Heros of Instagram – donkeyshow, by Mark Healey
From Stab issue 65: Mark Healey rides sharks, rides escalators backwards and’ll carry a man from a burning chopper just for kicks! Way to go! Words by Derek Rielly It is a bright Monday afternoon at the LA home of Chanel model Danny Fuller when a conversation is struck with Mr Healey, 31 years old, […]
From Stab issue 65: Mark Healey rides sharks, rides escalators backwards and’ll carry a man from a burning chopper just for kicks! Way to go!
Words by Derek Rielly
It is a bright Monday afternoon at the LA home of Chanel model Danny Fuller when a conversation is struck with Mr Healey, 31 years old, from Sunset Beach (Hawaii, not California). Mark, a shark wrangler (for Nat Geo!), stunt man (for Hawaii 5-0!), pro surfer and survivor of the Great Quiksilver Athlete Purge (and deservedly so!), is in town to “take care of fucking business. I want to get it all done before I start chasing swells. I don’t want to come back!”
There are so many different angles a magazine could take with a surfer such as Mark Healey but the one that intrigues us today is his Instagram account donkeyshow, currently clocked at 55,000 followers. Let’s follow donkeyshow right now and watch as Mark retrieves the camera from a Great White’s fin, is kicked down an escalator, uses a personal camera to capture the interiors of a Pipeline cathedral. The depth of his photographic musings is unparalleled.
With so many questions to ask, is not the beginning where we must start? Mark explains that the title donkeyshow is not a reference to the lewd animal shows of Tijuana but to the naughty children in the movie Pinocchio who were turned into donkeys and sold.
1. At 93ft lining up for a shot on an Uku. Shot this photo myself with my @gopro Hero 2 with Dive Housing on a DIY mount. 2. Cloudbreak, Fiji earlier this year. Biggest/best wave I’ve ever seen. I had to pull my leash and swim through. That white spec is my 8’6” in the lip for some scale. @borg808 on the ski in the foreground. Thanks for the pick up! 3. Got my first Boar today on a solo wander in the mountains. So pumped!!! @kimbermalie better start looking up recipes! Love my new Mathews bow! 4. Check out the directors cut of this @gopro film at the #gopromediashack Dec 6. 5. Spent five hours hiking this pig out by myself last night. I am so damn sore today! Can’t wait to bust out my new smoker! 6. Repost from @antfoxphoto . This is from my trip last summer to The West Coast of South Africa. @ianwalsh4 and I flew last minute from LA via Munich and drove all night through flooded clay roads to end up in the middle of nowhere to find new big waves with @granttwigbaker and Roosta. I don’t think this shot ever got run anywhere.
“I was a little shithead kid so I got the nickname ‘donkey boy’. And, the winter before last when I started my account, I didn’t want to put my name on it. I wanted something that my friends knew about and then it got… popular. And I thought, you know what? I’m always taking photos and I have a ton of stuff that people have never seen. And y’never know, I might die or the hard-drive might crash. So I may as well share it.”
I prefix the next question with a cough and a short preamble about my predictability. But what can you say? Great Whites are a constant source of wonder. On donkeyshow there are so many photos of Mark interacting in the most positive manner with these awesome man consumers that I ask what’s it like to touch and to feel one, to swim man-to-beast? Mark, interestingly, doesn’t have some kinda death wish and he ain’t into adrenalin overloads for kicks but had been thinking about swimming with a White for a long time and he had a mental checklist that had to be ticked off before he wet his feet: it had to be the right kind of shark – one with a predictable pattern, a routine, no erratic movements. “I had to look at his body language. I had to see how punchy he was, that he wasn’t coming in hot. I figured, once I found one, I could make a bunch of excuses not to follow through on my thoughts and theories, but I did it and it was very, very, very… intense.”
Mark thinks about it just a little more and adds: “They’re incredibly… intimidating, incredibly intimidating. I don’t think any human could make you feel that intimidated.”
As a man only in the loosest genetic sense, I ask for more detail on these remarkable events. Does he protect himself with a mico-atomic warhead, for example? And what happens in that minute or so it takes to swim back to the boat? “Well, I wanted to be on its back. It felt safer than when I was in front of it. When they hone in on you it gets personal very fast. You know he’s not coming over ‘cause there’s bait or he’s interested in the boat. He’s coming over ‘cause you’re in the water, exposed. He’s only interested in… you. That’s when your heart goes into your mouth.”
1. This was a really fun day freediving the wreck of a 50 passenger plane in the BVI. Photo by Jeff Hornbaker. 2. The best ad I’ve ever been in @quiksilver Waterman Collection. 3. Shit, even the sharks have @gopro now. 4. Below the murk. This photo taken with my @gopro #hero3 yesterday off @islandviewhawaii boat. 5. “Ho, brrra! That @quiksilver Hawaii hat is mean!” -The Pig. 6. This is myself having to manually retrieve one of @natgeo “Critter Cams” off of a 15ft Great White Shark named Bruce. As you can see my speargun is not loaded. I only use it to put a little space between me and the shark should it get a little frisky (and it was sturdier than the broom stick on the boat). The cameras clamp around the dorsal fin and don’t hurt the shark at all. There’s a Zinc wire that holds it closed and is meant to dissolve within two hours causing it to detach and float to the surface where it is retrieved. Something went wrong with the process and three hours later it was still on Bruce’s back. Had to take the wire cutters down and do it by hand when he came in for the bait. All I asked for from Nat Geo was a beer. Still haven’t gotten it! 7. Hangin’ with my boy Bruce. Not a small fish. 8. Dreaming of an El Niño winter! This is what happened last time we had the baby boy show up. @shanedorian and myself on the biggest day I’ve ever surfed Waimea. Photo by @brentbielmann. 9. A Rough-Toothed Dolphin I photographed with my @gopro Hero 2 and Dive Housing off the Kona Coast. Forget sharks, when these guys show up EVERYTHING scatters! Your fishing day is over.
Even in an air-conditioned office with Spotify filing the air with the sweetest of psychedelic beats, my heart pounds. More? “That’s why I’ve got my unloaded spear. Anything in your hand, any little extra distance is going to help. But if they’re going to take you out you’re fucked.”
So succinct! Please sir, may I have another! “Well, usually I do stuff with Tigers (sharks). It’s the theory bullfighters have. They get really close to the bull, they keep their head almost on it. You’ve got more control really close. You’re not pushing the shark away, you’re pushing yourself off the shark. It’s hard for bigger sharks to turn sharply at low speeds so I try to stay close. It’s better than having them at a distance where they’re able to pick up a lot of speed.”
When he’s not playing aquaman, Mark finds extra cash as a stuntman. Sometimes he might be a zombie; other times he might tossing a Red Camera over the falls at Mavs. The craziest stunt he’s ever been paid to perform was a scene where a helicopter crashes and the blades impale the pilot and the actor hero must rescue he. Mark as stuntman stand-in for the show’s lead, therefore, must grab the pilot and run out through a fireball in the most heroic manner. “An 80-foot fireball!” says Mark. “It’s an incredible amount of wind. You have to have eyes and mouth closed. You don’t breathe in because the heat’s so intense. If you don’t hold your breath for that second you’ll burn your lungs. I have a wig, too. But not synthetic hair. That’ll stick to your head.”
I say, what drives you, pal! “It’s fucking fun!” he says. “Professional surfers get paid to go around the world and have a good time. Why wouldn’t you do all that stuff? It blows my mind how some guys will find ways to piss about how bad things are and sit in their hotel rooms and play with Facebook all day. It blows my mind!”
1. Mavericks event is ON tomorrow! Check it out on the live web cast. This is a shot of me from last time it ran. Ready for carnage!!! 2. Repost from @electricvisual and @photomurray. Two days ago in the #mavericksinvitational same wave the @gopro shot is from. 3. Me swimming with the Honaunau locals. Taken with @gopro. 4. This is probably the biggest wave I’ve ever paddled into in my life. Peahi (Jaws) Oct 9, 2012 photo by Frederico Pompermayer. 5. Another good day in the mountains. 6. Holy crap! How’s this 8ft Galapagos shark that followed me in from my dive this morning. It dry docked itself on the sand trying to get to my fish!
Grab Stab issue 65 in digital form, right over here.
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