Night Rider — Big-Wave Surfer Mark Visser Makes History

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The 30- to-40-foot swells of Jaws are intimidating enough in broad daylight. Try tackling them in complete darkness. That’s what Mark Visser did back in January, when he became the first person to night surf the world-famous break in Maui (shot for his upcoming documentary series, (9 Lives). Looking back, Visser calls it the “most draining, scariest” feat he’s ever accomplished, but also an experience that’ll change the way he looks at things forever.

Three years in the making, “Operation Night Rider” required massive training. Physically, Visser kept his workouts as functional as possible at all times. “All the exercises I do are similar to the movements I use in my sport,” he says. “A lot of it is full-body training, using your own body weight or light weights. You might not look humongous, but functionally, you’re strong.” His favorite core-building exercises from the routine include “four-ball push-ups,” where you balance yourself with each hand and foot on a Swiss ball.  

When it comes to mental fitness, Visser has spent the past few years trying to go “above and beyond the level of training” he was originally accustomed to. “We did drills where they flew me by helicopter at 9:30 at night, miles out into the shark-infested sea, dropped me off with a surfboard and said, ‘Make your own way back to shore,’ ” he recalls. “I paddled for four hours, alone, in the dark.”

Visser confesses he was “straight up scared” the night of Operation Night Rider. “I reckon I probably lost 20 years of my life just freaking out.” The feat required him to sit in pitch darkness for more than 45 minutes just to adjust his eyes to the overwhelming blackness. Then he rode 12 waves from 2:10 a.m. to 5:50 a.m., outfitted with an LED-lit life vest, and only moonlight illuminating his way. “I had to just go on instinct and trust and be one with the wave. That’s what made this project so exciting and so special.”

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