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Freediving training for big wave surfing

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Hawaii Surfer

New Member
Aug 17, 2003
I have learned a lot from these forums in my quest to train for big wave surfing through freediving. I would say I now am a freediving addict, its a whole sport unto itself, I never realized that when I started about 2-3 months ago.

I have been training with Garrett Mcnamara, the current world champion of extreme surfing, he is the one who got me into it (the freediving training).

We usually go to Shark's Cove on Oahu, Hawaii, it's filled with underwater caves and a 35 foot deep sandbar area with a bunch of smooth rocks of different sizes and weights we carry around.
I posted a couple pics here (I am his webmaster in exchange for training and tow-in surfing):

and also in my surfing journal here: http://www.surfguidehawaii.com/surf-journal

We try to go without fins now because that is the reality of a big-wave wipeout.

Just wanted to say thank you for all the advice I have read here!

I have started to wear a weight belt, 3 lbs, but it makes it hard to rest on the surface between dives, I need to constantly tread water to keep my head above water....
Are wrist or neck weights a option?
Hi Hawaii Surfer,

When you wipe out and the wave holds you under, tumbling along with such force that you can't do anything the only thing is to relax as much as possible until it's time to come up. One of the keys to long breath holding is deep relaxation. Good training for this is practicing static apneas to get confidence in how long you can hold your breath and to learn how to switch on the "relaxation mode" even while held under. I mean there's not much else you can do while in a giant washing machine, right? You know that probably more than anyone here on the forum if you surf giant waves. Probably a lot of the pressure will be psychological, when the big waves hold you down for three or more minutes. If you know you can do a five or six minute apnea because of static training, at least that can help you relax during the ordeal. Also try walking apnea when you don't feel like rock carrying or can't get to the water. It's another great exercise
for extending breath holding. Good luck on your surfing and let us know what it's like to be held under for a while, it'll give us a new perspective on breathholding ;)

Just some thoughts from a freediving bodysurfer :)

When you are doing Walking Apnea do you hold your breathe for a while and then start walking or do you start walking as soon as you hold your breathe???

How far can you walk?

The rocks at Shark's Cove are about 35 feet deep, it takes like 10-15 seconds to swim down (no fins), and it's about 60 feet across (I am guessing), I can walk all the way across. Garrett told me he could go across and back last season, but we have only gone all the way across once so far.

Total down time is like only 1 minute to minute 30 (but it feels longer). The lighter the rock the farther you can walk, some of the rocks are like 100 lbs or so...

We also do the "rock tow" for fun too, thats when two guys go down, one carrys the rock and the other guys just holds on and gets "towed." When the first guys drops the rocks sometimes the guy getting towed will then carry the rock for a while, if he's still got breath left.

A big wave hold down really should be less than one minute or so, the real challenge is a TWO wave hold down, when the first one pushes you so deep you can't get up for a breathe before the second wave passes over.

Usually the danger zone seems to be when you get really tired after breaking a leash then 5+ waves in a row break on your head with no board or fins.

I have experienced some big wave hold downs. The closest I have come to almost drowning happened twice at different places, both times getting caught inside by like 20 foot (face) set, this one wave broke the leashes of like 10 guys in the lineup (mine included), then dealing with the 9 waves in that set afterwards. When the last wave was coming at me, I was like "if this isna't the last one, I'm gonna drown, " but thankfully it was the last one. By that point I was washed really far inside, but away from the big waves breaking.

But that should be nothing really because my friend tows into like 40 foot faces, but I plan on starting smaller than that really...
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Hey Hawaii Surfer,

If you ever come to the "Big Island" contact me, I live in Kona and know a few good spots to dive.

I'd be more than happy to help out with your training.


You can check my bio for my email address.
Just saw this thread - I used to freedive & spearfish in Shark's Cove all the time before they made it into a marine reserve. It's a beautiful place & I still go back there just to enjoy it. Lots of great memories there.

Take care man. I only wish I could be in Hawaii to do that kind of training :(
I salute anybody who can do the freediving thing while being worked in the impact zone. Deep relaxation ? I personally am so hyperenergized by big surf that I cannot even think about freediving later the same day ! And that's on a good day when I don't get smashed to bits. I've done many breath-holds well beyond the six minute mark, in freediving mode, but when I crash and burn in big surf - or even medium surf - the 10-20 seconds I'm nailed to the reef seems like more than six minutes. Maybe I'm just an excitable boy, but when I'm out there slicing up the waves my heart is pounding and my breathing is like that of a porno star in the money shot. The whole time. Not the best way to start a breath-hold, especially one which you may get only a second - or no time at all - to prepare for.

On days when both freediving and the surf are on the schedule, for me it's got to be the freediving first. After the waves, it's the bar, the prayer mat or something along those lines.

Thanks DSV, definetly will do that next time I'm on Da beeg Island:)

Sorry the vid is so long, we actually got some more, better footage, clearer, I'll post a shortened version when I can

Spearfishing shark's cove? its a marine sanctuary these days..

Aloha all!!
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