As a professional big-wave surfer, award-winning spear-fisherman, free-diver, photographer, filmmaker, and part-time Hollywood stuntman, Mark Healey relies on just one tool to command his ever-frenetic schedule. “I check the global forecast at least six times a day, starting from when I first wake up, and find out what the ocean conditions are all around the world,” explains Healey, who hails from Oahu’s North Shore.
“If there’s a giant storm heading for Europe and there’s going to be some huge surf, I’ll get on a plane and be there in a day. The ocean and the wind are the only things that dictate how and where I spend my time.”
Despite his unruly itinerary, Healey’s made no shortage of major achievements in his career as a self-described waterman. Earning his first surf sponsorship at age 13 and going pro at 17, the 31-year-old has racked up victories at big-wave events like Todos Santos and—in 2008—nabbed the Spearfishing World Cup. Still, Healey half-jokes, “my biggest accomplishment so far is probably just staying alive.” Introduced to surfing at age three when his father led him out into eight-foot waves, Healey also joined his dad on spearfishing outings as a little kid.
“While my father was diving he’d drag me around on the buoy where all the fish were strung up, so looking back it’s pretty amazing that I never got eaten by a tiger shark,” Healey laughs.
While he’s encountered his share of close calls—from shark attacks to blackouts—Healey thrives on the elements of danger inherent to his work. “Anytime you step into the ocean, you’re in an environment that’s completed uncontrolled by humans,” he says. “Everyone needs to connect with that sort of wilderness in some way, especially in a time when there’s so much noise and distraction in our daily lives.” To that end, one of Healey’s main ambitions is to use film, photography, and hands-on education to deepen the broader culture’s relationship with the ocean. “I absolutely believe that people will only protect something if they value it, and it’s my life’s mission to inspire others to value the ocean the way I do,” says Healey, who once aspired to be a marine biologist and absorbed himself in malacology (the study of mollusk shells) as a preteen.
“The ocean’s just endlessly fascinating to me, how it’s constantly changing and you never know what to expect, how it’s a great escape but also so grounding and healing,” he adds. “I could live for a thousand years, and it would still never get old.”