An Interview With Mark Healey – The Award-Winning Waterman

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by Bremont watches. I was approached recently and asked if I would like to share this interview between Bremont and Mark Healey.  As so many freedivers who have come to Go Freediving have a background in filming, photography and stuntwork, I believed this interview would be of interest to everyone. Additionally (and I was not paid to say this), the Bremont diving watch range is pretty stunning, so how could I refuse?

About Mark Healey

Mark Healey hails from Oahu’s North Shore,Hawaii and as a professional big-wave surfer,award-winning spear-fisherman, free-diver,photographer, filmmaker, and part-time Hollywood stuntman, he relies on the durability and precision of his Bremont Waterman whilst navigating the oceans and being subjected to their tough conditions. The full range of Bremont Diving Watches can be found here

Despite his unruly itinerary, Healey’s made no shortage of major achievements in his career as a self-described waterman. Earning his first surf sponsorship at age 13 and going pro at 17, the 37-year-old has racked up victories at big-wave events like Todos Santos and in 2008 nabbed the Spearfishing World Cup. Still, Healey half-jokes, his biggest accomplishment so far is probably just staying alive.

To start at the beginning, where did your interest in all things water start? Was there a particular stimulus?

Mark Healey: Yes, I was born and raised in Hawaii. It’s the lifestyle here. My parents had me in the ocean before I can remember, I was only a few months old. Just being on Earth is hand-in-hand with being in the ocean.

You’re following the global weather conditions on a regular basis. You must’ve seen some pretty extreme weather over the years. Were there any storms or adverse weather conditions that stand out in your memory?

Mark Healey: There are a lot of them. I have chased storms for big wave surfing from natural disasters in a lot of locations over the years. I just came back from one in Indonesia. I bought the ticket with ten hours’ notice and went out to the sticks of Nīas, Indonesia. I met up with a swell that was the biggest anybody’s ever seen. People who had been there for 30-40 years said they had never seen waves that big. There was so much energy and I got to see the coastline change over the course of 24 hours. Boulders the size of a truck got washed up onto the reef. It was pretty amazing, just being there for and being a part of these natural events that you’ll be able to trace for the next 100 years. Chasing these storms, I get to witness a lot of change that a lot of people are never exposed to.

That sounds amazing. What was the most spectacular surfing conditions you’ve ever experienced? Is there one that stands out?

Mark Healey7

Mark Healey: It’s hard to say. I’ve seen some amazing conditions all over the world with different kinds of waves. It’s personal preference. Cloudbreak in Fiji has had a couple of swells over the last six years that were exceptional in the size and conditions. I surf right-foot forward, which we call goofy foot in surfing. This wave’s a left, so I’m frontside at Cloudbreak. For me, I’m partial to that. A couple of the swells we had at Cloudbreak were where it all came
together, those kinds of swells and conditions typically only come together every five years.

How would you train for big wave surfing in terms of preparing your mind and body? There must be a lot of preparation.

Mark Healey: You’re training mobility, strength, flexibility and endurance just like any other elite athlete, but you also have to train survival in big wave surfing. Not only do you have to perform, if everything doesn’t go as planned, you have to learn how to survive. It’s not always a passive survival. A lot of it comes down to luck and nature, just like you can’t train for a motorcycle crash, in big wave surfing, you’ll find yourself in many highly physicallydemanding
survival situations. You have to choose how much to train for each side of it. I usually train 70% survival and 30% performance.I also free-dive all the time. Free-diving and spearfishing helps the survival side of big wave surfing. A lot of things that I enjoy in general complement what I do with surfing.

How important is diet in your preparation?

Mark Healey: Diet is of very high importance no matter what you do. It’s the biggest difference in how your body is getting rid of lactic acid which is a big thing, especially when you have to start holding your breath and doing anaerobic things underwater. Lactic acid builds up and stays in your system and can cause cramps and fatigue. Your diet plays a big role in that.

Besides the physical performance, your diet affects your mental clarity. Your days are so long in the water. You’re usually up by 4:00am and then you have so many moving parts, setting up safety, getting jet-skis in the water, placing cinematographers on the cliff, and all trying to get there after a lot of travel and to perform in life-threatening conditions.

With that lack of sleep and that amount of adrenaline, by 2.00pm in the afternoon, you’re mentally starting to get pretty foggy as well as your body wearing down, if you don’t have a good diet.

You can feel any bad food that you ate going through your veins at that part of the day. That’s when you really notice how good your diet has been.

People think of surfers as hippies and that’s why they like to eat good food, but it really is a performance and wellbeing thing at the end of the day.

You’re perfectly placed to eat some amazing seafood. Do you have a signature or favourite dish?

Mark Healey: At home, I get all my fish by spearfishing and all of the red meat comes from archery hunting. I eat natural, wild, hormone-free, free range, organic food all the time for my protein. We’re lucky in Hawaii to have good access to fresh produce. I get it from friends in the food trade and buy at local farmers’ markets. You can
eat pretty healthily in Hawaii. The hardest part is being on the road when you’re in a third-world country with one gas station in 200 miles.

As a Spearfishing World Cup winner, you must have encountered dangerous scrapes with big fish. Have there been times when the dangers outweighed the experience?

Mark Healey: Yes. I mean, the ocean’s an unpredictable place, even though I usually have a very layered plan and some redundancies in place, every now and then something happens where the variables are just out of your control and unexpected. I’ve had hairy situations with sharks, probably only one or two where I really thought I didn’t have any cards left to play and I was  relying on luck. The one time that really stands was because somebody else was cleaning and gutting fish on the boat and we’re 140 miles out at sea, and the sun was setting. I was still in the water, there were already hundreds of sharks in the area and I was coming back to the boat and someone has been basically throwing the debris from the gutting of the fish back into the water, unbeknownst to me. That just got all the sharks really fired up, as if they weren’t fired up enough already during the course of the day. I got attacked and had to use my speargun to shoot one in the mouth because it was trying to bite, it bit onto my speargun and it was trying
to come around me.

What kind of sharks?


Mark Healey: Dusky sharks. I pulled the trigger, it just shot through the side of his mouth. He swam off, he was totally fine, it was a flesh-wound. The other one, I had to stick the butt of the spear gun in its mouth when it was trying to bite me and then just try and swim the last 30 metres to the boat as fast as I could with a bunch of sharks bumping me.

I’m sure you had a few choice words for the guy throwing fish overboard.

Mark Healey: I certainly did. It made for an awkward eight-hour ride back home on the boat!

You read a lot about the dangers of sharks and they’re often misrepresented in films. Do you think they’re unfairly demonised?

Mark Healey: I don’t think they’re demonised anymore. I think there are just such successful campaigns to un-demonise them at this point. I think people know but it comes down to how many people really have experience, a) just in the ocean in general, and b) with sharks. It’s a very, very small part of the population, so of course, something that people don’t have first-hand experience with, they’re going to be nervous about, but it’s just that fear of the unknown. So, I ask people all the time that want to go where they’re working on a stunt job or something, and they’re saying, ‘You’re crazy, surfing there all the time. I say, ‘You’re lucky if you see a shark in Hawaii.’ Two or three times a year while you’re surfing, the odds are so low. Getting lucky enough to see one, let alone having an oddball shark that was actually aggressive enough to interact with you. It’s just that people don’t know how low your odds are. On the other hand, if you’re swimming or surfing by yourself first thing in the morning off a seal colony in South Australia, your odds are different. It’s like how many people get struck by lightning but then how many people are running around in a corn field holding a lightning rod? It’s relative.

Ocean plastic is a growing and serious issue. What impact have you seen and how rapidly is it deteriorating over the years?

Mark Healey: It’ll blow your mind how bad it is. It’s everywhere. The world’s ocean has plastic as part of it. I’ve made a living off going to the most remote places in the world and finding new waves or new dives spots in the middle of nowhere in the Indian Ocean, South pacific, and the further you go to the more untouched islands, the more rubbish is washed up on the beaches. I’ve gone to a place where humans don’t go often and found that there’s actually more rubbish on it, because there’s so much rubbish just floating around in the ocean that if people aren’t around to clean up the coastline then it just accumulates. So, it’s this weird oxymoron now. It’s so prevalent in our oceans that if humans aren’t regularly cleaning these coastlines, even in Hawaii, it would just turn into a garbage dump, and that’s just the large pieces of plastic. By far, the most plastic that’s in the ocean are these tiny little particles of plastic that have been broken down and that’s really the stuff that gets in the food chain from the very base and works its way up. So, it’s really simple, we’re poisoning ourselves, we’re killing ourselves. What do you do about it? It just takes more responsible daily decisions on everybody’s part.

What are the key features you look for in a diving watch? What are the must haves?

Mark Healey Bremont Waterman 5

Mark Healey: Well, a depth gauge. What’s interesting about a dive watch is that it’s the only item that is with me at all times. I throw my wet suit on to go diving but I come in, I obviously change out of it, and I’m changing into nice clothes for dinner or I might be going into the mountains and hunting, I put my camo on, but my dive watch stays with me all the time. So, it has a lot of demands on it that other items don’t have, and it’s obviously got to be able to be pressure tested deep. It’s got to be very durable, especially the face of it, because I’m constantly reaching into holes and banging it around on the reef, so it’s got to be durable, functional, reliable, but also it has to look good. It has to be the most versatile item that I have. It’s really hard to find all those characteristics packed into one watch.

What was your main input regarding the design and key features of the Bremont Waterman?

Mark Healey Bremont Waterman 6Mark Healey: Well, obviously, it had to be pressure tested way beyond where you’re ever going to take it, so the watch is actually pressure tested to a depth that if you made it down there, you wouldn’t come back up! I love that it’s a mechanical watch and I love that there is an open case back so that you can see the movement I’ve never seen a dive watch that actually has that. It’s just a real quality piece and I just love the way it looks. The fact that some of the proceeds from the sale of these watches are going towards the Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii charity, helping combat the increasing troubles with plastic littering our oceans, is a bonus.

Interview carried out by

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