I love big wave surfing. I have never surfed or had the chance to see a big wave surfing competition in person, but despite that, I love it. I do, however, try to read about it, and I watch a lot of videos. One reason I think I like it so much is because I see a lot of similarities between strength athletes and big wave surfers.

To be a big wave surfer, you need some huge huevos—not unlike the ones you need to get under a bar loaded with 1,000+ pounds. You need to train hard and you need to believe in yourself. You also need to be pretty smart. World class lifters don't get as strong as they are by accident, and big wave surfers don't surf a 100-foot wave by chance. They know what they are doing. In turn, people often think of strength athletes as stupid muscleheads just as they think of surfers as dumb adrenaline junkies. In both cases, many people just don't understand what these athletes do or why they do it. I don't think most people understand why most athletes do what they do, unless the athletes make millions of dollars. I don't think they can understand the feeling of doing work and accomplishing a goal—the feeling of dedicating your life to something and doing something that less than one percent of the population can do. That feeling of doing something people didn't think could be done...

Big wave surfers love big wave surfing in the same way world-class powerlifters love lifting. It's who they are and who their families are. It is different, however, in that there aren't huge massive waves coming in all the time. It only happens in certain places when the conditions are perfect. Legendary competitions like Mavericks in California or Jaws in Maui, for instance, don't happen every year because the right conditions don't always occur. Many times, the athletes don't know that they will be surfing until a couple of days before the competition (and even in these cases that is hopeful). They receive the location and have to travel (sometimes around the world) at a moment's notice. Essentially, they devote all of this time and dedication without knowing for sure if a competition will even happen that year. To add even more difficulty, since huge waves are not always happening, these athletes cannot train on big waves everyday. I imagine that these guys must have enormous heart and really believe in themselves and their capabilities. In powerlifting, we are a little luckier because there are gyms all over. Although it's rare to find a good one, we can always lift something or go bend the bars in commercial gyms!


Skill, athleticism and artistry all come into play within the tube.

From the many interviews and videos I have watched, I know that these guys are not just stupid adrenaline junkies. They are very smart and know a great deal about surfing, waves, swells, undercurrents, weather, etc. Although they know that what they do can kill them, they go into it as prepared and with as much knowledge as possible. They respect the waves and the ocean.

I watch interviews and videos with professional big wave surfers and I think, “Wow! I would like to hang out with these guys for a while.” I don't know what they know about surfing (and, like I said, I can't surf) but I think their mentality is so similar to lifters' that I would get along great with them. Both surfers and lifters live a lifestyle around the sport they love, and it seems to me that it would generate some mutual respect. They look, for instance, at the chance of injury or death in the same manner. As lifters, we of course don't want either of those things to happen, and we try to be a safe as possible. At the same time, however, the danger draws us to it. Both of us—lifters and big wave surfers alike—train our butts off and work hard to keep learning so that we can keep progressing.

The camaraderie big wave surfers have amongst one another is very similar to that of powerlifters or strength athletes. They seem to be good friends and have a ton of respect for each other. If one kills a huge wave, for example, they all seem impressed and happy for that surfer. At the same time, they all want to win and come out on top. I have found the top strength athletes to be very similar. Both types of athletes like to keep pushing the limits, and both are aggressive and intense individuals who always want to step it up and keep out doing each other.


Ted Toalston rides the waves of intensity and volume right on up to meet day.

The one similarity that spurred this article was one that I just realized in an article I recently read. The article talked about the surfers out there who feel that being towed to a wave by a wave runner is not really surfing. They feel that you should have to paddle to catch the wave. My reaction was, "WTF? Surfing has the same dumbasses as we have in powerlifting? It's just like the geared versus the raw lifters! Why the hell can't people just see things for what they are?"

I have heard pro surfers talk about this, and they seem pretty cool about it—just like the top powerlifters. They say they have all kinds of respect for surfers who paddle to a wave and for those that get towed in. You can only catch so big of a wave by paddling in, maybe 50 to 60 feet from what I read. The only way to catch the true monster waves is to be towed in. One top surfer said it was just the evolution of pushing the limits of surfing. They want to keep surfing bigger waves and that's what it took. It's not bagging on paddling in. Some of the big wave surfing competitions are paddle in. The same guys that get towed in do both types, and they appreciate the challenges of both. I have never heard one top surfer in any video say, "Well, that sucked, and it was just a little 60-foot wave. Big deal..." On that same note, I have never heard a pro surfer say, "Big deal...A 90-foot wave," when he got towed in and, "that's not surfing." Usually you hear them cheering each other on or talking about how sick his set was. I think the ones who complain and stir up this shit are the ones who can't surf worth a shit anyway. They probably aren't willing to put in the work, dedication, or heart that these guys have, so they need to try to rip them down. It doesn't make any sense to me.

I have had the exact same experience in powerlifting. All the complainers and bitchers are the guys on the forums or in commercial gyms. They have no idea what these lifters have put themselves through and what it takes to become world-class in raw, single-ply, or multi-ply. They obviously don't have what it takes. I never hear the top guys saying this shit. I have friends who are top raw and single-ply lifters, and they respect multi-ply guys. In turn, the multi-ply guys respect the raw guys. Raw and geared lifting are completely different types of lifting, and they both have their own major difficulties. Most of the top lifters have, at some point, lifted both ways, and they know this. A 600-pound raw bench and an 800-pound shirted bench are both just as impressive to me. Therefore, instead of looking to break people down, maybe these other guys should be looking at the positives of both types of lifting.


This surfer gets huge respect from me!

Do all other sports have these types of complaints and complainers? Are there tennis fans bitching about the modern rackets? What would top tennis pros look like if they had to play with an old wooden racket and cat gut strings? What about golf? Should we go back to wood shafts and little driver heads? Should softball and baseball go back to old wooden bat designs? What about baseball production? Should football go back to using leather helmets? For that matter, should sports drinks and protein drinks be banned? I am sure that there will be people out there who say, “Well, the gear is mechanical and helps them lift more.” Okay, then what about guys who wear cut off jeans under their singlets in the old days? What about the guys who wrapped tennis balls behind their knees? What about steroids?

Take these things away from some of the biggest lifts of all time and they wouldn't have been made. So, what would someone say about a drug-free 1,000-pound squat compared to a raw 1,000-pound squat performed by a guy jacked up on steroids and growth hormones? Take away the gear or the steroids and neither would have been made. Also, if it is about a mechanical issue, then why allow a belt, wrist wraps, or knee wraps? People may say that it's for safety, but that is bullshit. You can lift a lot more with all of those things. A belt worn right is good for 50 to 100+ pounds in a squat. There are plenty of arguments that can be made. In my opinion, it seems a lot easier just to realize the impressive things and the difficulties that come with each type of lifting. Show them the respect they all deserve.