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The secrets of the 5 fitest surfers

How can a 45-year-old bald man rough up the World Tour? How do you become the fitness icon of an entire continent? What makes you a superhuman? And how do you take away their fear? We’ve been investigating.

Sally Fitzgibbons – the Maniak

Sally Fitzgibbons surfs on the World Tour and is much more than just a pro surfer in her native Australia. There she has become a fitness icon, constantly featured in fitness magazines like Women’s Health and has created her own fitness app with the Australian Beach Body App. How did she do that?

Von nichts kommt nichts! Um solche Wellen surfen zu können, trainiert Sally in einer Woche so viel wie andere im Büro sitzen. Foto: Fitzgibbons International
From nothing nothing comes! In order to surf such waves, Sally trains as much as others in the office in one week. Photo: Fitzgibbons International

Sally’s secret:

The 26-year-old from Gerroa in New South Wales is a driven one. She just can’t help but train. The siren song of the gym is too tempting to resist. Only exception: There are good waves. No wonder Sally gets 40 to 50 hours of exercise a week. The time others spend in the office is then filled with surfing, cross-training, running, biking, swimming, boxing as well as a pinch of yoga, Pilates and meditation.

Inner bastard? That’s no good!

Why don’t we all practice so much? Well, that’s where the inner bastard comes in who keeps chaining us to the sofa in front of the TV. Sally’s got it good, because she doesn’t know this opponent. The proof of this can be found in her childhood. When Sally was still at school, she didn’t just get on the bus to get home. No, she just put her schoolbag in the bus and then fought a sprint duel to her front door. No wonder she won gold at 16 at the Youth Olympic Games over 800 and 1,500 meters. That was also when she seriously started training.

Mark Healey – the Danger Seeker

Mark Healey is considered completely free of fear in the big wave scene. That goes so far that the 36-year-old from Hawaii also paddles into a closeout when he has to wait too long for the next wave for his feeling. Mind you, in Mavericks, while a 20-foot swell rolls in. So in conditions that send you to the land of pain after every wipeout. But Mark doesn’t seem to care.

Bei Marks Tauchgängen vor Hawaii ist ihm schon mehr als einmal ein Hai in die Quere gekommen, aber die Begegnungen gingen immer gut aus. Wohl auch weil Mark stets vollkommen ruhig bleibt. Foto: Saxx Underwear
During Mark’s dives off Hawaii, a shark has crossed his path more than once, but the encounters always ended well. Probably also because Mark always stays completely calm. Photo: Saxx Underwear

Mark’s secret:

Or rather, Mark’s theory is this:

“By exposing myself as often as possible to danger, I accustom my body to stressful situations. This helps me to stay calm when I really get into a tricky situation when surfing in big waves”,

mark explains his training program, which could also be described as searching for danger. His activities include parachuting, body surfing in the pipeline, diving with sharks or rodeo on a wild bull, although he had never tried it before. So even after a second, Mark hit his head hard on the dusty ground after being catapulted from the back of the bull. Certainly a painful lesson, but one that may eventually save Mark’s life.

An example:

During a wipeout in South Africa in 2008, Mark’s surfboard turned into a bullet and burst his eardrum on impact. “”Suddenly my sense of balance was completely gone. I didn’t even know where upstairs and downstairs was. Normally that wouldn’t be so bad, but I was far below the surface,” Mark recalls. “”Such a situation is pure stress, and if you let it overpower you, it’s not far to panic. Then you block yourself and you are no longer able to make rational decisions. This can be the beginning of the end. ” Mark, however, remained calm even without orientation and gradually retreated to the surface on his leash. Perhaps also thanks to Mark’s dangerous hobby of always and everywhere testing his own limits. Nothing makes you more resistant to stress than constantly exposing yourself to it.

Laird Hamilton – the superhuman

Laird Hamilton appears on the scene like a force of nature: 1.92 metres tall, 105 kilograms of muscle packs carved from meat, and apparently indestructible like an armoured car. Respects the 53-year-old American, who lives in Maui, but not only his appearance, but also his surfing. Because what Laird calls a surfing session could be considered by observers to be more like a James Bond movie.

Laird Hamilton aka The Superhuman. Foto: XPTLIFE.COM
Laird Hamilton aka The Superhuman. Photo: XPTLIFE.COM

Laird’s secret:

He started his life underwater. Thanks to a medical experiment, his mother gave birth to him in a salt water tank in 1964. Laird may therefore create in the ocean what others think is impossible. Okay, that doesn’t help us now, because that’s pretty hard to catch up on. But Laird also has some tips on how to become a little like him:

“”Train, but properly! I don’t have a fixed training plan, it’s the fastest way to burnout and deadly boredom. My sports program is constantly changing, preferably every day. Listen to your body. He’ll tell you what he wants. Sometimes I see joggers who look like they’re in pain – maybe they should try another sport. Fitness training should not be an annoying duty, but must be fun. Many forget that.

Run barefoot. When surfing, you need every muscle and tendon your feet have to offer. But how can they suddenly withstand the strain, when otherwise a support corset – your shoes – does all the work.

Many people think that surfing is about technology. Wrong! It’s about feeling good in the ocean. If you panic while washing in white water, you will never feel comfortable on your board. Go swimming, diving or bodysurfing and get to know the ocean until you feel at home in it.

Don’t drink lemonade. It contains neither vitamins nor minerals, simply nothing usable. It’s just fattening.

To fall right is an art and it takes a long time to become a master. Two tips until the time comes: Remains relaxed to fight the waves wastes only oxygen. And never jump headfirst off the board unless you know exactly how deep the water is.

Everybody gets what they deserve. If you’re looking for trouble, you’ll get it. You just want to have a good time, that works, too. It all depends on your attitude. ”

Justine Dupont – the breathless ones

The French woman Justine Dupont is something like the female showpiece waterwoman of Europe. After all, the 25-year-old spent most of last winter in Nazaré hunting for the thickest swells, paddled to a monster crusher in Jaws during a trip to Hawaii or surfed a mountain of water in Belharra that would easily have towered above a multi-storey house. How does she manage to cope with these forces of nature?

Justine an ihrem Homespot, dem Riff von Belharra, zwei Kilometer vor der französischen Küste. Foto: Bastien Bonnarme/ Red Bull Content Pool
Justine at her home spot, the reef of Belharra, two kilometres off the French coast. Photo: Bastien Bonnarme/ Red Bull Content Pool

Justine’s secret:

Actually, it’s not really a secret, it’s more of a place. A pool, to be exact. Because Justine goes to the swimming pool twice a week for apnea training and then spends as much time as possible under water. A video of Justine in a 20-metre deep diving tank proves that she has already developed almost fish-like diving qualities. There she dives quite comfortably into the depth, then sits a little on the ground and then begins to slowly dive up again. Total diving distance: 40 meters. Try imitating that. Justine knows from her training that she will never run out of air, no matter how long a wipeout lasts, and that gives her the confidence to take on the biggest breakers.

Kelly Slater – the milk-rejector

Kelly doesn’t need any introduction. Everyone knows the umpteen times world champion, who still manages to amaze the whole surfing world with a single move. How can this be possible at 45 years of age?

Wer mit 45 Jahren noch solche Snapbacks drauf hat, muss irgendetwas richtig gemacht haben. Foto: Ryan Miller/ Red Bull Content Pool
Who still has such Snapbacks on with 45 years, must have done something right. Photo: Ryan Miller/ Red Bull Content Pool

Kelly’s secret:

Maybe it’s his aversion to dairy. “”They weaken your body and make you sick,” Kelly writes in his book ‘For the love’, and explains his theory as follows: “”In the 1930s, the doctor Francis Pottenger conducted a study on 900 cats. Some of the animals were fed exclusively with raw milk, the other with the then new and still relatively unknown pasteurized milk. The results were frightening: While the first group developed normally, the cats in the second group became apathetic, confused and suffered from diseases that were otherwise only known to humans: Heart disease, kidney failure, thyroid dysfunction and osteoporosis. The offspring of these cats were also sick, their teeth and bones poorly developed. This indicates that the animals were unable to absorb the calcium from the pasteurised milk. For the third generation it was even worse: many babies were born dead and the rest was barren – Pottenger had to stop the experiment. Nowadays only a few people know what raw milk tastes like, in many parts of the world it is even forbidden to sell. Actually, it is no surprise that we are now similar to cats in the study – we are increasingly suffering from infertility and calcium deficiency.”