The big time: Kona’s Shane Dorian enjoys breakout success in pro surfing in 1999, 2000

  • CHELSEA JENSEN/West Hawaii Today Pro surfer and Kailua-Kona native Shane Dorian has been hosting the Big Island's Shane Dorian Keiki Classic for more than two decades. Dorian rose to fame in 1999 and in 2000, when he was ranked No. 4 overall.

Editor’s note: While the sports world is shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, West Hawaii Today will look back every Tuesday at memorable sports moments on the Big Island.

Every household name has humble beginnings.

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Shane Dorian, a Kailua-Kona native and Konawaena High School alumnus, is now one of the most well-known surfers from the Big Island, and is recognized worldwide for big wave surfing and locally as the creator and organizer of the annual Keiki Classic.

Before that, he was just one of many young surfers learning off the Big Island’s coast and then, one of the many professional surfers looking for their first big break.

Dorian joined the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) — now the World Surf League — World Tour in 1993, but it took him several years to find his footing. It was in 1999 when Dorian won his first Men’s Championship Tour event at the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, Australia, defeating Oahu native Sunny Garcia.

The following year would be an even bigger one for Dorian. He was ranked No. 4 on the World Championship Tour during the 2000 season, his highest-ever ranking. In May of that year, Dorian was runner-up at the 2000 Gotcha Pro Tahiti, coming in second behind famed surfer Kelly Slater.

In Sept. 2000, he again had a first place finish in the 2000 Billabong Pro at Mundaka.

Dorian defeated Mark Occhilupo to claim the $15,000 purse in Mundaka, Spain.

“Dorian… surfed an inspired semifinal against Australian Danny Wills, and then carried his form into the grand finale against Occhilupo, another Australian,” West Hawaii Today’s Brian Perdue wrote in a Sept. 11, 2000 article.

“‘If at the start of this contest you would have asked me who the hardest draw at Mundaka would have been, it would have been Occy, for sure,’ Dorian said. ‘Things were a bit erratic at the start of the year. I had a couple of bad results and then a good one, then some average ones and now another good one. Hopefully I can maintain some consistency throughout the rest of the year and finish pretty high.’”

Dorian’s rise to the top of the surfing ranks and his following success in big wave surfing is now an inspiration to many young surfers from the Big Island.

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“When I was a little kid, you’d never see a pro surfer living on the Big Island. It was like this place was completely off the map. Now, we have multiple pro surfers that are from Kona, and they’re very active, traveling in and out. We have quite a few pro surfers that visit the island as well,” Dorian told West Hawaii Today’s Eric Knopsnyder in 2014.

“That’s the real beauty of surfing. It will be there after you’re done with your contest. If you lose, if you win, surfing is always there for you as just something really fun to do. If you base your surfing on that, then good things happen.”

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