Big Waves Surfer Dougal Paterson answered your questions.
Could you briefly introduce yourself to us? Where were you born and what are you doing as a profession?
Dougal: My name is Dougal James de la Bruyere Paterson. I was born in the middle of South Africa, hundreds of kilometres away from the ocean! I make my money through commercial photography and by directing (and writing) short films.
What inspired you to start surfing?
Dougal: I used to see photographs of men riding huge waves in Hawaii whilst I was growing up. I ran away from home when I was 17 to Jeffries Bay where I learned how to surf. When I moved to Cape Town in the mid 90’s I learned how to ride really BIG waves….something I’ve been doing ever since.
What are your favorite spots for surfing?
Dougal: I live in Kommetjie which is near the tip of Africa. I have two of the worlds biggest waves right in front of my house. Their names are Sunset Reef & Dungeons. These are my favourite places to surf.
What do you generally think about Robert Kelly Slater and Joel Tudor?
Dougal: I shot an advertising campaign with Kelly Slater for Brietling watches, so we spent the day together. I like him a lot. He’s a great story teller and an exceptional conversationalist. I don’t know Tudor, but I love his surfing. He has legs like little trees! He’s the king of style and poise. I used to love watching footage of him at Pipe Line (Hawaii).
When was the most frightening moment in your surfing career
Dougal: I was surfing Dungeons with two of my friends in 2019. Dungeons is regarded as one of the most dangerous waves in the wold. My friend was hit in the head by his surfboard and held underwater for two waves. He was dying when I got to him. I was able to drag him to safety and rouse him, but he was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance after that. A few minutes later and he would have been dead.
How do you tend to cope with big waves? Have you got any specific strategies?
Dougal: Experience gained over decades is what allows me to ride big waves. Having a good breathe hold and not being too afraid helps a lot. I have also learned how to fall well. I do a huge amount of physical preparation and training. Living so close to big waves and having a flexible work schedule means that I get to surf them more regularly than most people I know.
Are there any surfers you recommend us to follow, if so, who are they?
Dougal: Shane Dorian for his family values. I admire him for retiring from big waves whilst still in his prime. He is 51 now.
What do you think about the current condition of wave surfing? What would you like to change?
Dougal: Big wave surfing has never been more popular. Inflation vests and jetski rescue have made it possible for people to take big risks. The down side is that the incidences of brain injuries (concussions) in young surfers is on the rise too. I don’t think that people should start surfing big waves until their brains have stopped growing (around age 25).
What are your thoughts on land surfing better known as longboarding? Do you ever use a Longboard or a Surf Skate to train on land?
Dougal: I grew up skating on ramps (and falling hard). Falling on water is much better :) I have ridden a lot of carver boards over the years and found them to be very helpful for working on my style in smaller waves.
Have you ever had severe injuries whilst surfing? If so how did it happen and how did it affect your surfing career?
Dougal: I’ve hurt the ligaments in my knees a few times and been hit in the head or in the face with my board a fair amount. I've had stitches a few times too. In 2018 I herniated a disk whist towing into big waves at Dungeons. I had to have surgery in 2020 to fix the problem. The rehab was very gnarly and I doubted whether I’d ever be able to surf properly again. But, I fully recovered and was back surfing properly a year later !
What is your advice to newbie surfers, what should they pay attention to?
Dougal: Surfing is the most incredible sensation ! Being pushed forward by a wave gives me the same joy whether it’s a 20 footer or a 1 footer. My advice is start on a longboard (surfing longboard) before trying a short board. You learn quicker that way.
How tall was the largest wave you encountered on record and how tall is the worlds largest wave that’s been surfed?
Dougal: I’ve seen 40ft waves (Hawaiian scale) in real life. Waves that are physically impossible to paddle into, waves that you can only get towed onto with a jetski. I’ve paddled into a few 25 footers my life, which was absolutely terrifying.
To sum it up what would you like to say to Turk Longboard members about wave surfing?
Dougal: I have friends who still surf in their mid 70’s. Play the long game. Look after your body and aim to still be active when you’re an old person. Falling on water is better than falling off a mountain bike or over stressing your body through contact sports or with high impact activities like tennis.
Dougal Paterson @dougalpaterson
Preparer; Enfal Altar Calapverdi