Mark Visser, Big Wave Surfer
When people talk fitness and extreme sports
there is a name that is bursting into the
scene, a young, likeable guy by the name of
Mark Visser. Taking on the world's most respected
surfers, he is leaving his mark on Big Wave
Visser is one
of the fittest surfers in the game having
a disciplined training regime and 6% body
fat. With single minded focus, Mark commits
himself on all levels, both physically and
mentally and has a healthy work ethic and
drug-free lifestyle like no other.
With complete conviction, Mark mirrors the best to become the best and
thrives on holding himself to a high standard where anything less is
has paddled-in to some of the heaviest waves in the world including
Pipeline and Teahupoo. Places such as Waimea Bay and Mavericks were
simply a natural progression into big wave surfing, where his heart
lies. His focus is now primarily on competitive tow-in, specialty big
wave and tube riding events.
Based in South East Queensland, he represented Australia in the Junior
School Boy's team and has competed on the World Qualifying Series for
the past three years.
Visser is a marketable athlete with versatility and wide-ranging appeal, making him a dream candidate for his sponsors.
Mark Visser will become the very best at his sport. His passion, drive and sheer talent will take him all the way.
Let's show our support for this great sporting legend in the making as
he surfs his way to the top. (Credit: Mark Visser official website)
The call of the wild
(Credit: The Weekender)
They're young, they're ambitious, they've
got the X-factor and they're quickly rising
to the top of a sport where big talent equals
big dollars. Meet our latest crop of surfing
Words KYLIE JACKES, FIONA WELSH, ELIZABETH MOORE
Like a nightmare, these monsters form out of nothing, building in size
as they heave ever closer to land. They swell with gargantuan volume
and ascend to heights that dwarf whole villages. At their terrifying
peak they reach a crescendo like a vertical river bursting its
flood-ravaged banks and unleash a natural fury that surges back down to
earth with unfathomable force, obliterating everything caught in its
thunderous, sometimes murderous wake.
Everything except, maybe, that death-defying breed of daredevil known
as the big-wave surfer – the only creature fearless (or crazy) enough
to risk life and limb for the thrill of a ride this massive and this
lethal. But sometimes, tragically, even they get swallowed up by the
walls of water.
Visser - who has just been nominated for the biggest wave ever surfed
in Australia after successfully riding a 17-metre wave when freak
swells hit Western Australia’s coast a few weeks ago - claims it a
calculated risk. If his training diary is anything to go by, you must
give him the benefit of the doubt.
The 25-year-old is the disciplined picture of perfect health you would
ordinarily expect from a medal-winning Olympic champion, not a radical
74kg, 173cm and 6 per cent body fat, each week the finely-tuned athlete
completes five massive sessions in the pool, pumps through three
intense gym sessions, undergoes two extreme altitude training sessions
(including air-less hill sprints that start only when Mark has expelled
all the air from his sizeable lungs), surfs twice a day and finishes
every evening with a half-hour yoga stretch. This is someone who can
hold his breath underwater for up to four minutes. As he says, in his
field it’s a necessity. “I can hold my breath for a long time and
that’s all I need to know and I can do it without air already in the
lungs and keep swimming,” Mark says.
kind of training prepares you for the most extreme thing you’re never
going to face. So when people look at me and say, ‘You’re psycho, you
just surfed that wave’, I think well, not really, the training I do is
three times as psycho as the 20-second hold-down I just got. I’m
totally prepared. “You must be so disciplined,” Mark continues in an
earnest tone. “If you make a mistake, it’ll be a big mistake. It’ll
either cost you your life or cost you big time.” Spoken like a man who
has put a hole in his elbow and grated his back.
What isn’t so readily quantifiable about Mark is his business acumen.
Managed by Pat Rafter’s brother, Steve, Mark is the only charge other
than the former tennis champion on Steve’s coveted books. The pair met
when Mark was a junior shortboard surfer starting out on the popular
World Qualifying Series four years ago and the sports-accounting
specialist soon offered to become his manager. Mark jumped at the
chance. Since then, they’ve negotiated sponsorship deals with Nestle,
Musashi and Pacific Brands and, while Mark’s image is already splashed
across global products, there are more projects and products in the
pipeline that will ensure the world will be seeing much more of this
local lad - both in and out of the water.
“I don’t want to be just a surfer,” Mark admits ambitiously. “I also
want to be a very successful businessman.” For now, Mark’s competitive
sights are firmly fixed on becoming the best big-wave rider in the
world. He has high hopes – 30m high – of riding the biggest wave ever
surfed in the world (the record stands at 25.6m at Jaws, Maui) and he
plans to push the limits of what can be done on big waves, using his
shortboarding background to introduce manoeuvres never seen before on
the big stuff.
It has only been a year since Mark made the decision to pull out of the
shortboarding WQS and turn his attention to bigger things.
His nomination for surfing Australia’s biggest wave is the highest peak
in his big-wave career to date, but he realises he is just a speck in
the ocean of a sport where the sheer size of the waves (anything below
10m is not considered big) dictates the novice or master will always
have a long way to go.
admire anyone who’s above me in the sport,” he says. “The QS guys look
at the big-wave guys and say, ‘Yeah but they just stand there’. That’s
not it. The big-wave riders are the gladiators of the sport.
“It’s like the heavyweight of the sport and, in that, I’ve got a lot to learn and I’ll enjoy the process.”
For aspiring grommets, getting paid to surf the best waves in the world
sounds too good to be true. Yet one Noosa local is living the dream.
Contracted by Rip Curl as a free surfer, Lee Wilson travels to idyllic
locations with a film crew in tow, poised to capture and record his
form on the water. If the shots are good the photos will grace the
pages of international surfing magazines, while video footage is
snapped up by some of the best surf-film makers.
As both a competitive and free surfer, Lee gets the opportunity to
carve it up with the world’s best, yet also gets paid to hone acrobatic
surf tricks that aren’t part of the competition platform. With a
passion for both the competitive and progressive aspects of the sport,
Lee has devoted the year to filming and competing in the 2007
Indonesian surfing championship.
He is leading after winning the Quiksilver Open Keramas in Bali and
edging out former World Champion Tour surfer Jay Patterson in the Rusty
Rumble at Sanur Reef. “Beating Jay was just awesome,” says Lee, who
admits he’s quite competitive when he gets out on the water. “I want to
beat everyone, but before a contest I just focus on having fun, because
that is when I surf my best. “When I am all serious and too focused I
end up falling off or doing something stupid. But if I am having fun
everything seems to come into place and the puzzle fits together.”
Yet surfing hasn’t always come easy to Lee, who remembers crying when
his dad first sent him out into the deep. “I started bodyboarding when
I was five and then when I was eight I started standing up. “I liked
bodyboarding close to the shore with my friends, but Dad used to kind
of make me go out into the deeper ocean where all the big waves were.
I’d be really scared and cry, but I guess I thank him now for doing
it,” he admits with a grin.
Having appeared in numerous international surfing magazines and videos,
it’s obvious these days the 22-year-old doesn’t think twice about
launching off a wave and performing a 360-degree aerial. “Whenever I go
out on the water and train I’ll try and do a different trick on every
wave,” he says. “I don’t necessarily make it every time, but I think it
is important to build up a big repertoire of tricks.”
One he is currently working on mastering is the rodeo clown, touted as
surfing’s most lucrative trick. “If you can get a rodeo on footage, it
is worth a lot,” explains Lee, who hopes to emulate eight-time world
champion Kelly Slater’s aerial dynamics. “The rodeo clown is like the
hardest trick in surfing at the moment. It’s a back flip but you have
to stay on the board the whole time. There’s no cheating. “I have been
trying it all year and have got the flip down every time. It is just a
matter of landing it now and getting it on camera.”
While Lee’s life sounds more like a dream holiday, travelling to exotic
locations such as Tanzania, Bali and Micronesia in search of perfect
waves, he does take his surfing extremely seriously and is determined
to climb the ranks. “I do see surfing as a job,” he says. “The work has
to be done or I will lose my contract, so I guess it is a job at the
end of the day. “But I am extremely lucky, I know that for sure. There
are a lot of people digging holes in the heat and I am out there
surfing and getting paid for it and there’s nothing better than that.”
He’s the poster boy for Quiksilver and has just won a best performance
by a male award in a surf movie. Is there nothing Julian Wilson can’t
do when he hits the waves?
The Coolum teenager’s win out of the water has certainly helped ramp up
his profile and he’s a wanted man on the surfing scene. Between
competing and shooting movies there’s very little time for anything
else. Only last week Julian (no relation to Lee) had to fly from Japan,
where he was filming for Australian Surfing Life magazine, to the US
for the Surfer Poll Awards. He stayed just one night, collecting his
gong for Young Guns 3, before high-tailing it back to the waves.
At 18, Julian is the youngest winner in
the category and he's still coming to terms
with the significance of the honour. “It’s
probably the biggest thing so far in my
career,” he admits, ranking it alongside
his victory over eight-time world champion
Kelly Slater on the Gold Coast earlier this
year in the Quiksilver Pro. “It’s pretty
awesome, this is boosting (my profile) heaps.”
So, does he have any thoughts of following
in Kelly's footsteps and dipping his toe
into the acting pool? “Nuh, I'll leave
it in the water,” he laughs at the thought
of any Baywatch-style appearances.
But he couldn't say no to the Australian
premiere of Young Guns 3 in Bondi on Friday
night, even though he's seen the movie a
million times” and is competing in the
Australasian junior pro series at Manly.
“It’s pretty easy. All I have
to do is hang out and watch the movie, and
then have an early night,” he says, dismissing
any thoughts of heading out to the after-party.
Julian admits it's been a spectacular year
– “and I thought last year was really
good” - after his 2006 world junior championship
win, so who knows what 2008 may bring. What
had been keeping him focused was the second
last event in the pro junior series and
the 3000-odd points he needed to find to
overtake Maroochydores Mitch Coleborn’s
lead. Unfortunately Julian dipped out early
in the weekend’s Manly event as Mitch
claimed the 2007 ASP Australasia Pro Junior
After the constant travel Julian looks forward
to spending the rest of the week at home
in Coolum where he will just chill out and
play a bit of golf. It’s a rare treat
as he calculates he’s only spent about
a month or so on the Coast this year. So
many other commitments have claimed his
time, but fortunately his brother Bart,
who also acts as his manager, is there to
handle some of the pressure.
Julian says the increased exposure he's
been getting hasn't been too bad, though,
as it's all fairly surf-related so it's
not too far out of his comfort zone. And
as long as he's surfing, he's happy.
Story: KYLIE JACKES, FIONA WELSH, ELIZABETH
Mark Visser official website
Visser YouTube - Network Ten 'Sports Tonight'
Visser YouTube 'Big Wave Surfer - The Journey