5 Ways To Prepare For Winter, With Mark Healey

Interview by Taylor Paul

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Winter is coming. Healey waits with bated breath. Photo: Struntz

Holy smokes it’s already fall! Shit snuck up on us like a final exam. And while there might be a couple warning-shot swells to keep us on our toes, autumn is fairly easy. Indian Summer weather. Combo swells. Pumpkin spiced everything. But soon it will be winter and the waves will tower and if all you did was eat candy corn and tan this fall, then you won’t be ready for what the season has in store. So how do you prepare? We didn’t really know — but Mark Healey does — so we asked him. “Obviously, my experience is different than the average person” he said, “But no matter what you do or what size waves you surf, we’re chasing fleeting moments. So you want to be prepared so you can make the most of them.”

This is how you do it.

Boards

MARK HEALEY: I don’t believe in buying pop-out boards, I think having a relationship with a shaper and having boards made specifically for you is the way to go. It’s like buying directly from the farmer instead of going to Costco. It’s a more fulfilling experience. That said, nothing comes easy and most shapers like to surf a lot as well, so whatever boards you’re going to need for winter — order them now and check in with your shaper every two weeks. Shapers tend to need a fire lit under their asses. [laughs]
As far as what to order, just remember that foam is your friend. The right amount of foam will make it easier to catch waves and isn’t going to hinder you in terms of maneuverability nearly as much as the benefits you gain from it.

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A good quiver can make or break your winter. A good winter can also break your entire quiver. Photo: Brent Bielmann

Other Equipment

This is just making sure you have the right fins for your boards, the right wetsuits, wax, leashes. Remember, we’re going after fleeting moments in the ocean and we don’t get those moments back, so you don’t want to be scrambling like, “Oh, damn, I forgot a leash string. I forgot a fin key.” All it takes is going down to your local surf shop for an afternoon and getting yourself sorted.

Mind
If you want to catch bigger waves than last winter, and ride them better, a lot of that has to do with your mind. When I’m preparing to surf big waves, I try and create uncomfortable situations that give me that initial shock of nervousness, so my mind is warmed up. So whether that’s with breath holds or anaerobic workouts (where you’re holding your breath while exerting yourself physically), you realize that you can get past a lot. Anytime you’re doing anaerobic workout it brings up the discomfort pretty quickly. You want to toy with that, but you have to be safe. Don’t do it in the water, do it on land. What I’ll do is get on the stationary bike and do a warm up for five minutes, then do a 30 second breath hold while still peddling, then a minute breathing, then a 30 second breath hold, and so on and just get in a rhythm for 35 minutes, and bump the resistance up every five minutes. So while this is physical, for me the real benefit is in the mind. It helps you find your limits and work through those alarm bells.

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If you can’t survive the fall, don’t take the drop. Healey is physically and mentally prepared for just about anything the ocean throws his way, and thus has the confidence to take a drop like this. Photo: Brent Bielmann

Body

Body is mostly about cardio, flexibility, range of motion and strength. I’ve been really into gymnastica lately, working with Kid Peligro. Gymnastica is like a mixture of jiu jitzu warm ups and animal movements, almost like a capoeira or break dancing. It’s got a heavy warm up and emphasizes breathing and flowing. A lot of guys have been doing it — Adriano De Souza before he won the title, John John’s been at it a lot lately. It really helps with range of motion and those stabilizing muscles that are good for surfing and nothing else. It helps you become more smooth and light footed. I’ll also do yoga just for the breathing and stretching.

Crew

You get the most out of surfing with help, so you need to know who your wingmen and women are. Find the people that can surf when you can surf, and who you can trade information with to maximize your chances of getting good waves when it’s firing. It’s about creating that network of surf buddies and wave junkies. And then, of course, they push you when you’re in the water. It’s cool to surf by yourself every once in a while, but most of the time you’re looking around going, “This would be a lot cooler if I had a friend here.”

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Follow these steps and maybe you can get a wave 1/4 of this size. Photo: Brent Bielmann