Shane Dorian has always been meticulous in his preparation. Be it bowhunting deer in the Hawaiian highlands or riding the biggest waves in the world, Dorian demands the utmost in performance from both himself and his equipment. His research and development of life-saving inflation vests has saved countless lives in lineups around the world. He's established himself as the sagely chief of the big-wave tribe.
"I thought what I had was pretty good, but I wanted somebody to try it and be honest with me," Visser told the WSL this autumn. "I didn't care if they told me it was shit, I just wanted the truth."
"The first time I heard about the training, Mark gave me a call on the phone and said he had been working on a pretty serious course that he'd been developing for quite a long time," explained Dorian before the Jaws Challenge Pe'ahi. "He wanted to run me through it and see what I thought. So, he flew to where I live, and we did a bunch of training and I was really into it."
Dorian's continued to work with Visser over the last 18 months in preparation for another winter of North Pacific action. In trying conditions at the Jaws Challenge, Dorian didn't have the result he was looking for, falling out of the contest in Round 1, but it wasn't for lack of preparedness.
"I think there are a lot of things that are ingrained in us from past patterns and past personal experiences," said Dorian. "A lot of the things that Mark has taught me is unlearning those patterns over time. A lot of the stuff that I'm learning now is counter-intuitive to what I thought was the right way to do things."
The Ocean Warriors course includes breath-holding techniques, physical training, as well as safety and situational preparedness. Besides Dorian, Visser's working with the likes of 11-time world champion Kelly Slater, former world record holder Garrett McNamara and hellman of the moment Kai Lenny.
"For me, doing the training and learning more about something that I'm really interested in, it gives me the right mindset on the day when Mother Nature gives us the moment that we are really wanting. To go out there and perform at a higher level with a mind that's much clearer and a body that's more prepared, that's the goal," said Dorian.
"So much of it is the opposite of what you think it would be. Unless you are taught by an expert that studies this stuff, most of the time you're going to get it wrong," he continued. "That's the kind of thing that's really interesting to me, I love learning from somebody who studies and is always developing bigger and better things with people that know what they're talking about."
Visser has spent the better part of half a decade detailing and documenting the training. He's worked with world-class free divers, scientists, other elite athletes, as well as military special forces. The Ocean Warriors courses have been thoroughly researched and vetted by those whose lives depend on this kind of training.
"For me, if I want to learn how to survive surfing giant waves or have a longer breath-hold, I want to go to the people who are studying it and developing these courses with real research and feedback," said Dorian. "The things that are the most interesting to me are the things that allow you to learn the actual techniques to increase breath-hold and just get your mindset in a much better state so you're much more efficient and you can think much more clearly and you're able to perform at a higher level."
Both Dorian and Visser are quick to point out that you don't have to ride 60-foot waves to benefit from the training. After a near-drowning experience when he was three-years old, and a subsequent fear of the water, Visser understood the importance of developing a program that would be applicable to anyone that wants to enjoy the ocean.
"That's the thing about it, you don't have to be Shane Dorian to get something out of the Ocean Warriors curriculum," told Visser. "It really is something the average surfer can benefit. You don't even have to surf to enjoy the benefits."
"Even if the waves are small and you're in an ordinary situation, a lot of times things can get intense. Whether it's you helping someone else, or there are a lot of weird things that can happen when you're surfing on an ordinary days," explained Dorian. "It's a way to keep calm. I really like a lot of the breathing techniques because they keep my mind clearer and put me in a better state of mind."
"The ocean is a dangerous place. We love to play in it, but we don't always think of all the things that can happen and the risks, so anytime you can train and learn more to be safer in the ocean you'll be able to help not only yourself, but those around you. It's a good thing," added Dorian.
This winter Visser will be on the North Shore, where he'll continue to train with Dorian and Slater when possible.
The WSL has teamed up with Visser this December to offer a sale on the Ocean Warrior course for only $99. The full training course is normally $400. It's a great opportunity of take advantage of the same tools the world's best surfers are utilizing. The course makes a great holiday gift for the aspiring charger in your life.
The WSL is a participant in the Ocean Warrior affiliate program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to TheOceanWarrior.com