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Elite athlete, performance trainer and surfer Cam Trickey. Photo by Chris Ahrens
Columns Waterspot

Waterspot: Winter surfing survival guide (Part 2)

Allow me to open this week’s Waterspot column with two health warnings: 1) Use earplugs for cold water, since surfer’s ear requires a painful surgery. 2) After the first rains of the season, stay out of the water for at least three days.

Opening day, which was anticipated a few weeks back when an Aleutian storm kicked up massive waves in the Gulf of Alaska, never quite materialized. The swell instead moved out of our window and in a direction not beneficial to hungry surfers.

Sick sickness baited the foolish last week as the ocean churned brown with months of pesticides, motor oil, pet feces and other toxins that had built up over the summer. Being landlocked, I called friend, former professional Australian Rules football player trainer, Cam Trickey. Among elite athletes he’s trained Cam has improved the performances of Wimbledon tennis players, pro football players, boxers, racecar drivers and big-wave surfers, including former World Champion runner up, Brad Gerlach.

Being comfortable by being uncomfortable

Q: In winter, the ocean becomes harder and colder — how can we prepare for that?

A: The ocean is unpredictable and forever changing. There are all sorts of things that can happen, so you’ve got to be ready. Preparing for that physically through various types of exercise is essential, but the mental aspect is often overlooked.

There are numerous other benefits, but to prepare physically and mentally for winter, we often submerge ourselves in an ice tub that averages 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This might seem extreme, but we work up to it through cold showers, proper breathing and getting the right mindset. I teach techniques that help people get there.

Q: Wim Hof, the “Iceman,” claims to be able to raise his core body temperature to the point where he actually melts the ice around him.

A: This illustrates the power of the mind. He’s done everything possible to prove that his techniques work, on him, and those he trains. He’s taught everyone from elite athletes to CEOs of big companies. His method has been proven to heal all kinds of ailments. The power of controlling the breath is incredible. For one thing, as a surfer, you’re going to be in situations where you’re disoriented and can panic after being held under. You can’t absolutely train for that, but you can prepare to handle yourself in similar environments. I teach people to calm themselves when they’re being held down.

Q: It does seem mostly mental. In our area, you’re rarely held under water for more than 10 seconds. Panic, in that case, is more of an emotional response — usually, you’re in no real danger.

A: Yes, but there’s no way you’ll be able to handle the conditions of big surf in cold water if you’re not training toward that goal. We say, “The more you sweat in darkness, the less you’ll bleed in battle.” If you’ve been there before, the brain creates a neurological pathway, so when you’re in a similar critical situation, it feels familiar. But there’s no way of getting around the hard work. We want to finish strong!

To learn more about training for winter surf, you can contact Cameron Trickey at