Because he regularly faces monster ocean waves as a big-wave surfer, Laird Hamilton wanted to enhance his prowess as a swimmer. He began developing a series of challenging water-based exercises that he could complete in his home pool. Collaborating with strength and conditioning coach Brian Mackenzie, a retired ultra-marathoner and expert in hypoxic training, Hamilton and Mackenzie turned these workouts into the XPT Waterman course, which they now share with clients worldwide. (An online version of the Waterman Course is available on the XPT website, xptlife.com.) The exercises are completed with hand weights in a pool at least 6 feet deep.
Working out in water minimizes stress to joints, while building cardiovascular strength and lung capacity. But Mackenzie stresses that Waterman training does not teach students to hold their breath for extended periods. “People lose their connection to everything when they start thinking, ‘I need to hold my breath longer,’” he says. Instead, students practice controlled breathing to manage the amount of toxic carbon dioxide in their system. “The goal of the course is to increase confidence in the water and to develop better decision-making,” says Mackenzie, explaining that many people feel anxious and less rational in deep water.
Those who complete the course become stronger swimmers. “If we have you swim a 50-pound dumbbell across the surface of the pool,” says Mackenzie, “I promise you that you’re going to find efficiency.”