Big wave surfing is a discipline within surfing that most of us are in awe of but would never be brave enough to attempt. What makes a big wave surfer? Obviously courage in large doses, the thrill and adrenalin rush of risk taking, the ability to think clearly and stay calm in the face of danger and the desire to always push personal boundaries.
Those attending the Horizon Power Sports Star of the Year Awards tomorrow night will have a unique opportunity to meet a true adventurer in Shanan Worrall who won the gold medal of surfing achievements when he was awarded the 2017 WSL Big Wave Award for Tube of the Year for a 6.5 m barrel ride at the famous break, “The Right”. In taking out that prestigious title Shanan defeated many professional surfers. WA has some of the best big wave destinations in the world and for Shanan it was the culmination of being nominated as a finalist in numerous other big wave awards including the Oakley Big Wave Awards in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
Shannan Worrall was born in Esperance in 1978. His reputation as an all round waterman began when, at the age of 6, he started surfing, fishing, spear fishing and free diving, quickly developing a lifelong affinity with the ocean. At ESHS teacher, Craig McLean was a favourite with Shanan and his mates as he was a surfer and shaped surfboards. He still shapes Shanan’s boards today. Craig also taught Shanan how to keep a positive mind-set when times are tough.
By far the most influential person in Shanan’s life was his brother Nath. He was a fun-loving, naturally gifted surfer whose talent and adventurous spirit has been the inspiration and motivation throughout Shanan’s journey. After leaving school Shanan had a variety of jobs such as cruising the WA coast hosting luxury fishing charters, crayfishing at the Abrolhos Islands, working on an oyster farm in Tasmania and, when necessary, laying tiles at building sites.
A series of interactions with sharks caused Shanan to re- assess his life. He was abalone diving east of Esperance in October, 2013 when Greg Pickering was attacked by a great white. Shanan was in the water at the same time as Greg so counts himself lucky to have escaped. He and his colleagues administered first aid to Greg and under extreme circumstances managed to keep him alive until medical aid arrived. It was, and is, a remarkable story of survival. An experience like that has its consequences and for Shanan it was months before he could return to the ocean. At each attempt he would end up in tears and throw up. He ceased abalone diving and moved to Margaret River.
Months later, just as Shanan was donning his wetsuit to make another attempt at returning to the ocean, a horrific, fatal shark attack of a close friend occurred in front of him. These days Shanan is loving being back in the water but being very aware of the “shark factor” decided to use his experience and knowledge of sharks to form a company called Shark Eyes, with the aim of educating water users on water safety and developing an affordable visual shark deterrent. Sharks have high visual capabilities and rely on the element of surprise to ambush their prey.
Research shows that sharks become more cautious and change their behaviour when eye contact is made and because the “shark eyes” product is designed to mimic human eyes the shark feels it has been seen and moves away. For more information view the website www.sharkeyes.com.au
Although happily living in Margaret River with wife, Heather and 4 month old daughter, Olive, Shanan still thinks of Esperance as home so is excited to be returning this weekend to catch up with sister Kristen and many friends, as well as presenting the Sports Star Awards and participating in a Q and A session. Shanan will be accompanied by Joe Knight from One Ocean International and guests will be entertained by a short movie compiled by world renowned surf movie maker, Tim Bonyothon.
Despite winning the ultimate surfing award, Shanan has no ambitions to turn professional. While he will always be a man of the sea his focus is now more on his family, his company and helping keep the rest of us who enjoy the ocean safe.