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landratten.org: Hey Mark! To be honest, sometimes I get scared just by watching your videos. However, as a holiday surfer it is even not my goal to ride waves that are half as powerful as those you ride. But I want to progress and push myself further to be able to surf bigger waves. Do you have some advice for me on how to “go bigger”?
Mark: I think my advice would be, to go bigger or to push yourself further than what you are already comfortable with, you need to have confidence. And you need to have confidence by feeling like you are in control of that environment. The only way to do that, if you are in a situation that you don’t know, for example if you haven’t been yet in surf enough to experience it, is training. You need to be a good swimmer, to feel like, if you are held down or you are stuck in a situation that’s uncomfortable, you can go like: OK, I’ve got this. I have done a lot of training, I feel like I can handle the currents or whatever it is that that environment is. So you have to prepare yourself physically to give yourself confidence to try and push yourself on a great level when it comes to surfing.
landratten.org: Do you think the training methods big waver surfers use, like practicing breath-holding techniques are helpful for average surfers, if they want to get more comfortable in the ocean?
Mark: For underwater training it is really important that you always do it with a spotter and someone that knows what they are doing. There is a bit of misconception about how that actually works and how you get a benefit from it. I think if you want to push yourself in smaller surf (comment by landratten.org :from a big wave surfers perspective that’s what most of us would call big surf), physical fitness is going to be a lot more beneficial to someone than if someone can hold his breath for 5 minutes but can’t really swim very far. I think you need the physical attribute to be able to move and control the space, before you focus on becoming an excellent breath-holder. I mean it’s going to help, but you need those other things first.
landratten.org: Are there any specific drills you can recommend intermediate surfers to prepare for big swells.
Mark: Yeah, join a swimming squad! And then get used to doing regular pushups because that’s the same motion like jumping to your feed. You need a lot of strength in that part of your arms, especially when you are duck- diving in bigger surf, wrestling your board, getting spun around, you want to be sort of strong in that area and you want to have a good lung capacity from doing a lot of swimming an being cardio fit. I think that’s probably a really good start.
landratten.org: Recently I asked someone for advice on how to get more comfortable in bigger waves. I got the answer “Anyone how has got the balls can surf big waves”. Do you agree with that? How is the relation between risk taking and developing the right skills? Do I have to be a bold risk taker to master bigger surf?
Mark: Well yeah, there is a certain element of: ‘anyone who has the determination or the ability to take off on anything, can surf bigger waves’ – but it’s not a smart decision. It’s not a calculated decision. Putting yourself in that environment with limited physical skills, or water knowledge, or understanding the ocean – might be quite stupid. You might be an awesome psycho charger, who takes off on something huge, but if you don’t know how to protect yourself, you are also a hazard to anyone else. And that’s the biggest thing in the line-up. If someone doesn’t know what they are doing, they become a problem for everyone else. When you are out there and know what you are doing and could actually help someone else, if they are in a situation, it’s probably the right time for you. You want to be at that point before you are out there. I am definitely calculated and I waited until I was at that level before I just went out there and sort of kamikazed myself on sets. But when I am at the fitness level and the awareness level of understanding the ocean and I understand how to help others, you have to push yourself. You have to go out of the comfort zone, but you only do that, when you are physically and mentally ready for that stage.
landratten.org: In the Trailers to your “Nine Lives” documentaries you deliver spectacular pictures, that can only be matched by Hollywood movies – with the difference that they are real. What are your next projects?
Mark: The biggest one is “Operation Deep Blue”, where we find waves in the middle of nowhere and we parachute jet skis and a whole team from the back of a C130 cargo aircraft. That’s probably the biggest and most exciting project I’ve been working on and it has taken quite a lot of time to get to this point. We have to continually keep learning and evolving and there are a lot of heralds to come up.
landratten.org: Mark thanks for your time and for being a great inspiration! Take care and good luck for your future projects!
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