Billabong Pipe Masters

World's Most Committed?

Anna Dimond

Presented by Qalo

In pro surfing, commitment comes with the territory: Late drops into hollow tubes, pre-dawn wakeups to paddle out, and heavy sets on the head on big days. But behind the scenes, the dedication goes beyond what happens in the lineup. Some of the world's best surfers are balancing professional and family life in impressive ways.

Kai Otton/Qalo feature Kai Otton and his growing family enjoy the beach in Hawaii. - WSL

This time last year, World No. 18 Kai Otton (AUS) was adjusting to life as a new dad. That spring, he had skipped the 2014 Championship Tour (CT) event in Rio to be home for the birth of baby Oscar. He told Australia's Daily Telegraph at the time, "I will be raring to go in Fiji [next month], but until then I am more than happy to be at home, loving life as a dad."

This year he's back in Hawaii with his partner, Sarah Herbert, their fast-growing toddler and brand-new member of the household on the way.

And Otton is far from the only CT surfer who's adjusted to having a family on Tour. In October, World No. 16 Taj Burrow (AUS) skipped the European CT contests to welcome the birth of his first child -- something he said he would have done no matter what the professional stakes might have been.

"People ask me, 'What if you're in Title contention?,'" he said. "And it wouldn't change a thing. This is the most monumental moment of my life."

Glenn Hall (IRL), a competitor on Tour who also coaches, had a few years to master the art of towing kids and boards around the world. "There's no way you can miss the birth of your first child," he said during the J-Bay Open. "That's more important than money or trophies or anything."

Dorian's Award-Winner
This wave won Shane Dorian the honor of 2015 Ride of the Year at the Big Wave Awards. But he didn't drop in without thinking of what (and who) was back on shore.

Shane Dorian (HAW) is one of the world's top big wave surfers and a pioneer in the field. Adding husband and father added to his resumé in recent years has had impact in the water.

Just minutes after winning the 2014 Big Wave Award for Surfline Best Overall Performance and Billabong Ride of the Year, Dorian said that becoming a father has changed his surfing life:

"I still have been surfing really big waves and doing it fairly consistently, but really being kind of mindful of how many times I'm risking it and how many waves I'm catching in each given day. If my first wave is incredible, one I'm going to remember for the rest of my life, I'm done for the day, I don't need to catch another wave, I'm totally finished."

Dorian's Steep Drops
Shane Dorian found multiple occasions to surf big waves this year, including this super session at Jaws.

For one of the world's best, that's new. "I feel like, don't be greedy and don't risk anymore than I need to." The trick, as many surf dads (and moms) agree, is in striking a balance -- a feat that might be on par with riding giants.

It's about "trying to find that balance between being true to yourself and making the right choices," Dorian said. "I love surfing big waves, it's part of who I am. But the level of importance is nothing compared to my kids and my family.

"For me, I miss big swells all the time because of my kids' birthdays, Christmas, or my wife's birthday or anniversary. I will skip those swells a lot of the time, and I used to not do that. So, for me, it is just part of the evolution of life. As we can see, I wouldn't be here if I wasn't also getting some time to surf."