Performance focus with big wave surfer Mark Visser
Mark Robert Visser is an Australian professional big wave surfer, author, keynote speaker and ocean adventurer. Visser is best known for being the first person to surf Hawaii’s most dangerous wave Jaws, Maui, at night in 2011. Documented in a film called ‘Night Rider’.
Documentary probes big wave night surfing of Mark Visser
- By CASSANDRA MURNIEKS
- NOVEMBER 25, 2011
TALK to any big wave surfer about their adventures and you will almost certainly be moved to consider them crazy.
But what if they were to take on the big waves at night?
Sunshine Coast’s Mark Visser had it on his list of “things to achieve in life” and in January this year crossed it off after taking on monster waves, some with 50-foot faces in the dark at the famed Jaws break in Maui.
Visser is one of the brightest big wave talents in the world, pushing his body physically and focussing mentally to undertake on of the most dangerous pastimes known to man.
Visser’s preparation and big wave skills have come together in a television documentary “Night Rider” to feature on Channel Nine this Sunday.
“We have had this idea since about 2007. A friend told me that he had a dream about a guy who rode waves at night, which got me thinking. Was this achievable? Could it be possible?,” Visser told The Australian.
“I became a bit of a nutty professor in looking at all the options of making something like this happen. Other big wave surfers said it wasn’t safe enough to do, but I wanted to push myself and get out of the comfort zone.”
With the night surf session being filmed in January, a large bulk of the documentary was filmed beforehand.
Months of preparation were undertaken, which involved working with safety teams, special-forces and a number of coaches, who showed Visser a number of techniques designed to allow him to best cope in the event of something going wrong.
“The training with the coaches was tough. I worked with a number of people, who prepared me for the night surfing. If I had all of those things under control, it was one less thing to worry about when it actually came to surfing Jaws,” he said.
Visser tested the smaller waves at night in Australia to ensure they had the technology right.
To guide Visser through the waves, he had a number of lights strapped to his body, which allowed viewers to see the vast speed and the distance that he surfed the waves.
His preparation included paddling in the water for up to six hours.
“The coaches pushed me and they had me paddling at night via shipping channels and in shark-infested waters,” Visser said.
“With one of the nights, I was told to paddle in a shark area for six hours. For the first two hours, it was pitch black and I kept coming in contact with fish and jellyfish which freaked me out a bit.
“After the first two hours, my eyes had adjusted to look out for the shadows and it became easier after that.”
The large production crew based themselves out of Maui six-months before the night surf sessions. The day before filming, things started to unravel for the well-planned crew.
“We had drivers pulling out and jet skiers calling it a ‘suicide mission’. Even the guy flying the helicopter pulled out, but we continued to back ourselves,” he said.
The film crew eventually shot the footage on the surrounding cliffs, with just a rescue-ski and his tow-in partner in the water with him.
Visser was in the water for 40 minutes before claiming his first set of waves.
Claiming he was ‘rattled’ in surfing those two, he didn’t want to give up and became more confident. Starting to read the waves and have a feel for how they would break, Visser succeeded in his challenge, which left him silenced afterwards.
Would he do it again?
“I would do it again, but wouldn’t want a camera crew there this time. I’d rather just go out in waves that I know with my brother, soaking it up with no pressure.”