By James Cave
Take a breath. Hold it. Count to 30.
That’s the average amount of time most of us can hold our breaths — 60 seconds if we practice. But why would you want to?
For Mark Healey, a Hawaii-based big wave surfer, freediver and spear fisherman, it’s about feeling alive.
Filmmaker Kyle Thiermann interviews Healey about his athleticism and philosophy in the video above, noting that Healey’s “ability to keep himself calm in all kinds of really intense situations is incredible.”
Healey, who’s been called the next Laird Hamilton, stays under water for exactly three and a half minutes in the video, but can hold his breath for seven minutes on dives.
His approach to freediving helps him mitigate the risks of charging down 60-foot waves with shallow reefs below. “There are very few urges that the human body can have that rival your need to take oxygen,” Healey told the Wall Street Journal. “So I need to be in an uncomfortable situation and teach myself to relax.”
His method? He warms his lungs up and packs them with air using a series of long breaths, followed by three short and deep breaths. Then he’ll suck in another big gulp, go under, equalize his ears and take the plunge.
And he stays down for a long time. A really long time.
Healey, who was swimming before he could walk, says it’s all about chasing a feeling — a feeling he can’t get from anything else.
“You have a certain amount of time on Earth,” he told Malibu magazine, “and the seconds tick away, and you’re not getting them back… There are so many factors that you just can’t control. But you can control how you spend your time while you’re here, and that’s life’s greatest asset.”
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