Born and raised on Hawaii’s North Shore, that scrawny blond haole must have become comfortable with adversity navigating the localized lineups and the hallways at Kahuku High School. However, those early experiences only fueled a future addiction to overcome challenges that the majority of the arm chair nation dare only encounter with a game controller in hand.
Healy first blew the surf world’s collective mind in his magazine photo spread that boasted a 14 year old goofy footer in a full-hearted free fall into a 20 foot Waimea macker. It wasn’t just that he was small and young, but the wave was massive and dark, and forced throngs of 30-somethings to reassess their own testicle size as they pulled the issue from their mail boxes. The Healy near-death machine had just pulled out of the garage hell bent on a relentless round-the-world mission to paddle into the world’s biggest wave.
He has since traveled far from Hawaii but carries ingrained knowledge gleaned from living amongst the North Shore’s ever-changing proving grounds, more specifically the big wave surfer’s timeless trinity: Sunset, Pipeline, and Waimea. But Healy now belongs to the world as he throws his dice against the massive walls of Teahupo , Todos Santos, Mavericks, Jaws and a host of unknown and undiscovered lineups where he has had about as many epic barrels as he has epic wipeouts.
He could make a career out his wipeouts alone. Readers and viewers have become familiar with Healy’s deliberate and seemingly controlled paddles into sections that (from the safety of the computer screen or magazine page) are obviously unmakeable and most surely deadly. One of his most harrowing wipeouts happened in 2001 at Peahi (Jaws). The resulting beating left him sans a paddle vest, utterly disoriented, and sporting a busted ear drum as three more waves poured down. He told Free Surf Magazine, “…I zigged when I should’ve zagged…That’s definitely the closest I ever come to dying while surfing.”
But while heavy wipeouts in massive waves are the rule rather the exception, the biggest reason for Mark Healy’s hefty ration of rag doll beat downs comes mostly from choosing to paddle rather than opt for the en vogue act of tow surfing via Personal Water Craft (PWC) assistance. While not decidedly anti-towing, he does call paddling “by far the greatest challenge in surfing and refers to the total preoccupation with tow surfing as getting “Hollywooded out.”
With full support from Quiksilver and a career resume that includes a major win in Todos Santos and coverage in mainstream magazines like Outdoor and Men’s Journal and spots on MTV, Healy is poised for his breakout moment. Ironically, he has gotten more press for one of his underwater feats as opposed to those on a surfboard. An obsessed free diver and spear fisherman, Healy released a series of photos taken during an 8-day dive off Mexico during which he dove and fished among giant Great Whites and at times held on and was pulled along by the dorsal fin of a 15 foot man eater. The images, while at once creepy and soothing, have vaulted the image of surfing daredevil to that of transcendent waterman.
Healy travels the world for most of the year, chasing swell events and finding unridden waves from pole to pole. Doing stunt work for Hollywood films, spearfishing with giant sharks, exploring Chinese tidal bores, diving on reefs from Micronesia to New Zealand, Mark Healy doesn’t seem to have even scratched the surface of his bucket list. It’s safe to say that if the future Mark Healy could say anything to that 14 year-old free falling into that Waimea behemoth, he would say “Keep charging.”