To go somewhere completely remote to ride the cleanest waves they could find. The concept of proximity — as stated in the first episode — is, “having two surfers at the top of their game be able to relate to each other in a way no one else can.” When experienced big wave veteran Shane Dorian was asked who he thought would be his best companion for the journey, he named the younger, uber-talented Albee Layer. To him, it was a no-brainer.
From the production room to the break
Produced by Teton Gravity Research (TGR) in association with Taylor Steele, the series premiered on October 19th exclusively on Outside TV Features. TGR created “A Life in Proximity” as a result of award-winning director Taylor Steele’s full-length, similarly titled film, “Proximity,” in order to delve deeper into the lives of the athletes and landscapes featured in the original film.
“With talent so stacked on a project like Proximity and so many intense locations explored, it’s almost impossible to showcase every highlight in the confines of one film,” stated producer Taylor Steele in a press release. “With the ‘A Life in Proximity’ series, we can take viewers further into these incredible trips and show meaningful moments that we just didn’t have room for with the original release.”
The Shane Dorian experience
An unforgettable experience, Dorian recently opened up about his journey, the adventures he and the team experienced along the way, and what his personal goals were for the Scotland expedition. Right away, Dorian told Digital Trends, “Honestly, I was just hoping to score good waves and enjoy myself. I was stoked to go to Scotland for the first time and soak up all I could.”
“We felt very confident with our Plan A and realized we had no Plan B once we really needed one.”
Patagonia’s recent film “Right to Roam” highlights Scotland’s unique land use laws, which allows for unlimited exploration of private land for recreational purposes — as long as respectful measures are taken. What these laws meant for Dorian and Layer was that the entire coastline was open to them. When they first arrived in Scotland on the tail end of a big swell, they searched the countryside high and low for promising breaks but found none. Dismayed and discouraged at the thought of missing their window, they considered calling it quits.
“We were definitely baffled,” Dorian added. “We felt very confident with our Plan A and realized we had no Plan B once we really needed one. Mother Nature wasn’t cooperating and the spots we thought we would score at just didn’t turn on at all.”
At the whim of weather
There are unique challenges involved with the creation of any surf film due in large part to the unpredictability of Mother Nature. Even as the swell continued to subside, Shane, Albee, and the film crew soon came across a hopeful break. What initially lifted their spirits immediately vanished when the location turned out to be a popular surf spot holding a locally-run competition. After speaking with a few participants, they decided to hop a ferry to a nearby island and try their luck there. Unfortunately, the last ferry had already departed.
“I was pretty concerned we might have to pull the plug on the entire trip as the first few days of the swell we weren’t getting any good waves,” Dorian told us. “We decided to explore some known coastline, using Google Earth and just putting on the miles. We stumbled upon a diamond in the rough and the momentum of the trip totally shifted in our favor.”
It was out of sheer chance the crew happened upon an area they’d later refer to as “Blood Eagle,” an amphitheater-like destination boasting a shallow reef break most surfers wouldn’t dare paddle out to. Dorian and Layer, however, saw significant promise buried beneath a dangerous challenge.
“There’s something so special in discovering a wave for the first time,” Dorian explained. “I’m sure that wave had been ridden at some point but we hadn’t heard of it and when we first saw it, we thought it was just a novelty wave. We didn’t know if it was even surfable. Many of the waves were far from perfect and would just morph into these strangely shaped things people don’t usually think of riding. Luckily, I was with Albee and we’re both find the beauty and fun of surfing weird waves.”
Paddling into the unknown
The two daring surfers donned their thick wetsuits, climbed down a rocky cliff and slab, and paddled out into freezing cold water to see what surprises their secret cove might have in store.
“We just goofed around on it since the conditions weren’t right,” he admitted. “Since we had no other plan for the next day, we decided to come back at dawn to check it and to our surprise, it was firing.”
The team spent the next day — along with an additional day at the end of the trip — catching as many waves as they could at Blood Eagle, of which Albee named after an old Viking torture method and on account of the surreal, gladiator-esque surroundings. While they were able to surf superb waves and capture plenty of awesome footage for the film, it was a bond developed between the two surfers which served as the highlight of the story.
“I surfed with Albee a bunch before the trip but only in big waves at Jaws [in Hawaii],” Dorian said at the end our conversation. “We’ve had a healthy and naturally competitive vibe going from the start, so it was fun to get to know each other a bit better and surf totally different kinds of waves. It was also fun to be on a trip with just the two of us as surfers. We spent a good amount of time just waiting for waves and talking about all sorts of stuff and cracking up.”
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