Kraken’s Stories From The Deep: Good Morning, Mavericks!
He was almost the third Hawaiian to die at Mavericks since Sion Milosky (Mark Foo being the first), yet there was an unmistakable air of comedy in watching Mark Healey take a 30 footer on the head at the Maverick’s invitational over the weekend. As his board tombstoned its way to the inside and Healey […]
He was almost the third Hawaiian to die at Mavericks since Sion Milosky (Mark Foo being the first), yet there was an unmistakable air of comedy in watching Mark Healey take a 30 footer on the head at the Maverick’s invitational over the weekend. As his board tombstoned its way to the inside and Healey battled a two-wave hold down, eventual contest winner, Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker couldn’t help but shed a little giggle in the commentary box. If ever someone was going to come out of this smiling it was Healey. The guy who you might remember from such surfing classics as Honey, Who Shrunk My Cloudbreak Quiver and When Sharks Don’t Attack! was kind enough to give a blow-by-blow of what he calls the “best hold-down” of his career.
Stab: So Heals, you took a 30 footer on the head like a boss. Talk us through it.
Mark: Fuck, it was ah, a fucking shocker of a way to start the first heat in the morning, put it that way. I hadn’t even had a coffee yet. Basically, it was a long interval swell so it would go almost flat in between sets and I kinda wanted to move around and just get some waves on the board. A lot of those early heats were won by guys who rode not necessarily the best wave but just got to the bottom of it. So I was looking around for a left. I was riding the smallest board in the heat and I was thinking it would be hard to battle the regular footers so I’d just try and find some lefts, and sure enough that left came through but I didn’t get it, and you saw the one behind it. At first I thought I might have a chance getting over it but it just ledged out so hard and I knew I was in for it.
I bailed my board. I could have taken off my leash but the heat had just started, plus I loved that board. The thing exploded on me and I’m swimming and swimming and I’m waiting for the tension from the leash to pull me but nothing. I get to about five feet from the surface and there it is. The leash yanks me straight back and down deep. So I’m like, okay, I’m gonna be down here for a while. This was a pretty deep beating and my board was still pulling me parallel or actually it felt like it was under me a bit and dragging me in a bit. When it does that it burns more energy because you’re trying to hold yourself up and create a little bit of resistance. It went on forever and ever and I’m like, well, I should locate the pull pins on my vest just to find out where they are because I thought there was a good chance I was in for a two wave hold-down. I couldn’t find (the pins) under my jersey and I’m like, I can’t believe I can’t find these things. Then I pulled that elastic deal that tightens the vest. It was like Wiley Coyote going over the cliff and the parachute doesn’t open.
I was thinking that the second wave was taking a long time to get here and sure enough as soon as I saw light I ate white water again instantly and it rolled me again for a long time. So I just start relaxing, trying to conserve energy and I’m just really frustrated that it’s happening in a heat. I finally popped up and I was trying to get some air and I see the water patrol guy and he misses me by a mile. He’s watching me as I take another one on the head and I’m like, Dude, I’d like to get a fricken ride back out. I was so tired I was contemplating getting just getting washed into the rocks and climbing up them because I didn’t think I could deal with clambering up onto the ski with my board before the next wave hit. Then I found the chord! I just pulled it out of frustration more than anything, like, Finally! I found you, you bastard! I pulled it and it began to cut off the blood to my head. When you’re wearing one of those 5mm hoods it kinda constricts your carotid artery. You gotta watch out if you’re close to blacking out and you pull it and you’re wearing a hood. I went back out and it took me 20 minutes to get my shit together; my arms and legs felt like lead, I pulled back on a couple and got a couple in the end.
Ha! Wow. That wave stomped almost everyone in the heat. Do you reckon Mavs has one of the trickier lineups in the world to read? You know what, it’s actually not. Compared to other big wave spots that are far out to sea it’s actually easy to read ‘cos the take off spot is so condensed. It was the long interval swell that did it. It goes from nothing to giant when it’s like that and a huge set will just come out of nowhere. It wasn’t a rolling one either.
Mavs has killed before, two of whom were Hawaiians; Sion Milosky and Mark Foo. What’s so sketchy about the joint? Well, any time you’re in cold water it creates a lot of fatigue. With your extremities getting so cold like that the blood circulating through your hands has to come back into your core and you gotta warm it up. So you’ve got muscle twitch and oxygen circulation problems that come with that. But the thing about Mavs is that it does this thing like a shorebreak would do: you fall and it can keep you in the same spot, just trapping you there. I love waves that will push you 100 meters underwater cause you’re getting away from where the power is but Mavs doesn’t really do that.
We all remember the bullet you dodged in Fiji. Where does this rate among the all-time heaviest waves you’ve taken on the dome? (Laughter) Who knows. I’ve taken a few. I’m pretty good for giving scale to waves, with my board stuck in the lip usually. To be honest that was one of the longest hold-downs I’ve ever had without an injury. I’ve come close to losing consciousness before, and have from hitting my head and bursting my eardrum, but that was one of the best hold-downs with no injury I’ve ever had (laughter).
Is there any way you can prepare yourself for taking an ice cold 30 footer to the melon? Well, I think a lot of it has to do with putting yourself mentally through the ringer enough times. Free diving and breath-holding helps you get more out of your body and makes it easier not to listen to that initial response. That sort of training helps keep you calm and gives you confidence because essentially a lot of the reaction your body goes through is just your body giving you a warning that it’s going to shut down, but it’s still a way off yet. It’s like on a golf course, you got speed governors in the carts stopping you going fast, so you get a screwdriver in there and you can go as fast as you want. You’re body is the same. You gotta gotta loosen the screws in there so you can push it a bit further.
Indeed. Now my favourite Mark Healey quote of all time is: “If you’re dumb, you better be tough.” You had the tough beaten out of you yet? Oh god, hopefully I’m just getting smarter (laughter). I doubt it though. Um, fuck, I dunno, I just get too excited, that’s all. I can’t sit out the back like old man and the sea and wait all day. I just wanna sit on the ledge and make something happen. I wish I had the patience of Greg Long. I’m actually really pissed off at the moment (he lost his heat) and can’t wait for redemption. – Jed Smith
You can follow Jed on twitter, here.
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