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big wave surfer nic vaughan's training regimen

"As a big-wave surfer, proper preparation is imperative to ensure success and ultimately survival.  Here is my regimen to train for the largest waves around the globe." - Nic Vaughan

Contrary to what one might believe, it is not beneficial to be big and muscular when it comes to the big-wave game, but rather a focus on speed, agility, flexibility, and endurance is preferred.  At the gym, I have adopted a low-weight, high-repetition mindset with all of my exercises.  I actively design my routines to simulate the movements and motions that I will go through during a given big-wave surfing session.  Circuit training with little rest, switching from push-ups to pull-ups to box-jumps to mountain-climbers, keeping the engine revving while maintaining good form.  When it comes to paddling into one of these waves, the surfer has to position themselves while matching the speed of the approaching wave, often times moving through the ocean at 30-40mph.  I do lots of interval sprints in the pool paired with open-ocean paddles, helping to build explosive and long-lasting paddle strength to give me a fighting chance at catching one of these waves.

For my breath training, I use a routine that involves a stationary bike and some serious determination.  I will start pedaling at a strong cadence that is sustainable for an extended period of time.  When I hit the minute marker, I will hold my breath and maintain the cadence as I continue to pedal for 25 or 30 seconds.  Upon completion of that breath hold, I’ll exhale and breathe normally for the next 30 seconds as I continue pedaling.  At the next minute mark, I’ll do it again, repeating that cycle for a 20-30 minute circuit.  This routine is very helpful in getting my body used to operating with a lack of oxygen and I’ve found it to be extremely valuable for the mental aspect as well.  When things go wrong out in the water, I’ve got the confidence to withstand a worst case scenario.

For flexibility, I pair my strength training with yoga classes two to three times per week.  Flexibility not only helps with balance and performance, it is also extremely important for injury prevention.  When you find yourself mid-fall with a 5-story avalanche of water coming down on top of you, it is quite common for limbs to dislocate and muscles to tear.  I have had a number of terrifying wipeouts where I was able to surface injury free, thanks to a disciplined approach to flexibility.

As for my diet, I take a Paleo approach, consisting of grass-fed meats, paired with raw or lightly sautéed vegetables, and quinoa or a sweet potato.  Good fuel with proper hydration is crucial for peak performance.  I am focused on drinking 100oz+ of Penta Water per day at the very least.  On the days leading up to a big swell, I am religious about making sure I stick to this hydration protocol to prevent cramps and help me sustain throughout a 6 hour surf session.

For more about Nic Vaughan check out his website.

See Nic's typical workout "Circuit Training Day" below. 

Circuit Training Day

Start with stationary bicycle:

5 minute warm-up.

20 minutes alternating exercises below:

Maintaining consistent cadence, 20 second breath hold, 40 seconds breathing

20 second sprint @ 90%, 40 seconds @ 40%

5 minutes cool-down.

Workout - water break between exercise blocks:

2 rounds, no rest

10 push-ups on bosu ball

7 pull-ups

15 cable ab twists (both sides)

10 pop-ups to surf stance

50 crunches

50 yards bear crawl

25 knee-ups

2 rounds, no rest

30 seconds ropes

10 box jumps

25 russians

10 single leg bosu squats

50 yards bear crawl

25 knee-ups

2 rounds, no rest

10 push-ups, feet in TRX, knees to chest

10 forward lunges (each leg)

10 pop-ups to surf stance

50 yards bear crawl

25 knee-ups

Cool down stretches and roller work.

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