
“I’ve had so many people message me this week asking if I’m okay,” Dan says jovially of the days since the clip’s release. “It was a really violent hold-down, thrashing me around like a violent washing machine. Every time I thought I was going one way, it would rip me back the other way. It was like being caught in an excavator scoop and just being flung around.”
Growing up as a bodyboarder, Dan has taken to tow-in surfing to gain a greater experience of riding big waves. Paddling and towing into the monster waves of WA, he’s happiest alone in the ocean, embraced by the elements, but on the day of this session, the circus was in town.
“It was busy that day,” he recalls. “I was watching the charts and realised it was going to be a good one. I paddled Cow Bombie (another famed West Coast big wave spot) the day before, and by the evening I knew it would be on.
“It was really hectic in the water – a lot of skis, a lot of cameramen. When it gets busy down there, the vibe can be really different. I suppose everyone is trying to get the shots and please their sponsors but, without any major sponsors of my own, I just get into my zone, be in my own space and not get caught up in all the hype.
“I got a couple of waves before this one, but no real big ones. I saw this wave coming and a couple of other guys were trying to go it as well. I told my driver, who hadn’t had much experience before, that, if I feel that it’s my turn to go, to just go for it.”
But what began as the wave of the day, at least for him, soon turned ugly. The warping, morphing nature of The Right, as it draws thousands of litres of water off the reef, makes guarantees a pipedream impossibility, and it wasn’t until Dan had passed the point of no return that the beast showed its true face:
“I popped up to my feet and just started smiling – I thought it was going to be a ripper! But as I was coming down into it, looking down the line I could see this big step and thought I was going to nosedive. As it was getting closer, I started to lean back, but because I didn’t have straps or anything and because of the suckiness of it, it just flipped me back.
“I didn’t get a very good penetration – I just bumped onto my back – and over I went with it.
“I’ve had a good few wipeouts there before and it was the same feeling: you just come up buzzing, glad to be alive. I didn’t get another one on the head or anything, so I was pretty lucky. I even got a few more after that.”
But, while some might have gone home to lick their wounds, Dan went back for more. “The next day, everyone had left and I surfed it again with Mark Mathews.”
Whether lying down or standing up, paddling in or dragged behind a ski, Dan Ryan continues to search out and charge massive swells around the world.
For more of Chris Bryan’s work, go to www.chrisbyranfilms.com.
For more information on Under Our Sun sunscreen, visit underoursun.org, and join Dan on Instagram and Facebook – @underoursun – for more incredible surfing images and news about Under Our Sun.