5AM. The alarm cuts through the morning silence. The snooze button on any other day would be tempting to hit, but not on this morning. Off in the familiar distance, mountains rise up out of the ocean depths, barreling over in an explosion of whitewater, one after another. The anticipation of this day has been building like a swell across the ocean, and in bed is the last place you want to be. Mavericks is firing, and for big wave surfer Colin Dwyer, that means it time to go to work.
There are two ways to paddle out at Mavericks: south side, which is long but relatively safe, and the north side, which is much shorter but involves a few sketchy rock jumps plus a sprint paddle through solid waves breaking onto dry reef. “I almost always paddle out on the north side,” says Dwyer. “It’s sort of the locals way out.” The breaking waves grow louder, past the point of being just heard, but felt. Only a handful of surfers are skilled enough to handle this wave, with some traveling from all over the world to ride it. For Colin, it’s home.
The 27 year old is no stranger to this break, which was first surfed by legendary local Jeff Clark back in 1975. And it’s practically a part of his DNA. He grew up only minutes away in Pacifica, Ca., the son of Steve Dwyer, one of the original surfers to compete at Mavericks in the 90’s. “I live really close to Mavericks, so I get the luxury of sleeping in my own bed before every swell.” says Dwyer. To say his family had an influence on his surfing career would be an understatement. According to Colin, “They had me in the ocean and on a surfboard before I could walk.” Call it influence, indoctrination, or whatever you want, the dude was born to surf.
“You have to be able to think critically under pressure, same in surfing big waves, a lot of decisions get made in rapid sequence. Surfing Mavericks is downright dangerous and knowing what to do if things go south is crucial.” - Colin Dwyer
Photo: Travis Payne
“My dad told me growing up, the day I could handle anything that Ocean Beach could dish out, I could surf Mavericks,” recalls Dwyer. Along with Ocean Beach, spots like Rockaway and the reefs around Santa Cruz were the training grounds for the young surfer. It was at those spots he paddled out, session after session, getting worked occasionally, but always honing his craft. Before he could drive a car though, the second generation surfer was paddling out into one of the heaviest waves on the planet. “My dad took me out there for my first time when I was 15. I knew right away that it was something I wanted to keep doing; the power and the energy of the wave is incredible.”
Photo: Tony Canadas
Most days, when the sun rises over Northern California, Colin heads out the door, not dressed in board shorts though, but in medical scrubs. “I gotta make money somehow,” says Dwyer. Working in a level two trauma center emergency department is draining work, but in a symbiotic way, surfing has prepared him for it, as the parallels are obvious. “You have to be able to think critically under pressure, same in surfing big waves, a lot of decisions get made in rapid sequence,” exclaims Dwyer. “Surfing Mavericks is downright dangerous and knowing what to do if things go south is crucial.” But don’t just think surfing only translates to the professional work, it goes both ways. “My ER tech skills makes me a good travel buddy, if anyone wants to take me on a surfing trip,” laughs Colin. Between sponsorship and competition earnings, being able to sustain a lifestyle of surfing professionally full time is obviously the goal for many. For Colin, balancing his surfing pursuits with work is a necessity for now.
“My dad took me out there for my first time when I was 15. I knew right away that it was something I wanted to keep doing; the power and the energy of the wave is incredible.” - Colin Dwyer
Surfing, like many action sports disciplines, is tough to make it in, even with the talent needed to do so. “The grind of surfing looks like long drives all night, plane flights, hauling around heavy luggage, board bag fees, navigating the fickle surf industry, dealing with injury, lots of sacrifices,” says Colin. He competed on the WSL Big Wave World Tour for multiple seasons and was even the youngest invitee ever for the recently canceled Titans of Mavericks Surfing Competition. Exposure is key to staying relevant enough to get a shot, as tours such as these are invite only. “There are so many incredible surfers that just don't have the resources to properly showcase their talent,” adds Dwyer.
Due to nature’s unpredictability, surfer’s that charge waves like Mavericks have to be ready when it’s pumping. “If I work on a day that's forecasted to be all time, I have to find someone to cover the shift,” says Dwyer. You can bet on those day's, there's only one place you'll find him - in the ocean.
From July 17th through July 30th, 10% of your purchase of any product in our shop will go towards sponsoring Colin Dwyer. For action sport disciplines like big wave surfing, funding doesn't always come easy, and elite athletes often times have to incur large personal costs to compete at a high level. The Frynge is proud to provide a platform that allows readers and customers like yourself, to have a direct impact in supporting athletes like Colin. So be sure to check back each week for new stories, gear and apparel!