Big wave surfers are some of the most well-trained athletes in the world. Riding water giants is, above all, an extreme physical challenge. How do they prepare their bodies for the powerful forces of Mother Nature?
A lot of it is mental preparation, but you can't be a big wave surfer without strengthening your body to be ready for the challenges of the mind. To paddle or not to paddle? Eddie would go, but, well, he was a well-trained waterman.
There are many specific physical exercises for big wave surfers. A workout plan for extreme riders involves the entire human body; from neck to ankle, from knee to heart. And the survival kit of the big wave surfer are his lungs, which must be kept in top condition.
"To be physically ready, I do a lot of yoga. I definitely stretch beforehand. It's always good to stretch afterward, too. Mainly, I do yoga to prepare. Preparation is everything, and having the right safety crew in place is essential", explains Garrett McNamara.
Physical schemes in big wave surfing usually involve breath training. This helps to improve lung capacity, cardiovascular health, aids in keeping calm through wipeouts. Yoga training helps the body make efficient use of oxygen, as well.
"A type of yoga that I practice is called Pranayama, which concentrates on exercises to hold your breath, positive breath holds and strengthening of the diaphragm", says Jamie Sterling.
Big wave surf training is not limited to underwater rock running. Learning how to improve your breath-hold also involves knowing the surrounding environment. Having to deal with whitewater turbulence can reduce our breathing power by up to 75%.
Jeff Rowley, an Australian big wave charger, adds new dimensions to the equation. "I train hard in the pool - my empty lung holds are up to 2:23. I eat well. At the beach I don't psyche up, I calm down. I perform lung exercises before I paddle out that deprive me of oxygen, so my body is in a state of conserving energy".
After training with Kurt Krack, a surf survival specialist who teaches a breath holding course, Tom Whitaker managed to hold his breath for five minutes and 25 seconds.
"When you look at breathing, most people don't realize that that the urge to breathe isn't something in the immediate. Really, that is where the breath-hold starts", notes Krack.
Many surfers get into other sports to complement their workouts. Mark Healey is also into free diving, hunting, hiking, martial arts, and even D-I-Y home renovations. "I've been getting most of my exercise breaking concrete and digging holes at my house. Nothing beats manual labor."
Eating well is critical. What you eat and what you drink will come into use as fuel for the body out in big surf. Do you know what you should be eating and drinking, from the surfer's perspective?
"I like to start the day with a parfait with an apple, strawberries, a banana, blueberries, a little granola, and yogurt. Then I'll have either three to four egg whites with breakfast or a Progenex protein shake with the meal", underlines Ian Walsh.
The best big wave surfers train every day. Their lungs, their muscles, their joints and their minds are kept in constant preparation. If you're committed to starting a big wave surfing career, take a look at the 10 commandments of the big wave surfer.