Fittest Guys in America
Special, exclusive interviews with nine of the 2008 MF 25
Greg Long - Pro Surfer
MF: What's it like to ride a monster wave?
When you are sitting out there and you see this giant wall of water coming at you, every single time, you have to think to yourself, "Are you really ready to do this?" You need that reality check because there are consequences. You never know what is going to happen. There are so many variables out of your control that if something were to go wrong, it is life and death. Then it's just a few seconds staring at this thing, every bit of knowledge I've gained over the years of surfing, learning wave judgment, swell directions, the ins and outs of the breaks, all run through my head. No two waves are ever the same, so everything comes down to your natural instinct and reaction living in that one second. You turn around, put your head down and paddle your heart out, and you do not think twice. Once you get up and see your feet you are just focusing on the few inches above the nose of your board and you feel the wave growing behind you. The whitewater is building right behind you, chasing your heels, your heart is up at your throat and you are so focused in that few seconds on what you need to do to make that wave, anything else going on is irrelevant. It's an incredible feeling.
Physically, for a big-wave surf competition, what is the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is in wiping out, being able to hold your breath and overcome it. Being able to stay calm and relaxed underwater and work through a serious amount of energy on top of you, not knowing when you'll get up for your next breath. You need good endurance and paddling stamina, paddling for each wave exerts a serious amount of energy, prior to even catching a wave you put out so much energy so when you do fall it becomes a mental game to calm yourself down and keep your heart rate down while you're underwater and get through it.
How do you train to prepare for big wave surfing?
I have a variety of exercises, physical and mental, I partake in. I have no set strict regimen I need to follow. My days are dictated by the surf. If there are good waves I'm up early and in the water. I also do Bikram yoga 3 to 5 times a week. That is incredible for strength and flexibility, and getting in tune with breathing while doing strenuous posses and postures. I also do a lot of running, swimming, and underwater training for holding my breath. I do a lot of spear fishing and free diving—that is a great way to control my breath underwater at serious depths. A lot of paddling and paddle boarding as well, that is good way to prevent myself from getting fatigued and cramping up during a session
Do you focus on your diet?
I keep a real healthy clean diet. I make sure I'm putting good foods in me to sustain energy level. I eat foods with higher protein content, but I'm not an advocate of going to the gym and building huge muscles, because a lot of muscle mass won't do me any good for surfing. It's more a balance of your strength and not adding weight to your body that can be a hindrance.
What does it mean for you to be fit for surfing?
Everybody's body is unique. I personally have found that you need to be well balanced on your toes. A lot of the top surfers are actually pretty small individuals. People are always surprised to see that I am as thin as I am. I think it comes down to being supple, light on your feet, and being able to adjust your weight. As far as working out, I do some weight training, but it is all more geared toward building core strength. It's important to have a good weight-to-strength ratio.