Big-wave surfer and overall waterman Mark Healey is well accustomed to facing critical situations where life and death may hang in the balance. In 2006, his tow board caught an edge while whipping across the face of a wind-blown west bowl at massive Teahupo’o, handing him the wipeout of a lifetime as the whole Pacific ocean enveloped him. Afterwards, Healey was quoted as saying, “he was thankful to just be alive.” Since then he’s broken ribs, fractured a kneecap at Pipeline and ruptured an eardrum at both Pe’ahi and Dungeons in South Africa.
While most people would try to find a different hobby after sustaining the type of injuries outlined above, Healey considers each setback as a training exercise.
“As I’ve gotten older my appreciation for uncomfortable situations and the ocean has definitely grown,” says Healey in the edit above. “I don’t think there’s actually growth without some discomfort. If you try to avoid it, you don’t really grow as a human. I would have to say my practice is a practice of confronting discomfort. It’s just as much in the training as it is in the act of doing these things out in the ocean.”
Healey relies on his practice of hypoxic breath training to get him through any trials he may face in the water. “With breath-holding, there’s not a human on planet earth, including world record holders that aren’t going to have to battle within 5 minutes,” says Healey. “Most people are going to have to have that battle within 30-seconds. It’s one of those alarms that’s meant to keep you alive, but in certain situations, it’s a real hindrance. This incredible anxiety just grips you. You have to dig into that feeling and regain control of your mind; instead of your body telling your mind what to do, you have to keep your mind telling your body what to do.
Press play on the video to see how Healey deals with discomfort, both above and below the water’s surface in this latest short “Stepping Beyond.