Living fit and healthy is a tricky game. In today’s day and age, there’s no shortage of information out there that can be pulled up in a Google search or taken off of a magazine cover with little regard to each audience member’s motivating factor. Some want to take their game to to the next level, while some want desperately to lose weight. Each requires a different focus, a different routine, and a different mindset.
But for pretty much every surfer, it can’t be denied that creating healthier habits, whether they are nutrition based or activity based, helps bring your surfing closer to its full potential. So how do you sort out the gimmicks from the real miracle workout or super food? You don’t. At least not according to these five surfers who all have one thing in common: staying in tip top shape isn’t a gimmick at all, it’s a dedicated lifestyle. They all do it for different reasons while employing different workouts, diets, and approaches. So if you’re going to take advice about health and fitness look to someone who is fit and healthy–makes sense, right? Here are five of them.
1. Greg Long
Greg is big wave surfing’s king. Whereas most of us pop open apps with full scaled surf reports, breakdowns, and a streaming camera aimed at the peak for good measure, Long relies on a healthy diet of preparation, analyzing, and fine tuning everything that gets him into the world’s biggest waves. Whether it’s changing his travel arrangements on the run or closely following swell models, no piece of the puzzle is done without attention to detail. Naturally, that includes keeping his mind and body at its peak all year around. And he’s got some of the most creative training to prove it. Workouts include standard exercises like wind sprints and riding a stationary bike he keeps outside of his home. The catch? No breathing for 90 second sprints and bursts, only stopping to breathe between intervals. He even wears a helmet on the bike in case he blacks out.
Not that this is the kind of fitness regimen Average Joe should employ, but the mindset is spot on. And mindset is really where he sets himself ahead of the pack, even going as far as to study and understand the element of fear in his livelihood. Long says he’s let go of pretty much anything that keeps him from riding waves. And when a 2012 wipeout made him contemplate ditching big waves altogether, the belief that riding big waves helped him explore his physical and mental potential as a human is what brought him right back. Perhaps something he learned through another of his regular practices altogether: yoga. Greg Long is in pursuit of one thing: The world’s biggest, most challenging waves. He treats his mind and body accordingly.
2. Ian Walsh
For big wave charger Ian Walsh, staying fit isn’t solely about going huge. Part of what stands out about his focus on health and fitness is that it took a couple poundings to get there. In making the transition from “fun-sized” surf to waves of consequence, Walsh used to treat his surfing the same way. He took up free diving and a generous dose of gym time to improve everything from his stamina to using his lungs to their full capacity. The results were pretty astounding. Walsh went from being able to hold his breath underwater for 45 seconds to staying submerged in pools for as long as 4 minutes. And he says it’s not just about big wave preparation– he claims that the increased lung capacity and body control can relax the body, even control your heart rate in smaller waves and heats.
Many surfers believe the only way to train for catching waves is to be in the lineup doing just that. Walsh hits the gym, often with a trainer, 3-5 times a week on top of his regular surf routine and bike riding. And of course all that training means giving attention to what he fuels his body with, treating nutrition similar to that of an MMA fighter by cutting/managing weight before winter, and mapping out diets for himself geared toward specific goals like leaning out before winter or increasing energy before a long surf.
3. Taylor Knox
Knox is so knowledgable about this whole fitness game he’s made his experience and wisdom readily accessible to the masses. As a teenager Knox underwent back surgery from injuries caused by surfing. His doctor told him he’d never surf again, so instead he worked his ass off to get back in the water and had himself a decades long career. Now in his mid-40’s, Knox is still one of the fittest in the surf world, pieces of metal holding his back together and all. He’s teamed up with trainer Paul Hiniker to develop SURFfit, with Knox’s health history as the catalyst. Unlike the previous surfers on this list where training is about getting the human body and mind ready for taking on the meanest waves on the globe, Knox and Hiniker aim to help others fight off the wear and tear surfing can create. As great as it is to take your athletic abilities to the next level, training in a way that actually keeps the average Joe in the water is a pretty good bonus to boot.
4. Kelly Slater
The Champ can work his way onto just about any list in surfing with little to no need for explanation. When I was young, my mom used to come up with elaborate stories to get me to eat my vegetables. Zuchini would help me run faster, carrots helped my eyesight, so on and so forth. And if Kelly tells us all to eat caramelized seal turds because it improved his wave count then it certainly wouldn’t take much time for somebody to gather some dough (and seal turds), package those things up, and post up in some SoCal parking lot selling them by the case.
But can you blame us? He’s one of the fittest people on the planet, as proven by the fact that he’s 43 years old and still competing at the sport’s highest level. Whether Kelly ever wins another title or not, he’s holding up well enough to smoke guys half his age on tour and at the very least is a top-5 finisher each year. That kind of success hasn’t come as naturally as some would like to think, and in fact he’s at this level today because healthy and fit has remained his way of life. Everybody knows that, and everybody wants the secret. It’s why any google search of Kelly Slater and the words fitness, nutrition or workout will turn out pages of magazine articles, recipes and health tips. Is there really anybody better to mirror than this guy?
5. Owen Wright
This guy is a flat out physical specimen. If you took every surfer on tour out of the water and told somebody who knew nothing about the WSL that one of them is a professional athlete, Wright is the guy 9 out of 10 people would point out. At 6’3″, he’s as tall as Terell Owens and Dwyane Wade and has a wingspan longer than Michael Phelps. But he doesn’t just let that gifted physique go to waste. Wright trains in and out of the water when he’s not actually competing. Whether it’s in the gym or devising precise paddling routines, no opportunity to capitalize on those long arms, wide shoulders, and tall build is missed. His non-surfing workouts are detailed, from how many days a week he runs and at what pace to where he wants his heart rate to be during paddling workouts. It’s all so precise he’s even credited the advantage of dedicated training as giving him a 20% benefit in competition. Which is really the whole point of this list, right? To train, eat and condition your body and mind with the intent that being committed to it will maximize every wave? Wright walks the talk.