The AT50: Fearless Surfer Mark Healey (#24)

This surfer charges the biggest breaks and freedives with sharks
Shutterstock / Mana Photo

Age: 31
Sports: Surfing, freediving
Highlights: Has surfed Jaws, Todos, Teahupoo, Puerto, Tasmania and Cortes Bank; has the ability to hold his breath for over 4 minutes; won The Blue Water Spear Fishing World Cup in La Paz, Mexico
Quote: "When [my dad would] take me diving I would just hold on to the buoy that he was dragging. Just me and the dead bleeding fish hanging out. I'm really surprised I was never eaten by a tiger shark."
Fact: Healey spearfishes nearly every night for dinner.
AT Point Total: 40.5

Big wave surfer Mark Healey is known for a lot of things, not the least of which are his bone-crunching, face-slashing wipeouts. He’s hit bottom, been raked over rocks, and battered his body top to bottom—all in the name of riding waves that few others dare.

“If you’re going to get really good waves and try to set the standard,” he once told Surfline, “it’s inevitable that you’re going to eat copious amounts of s***.”

It also helps, during those long hold-downs, that Healey can hold his breath for four minutes. Not only is this waterman one of the world’s great big wave riders, but when he freedives with great whites and tiger sharks and spearfishes tuna for dinner, you start wondering if he was born in the ocean. (He’s won a World Cup spearfishing tournament in Baja, by the way.)

Born in the ocean is not far from the truth: Healey is a Hawaii native, and was raised on Oahu’s North Shore, one of surfing’s meccas, where he began catching waves as a small child.

Healey continues to surf the world’s monster waves—we’re talking 50- and 60-footers—and was one of the pioneering surfers who proved that Maui’s infamous tow-in giant “Jaws” could be paddled into with pure human muscle.

Healey has been called “the next Laird Hamilton” by fellow big-wave rider Dave Wassel, (Hamilton is the sport’s living legend), but Healey, ever self-deprecating, just calls himself “dumb” for continuing to make the drop on man-eating waves:

“If you’re gonna be dumb," Healey told Surfline, "you’d better be tough.”
—Mark Lebetkin

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