Big wave surfing: train before you go

Big wave surfers are 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?

It's all in the brain, but you can't be a big wave surfer without strengthening your body for the most difficult mind games. To paddle or not to paddle? Eddie would go, but he was a well-trained waterman.

There are many specific physical exercises for big wave surfers. A workout plan for extreme riders involves almost all the structure of the human body. From neck to ankle, from knee to the heart. Lungs are the survival kit of the big wave surfers.

"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. It will improve your lung capacity, cardiovascular health, and will help you stay calm in wipeouts. Yoga will add another layer of oxygen, too.

"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 the whitewater turbulence may reduce our breathing power 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".

Tom Whitaker managed to hold his breath for five minutes and 25 seconds, after training with Kurt Krack, a surf survival specialist who teaches a breath holding course.

"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 unusual home made plans. "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 get into play, in the 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. If you're committed to starting a big wave surfing career, take a look at the 10 commandments of the big wave surfer.