Surf Training Trend Explained

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Fred Pattachia on training.
Photo: Jeff Flindt

Straight from a Men’s Fitness model, sort of.

By Stuart Cornuelle

At an airport newsstand last week, curiosity drove me deep into the homoerotic pages of Men’s Fitness magazine. It was awkward, but I had to persist to suss out their front-page promise of “training secrets from top big-wave surfers,” or something like that. The corresponding article included a photo of Fred Patacchia doing sit-ups on the beach, his feet buried in the sand for leverage. This is where the surf-training craze leads? Muscle magazines and ab-busting beach workouts? I called Freddy.

SURFING Magazine: I want to get your thoughts on training — why you do it, but also why it is or isn’t a good thing for the sport of surfing in general.

Fred Patacchia: To be honest, I wouldn’t train as much if I weren’t on tour. The whole thing about training is that some guys — the Kelly Slaters and Joel Parkinsons and Mick Fannings — they’re just naturally gifted; whether they wanted to train or not, they’d still be some of the top surfers in the world.

Training is about getting a fraction of an edge over your opponent — whether you really have that edge, or it’s just a mental thing because you’re saying to yourself, “F—k, I’ve been getting up and training at 6am every morning.” Who knows if it really works?

So you work out to improve your competitive performance, and that’s the end of it?

The whole reason I train is to be comfortable in the ocean. Being from Hawaii, we surf some big waves, so if you don’t have good stamina or cardiovascular health, you’re going to feel pretty uneasy out at places like Waimea, Pipeline, Sunset or Haleiwa.

A lot of us here get in the pool. I don’t use weights; I haven’t picked up a weight in years. So I don’t think a lot of us do it to bulk up, we do it to prepare ourselves for what we’re going to put our bodies through. Also, training helps you to keep from getting injured.

I’d argue that your image as a surfer suffers if it looks like you take it too seriously. People love Bruce Irons and Dane because they seem effortless, but a lot of those same people trash on guys who train and openly try hard.

Those guys who are against the training thing, you know, to each his own — but surfing is a career now. Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning — even myself, if I play my cards right — we’re not going to have to work another day in our lives. So in order to prolong my career and retire at a young age after surfing, I have to make sure there’s not some young kid who’s not training, but because he’s young and his body can take more, he’s taking my spot.

It’s all marketing, anyway. If you want to market yourself as a fierce competitor, then — I mean, just look at [mixed martial arts fighters] BJ Penn and Georges St. Pierre. BJ Penn is known for not training, but he’s so naturally talented that he’s still the best in the world at his weight class. Georges St. Pierre is a training freak. So some kids want to look up to a guy like BJ Penn, or a guy like Dane, who doesn’t care whether he wins the World Tour or not, and some kids want to look up to a guy like Mick Fanning who’s completely dedicated and wants to win the world title — and has won the world title because of that dedication. To tell you the truth, I see Mick out drinking and getting hammered more than Bruce and Dane put together. But the media doesn’t like to portray him as a party guy.

Where do you fall on the spectrum between Mick Fanning and Dane Reynolds?

I don’t know what kind of image I have in the marketplace, but I like to juggle business and pleasure. I’m sponsored by Bud Light; I drink a lot, and I don’t mind telling people that because I drink responsibly. And a lot of people on my website say that’s why I haven’t cracked the Top 10 yet, or that’s why I’m not in world title contention, but you know what? I like my lifestyle. I like drinking beers. I also like being in shape and training. Picking one or the other isn’t for me; I want to balance it and be who I am.

How did you end up in the pages of Men’s Fitness?

That came out of the gym I was working out at, called the Boar’s Nest. Quiksilver rented out that gym for the winter for their team to go and train at, and I work out there about five days a week when I’m in my training period. So now, getting ready for the tour and everything, I’ve been going up to the Boar’s Nest and working to get my cardio and stamina up, and my strength training. That’s how that all came about. I think Quiksilver put that Men’s Fitness thing together; they knew I was working out up there and they thought, Ok, Freddy would be a good candidate. Obviously, they weren’t going to have Dane do that one.

Right, I guess not.

But I’ll tell you one thing: Kelly isn’t known for going to the gym and trying to get in shape, but that guy is pretty damn fit, so maybe Kelly or Dane are just better at hiding it than other people. Just to protect their image, in a way — you never know. It’s like a rapper saying, “I’m slangin’ drugs, I’ve got hookers on the corner,” and trying to put forth that image because it sells records. But in reality, they don’t live in the hood no more — they live in Beverley Hills, you know? They’ve got nice houses. They may roll with a gun, but they don’t need to use it. They just portray that lifestyle because they need to keep their image intact. So maybe those surfers are hiding it, too. I don’t know.