Big Wave Surfer

The Inertia

Editor’s Note: The Ocean Warrior course is available for download here. The course typically is priced at $499, but due they’re offering it to The Inertia readers for just $99 for a limited time. Check it out.

Growing up on a farm in the country in Victoria, Australia, we were surrounded by farms – hours away from the nearest beach. Once a year, we would go on vacation to a beach. I thought the beach was so cool, but I was afraid of the water, having nearly drowned in a sheep trough when I was a child.

One afternoon, when I was three years old, I was walking around the farm, watching the sheep and cows, and I dropped my peach in the sheep’s trough, which was a 55-gallon drum cut in half. I dived in after my peach, but the water was over my head. So there I was, totally submerged, sitting on the bottom of the barrel. My older brother pulled me out by my hair before I drowned.


One year later, I had another incident that rattled me to the core and caused me to be afraid of the ocean. I was walking with my mum, holding her hand, on the beach while on a family vacation. Out of nowhere this shore break grabbed me by the legs and sucked me out. I had flashbacks of being stuck at the bottom of the sheep trough. Mum was only three feet away, but it seemed like a mile to me. I thought I was going to die.

That experience made me believe that the ocean wasn’t safe.

My family moved to the beach in Queensland just before my 10th birthday. I loved the idea of surfing, but no one in our family surfed. I’d watch them paddle out and think, “Wow! They’re going out way past waist-deep. How cool is that?” They were riding waves that seemed so big, and because of my fears, I had to be content riding my little bodyboard in knee- or waist-deep water. I’d watch them and be mesmerized.


Despite my fear, I had a desire in me. I was drawn to the ocean. My guess is that you’ve felt this sensation before too – being both terrified of something and intrigued by it at the same time.

Eventually, I grew more comfortable with the ocean and managed to confront my fears head-on. First, I began to challenge myself first in smaller surf. Then eventually in much bigger surf. Before I knew it, I was in way over my head at Jaws, learning lessons in do-or-die scenarios. The evolution was a bit of a blur, but it required a lot of work. I concentrated my efforts on developing ocean safety skills that would give me confidence in heavier surf.

I began to learn breath-holding techniques. A lot of breath courses focus on “the big breath hold time,” and that just doesn’t stack up when you’re in real ocean situations. I learned to hold my breath for more than six minutes, and I surfed waves like Jaws, Teahupoo, Nazare, and Maverick’s. I had done so much training and prep work beforehand, but I didn’t feel like “the big breath time” was really all that helpful.

The truth is, it actually gave me a false sense of security. It wasn’t until I learned how to use a variety of new techniques that I started to feel truly confident. I got to the point where I had a jet ski put me in front of solid waves at Jaws, and I purposely jumped off in front of them to see if the training actually worked. It did.

Mark Visser Jaws Jumps Photo: Ocean Warrior Course

I jumped in front of waves at Jaws as a form of training. Yup, I did this on purpose. Photo: Courtesy Mark Visser

After working very hard to overcome my childhood fears, I decided to collaborate with Hawaiian water safety pioneer Brian Keaulana, big wave legend Shane Dorian, and world-class freedivers Ant Williams and William Trubridge to develop a course that can help surfers of all levels become more confident in the ocean. While ninety-nine percent of surfers fear losing their breath, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. I use the exact training from this course every week, and it’s the most realistic, reliable, and beneficial stuff out there. When I’m feeling good with training, I have the confidence to sit deeper and take off later. It has actually helped me progress so much faster, and that’s something I wish for everyone.

We’ve called our curriculum the Ocean Warrior Course, and it taps into the secrets of the most elite underwater athletes and watermen in the world. Everyone combined their experience to create a body of knowledge that’s more exhaustive than anything else that exists. I’m really excited to share it with you here. We’ve decided to offer The Inertia readers a massive discount on the course for a limited time, so check it out here.



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