Pro Surfer Travis Mellem Interview: Life Of An Extreme Athlete!

What does it take to be an extreme athlete? Here's a look at what Pro surfer Travis Mellem has done, training details, injuries and more. Read on.
Article Summary:
  • Travis's recent tour had a rough start when his boards were misplaced at the airport.
  • Travis has been injured seriously enough to keep him out of the water at least three times.
  • Travis does much of his training on a Bosu ball to mimick the instability of his board.

  • Pro Surfer Travis Mellem Interview:
    Life Of An Extreme Athlete!

    Travis Mellem is a professional surfer out of southern California. He has toured the world surfing the waters from his home on the west coast of the USA, to giant breaks of Fiji and Tahiti, to the west coast of Australia. He has even surfed the shark infested waters of South Africa. This is extreme sports at its finest.

    It takes more than just catching a few waves in the Orange County surf to be fit to surf the death defying swells around the globe. There are merely a hand full of surfers who would dare attempt to paddle out to these giant sets. Travis and I caught up recently and discussed what it takes to be one of the world's elite surfers.

    Travis Mellem Is A Professional Surfer Out Of Southern California.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    Travis Mellem Is A Professional Surfer
    Out Of Southern California.


    [ Brian Bullman ] Hey Travis, how are you getting on with the tour?

      [ Travis Mellem ] The tour is going great but I had a rough start this trip. My boards got lost during some connecting flights and it took a while for me to finally track them down. For the first event, I had to borrow some friend's equipment and that did not go over so well. I still have a couple more stops in West Australia and South Africa so hopefully my stuff will make it!


    [ BB ] Dude, that is a nightmare start! I hope the second leg of the tour brings you more luck! O.K., give some basic information about yourself for our readers here on Bodybuilding.com.

      [ TM ] Age: 23
      Hometown: San Clemente, CA.
      Current Location: Margaret River, Australia


    [ BB ] Travis, you are only 23 years old. I've seen surfers at Huntington and Newport of all ages ripping it up. How old were you when you first began surfing?

      [ TM ] I first started surfing when I was 10 years old with my dad and brother. I would tag along with them when they went surfing and before I knew it, they were pushing me into waves and I got hooked.

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    [ BB ] Wow! 10 years old is pretty young. How long after that did you decide to take surfing to the next level and compete and why?

      [ TM ] I started competing when I was about 13 years old. I went down to Mexico on a family trip and met some kids that surfed competitively. They explained to me how it all worked and I started there shortly after. I was fortunate because my parents were always very supportive.


    [ BB ] Awesome! I think we would be lost without good parents, eh. Can you give us a list of all the competitions you have won?

      [ TM ] I have a lot of amateur wins including an Amateur National Title and 5 Amateur Conference Championships.


    [ BB ] What do you consider your greatest achievement in the sport to date?

      [ TM ] Amateur National Champion

    Travis Has An Amateur National Title And Has Won 5 Amateur Conference Championships.
    Travis Has An Amateur National Title And Has
    Won 5 Amateur Conference Championships.


    [ BB ] You got injured after you won Nationals. How did that affect your training and competition placing?

      [ TM ] I have sustained a few injuries in the past couple years that have set me back. All 3 injuries have been involved with my feet and they kept me out of the water, which prevents anything from moving forward.

      I was not able to compete, shoot photos, film video segments, and was only able to do a little basic training out of the water. This will be my first whole year back competing since my injuries these past couple years.


    [ BB ] Don't talk to me about foot injuries! I was a few weeks out from the European Championships last year, and I suffered 4 fractures in my foot; not an easy thing to deal with but it heals. Can you tell us something about how you went about getting over those injuries and getting back in the water?

      [ TM ] I had to let time pass during the healing process and it took about 8 weeks. After that I started physical therapy and that took another 6 weeks at which time I started to slowly work myself back in to the water.


    [ BB ] When I was injured I had the joy of doing upper body weights and some on my uninjured leg, but it was still very stressful. How did you cope with not being able to do what you love for so long?

      [ TM ] It is a bummer to not be in the water, but I am able to stay pretty busy when I am injured. There is always stuff I can catch up on because I am on the road so much. I do limited working out though because I try and rest to let my injury heal as quick as possible.

    Travis Is Able To Stay Pretty Busy When He Is Injured.
    Travis Is Able To Stay Pretty
    Busy When He Is Injured.


    [ BB ] Being a surfer takes a great deal of strength and stamina, not to mention balance and flexibility. I mean I am pretty strong, but man do I have trouble staying on that board. Can you give me an outline of the type of training you do in order to be fit enough for professional surfing?

      [ TM ] Surfing is definitely a physically demanding sport. For my exercise routine I do a combination of cardio and strength training. Many of the exercises I do utilize my core muscles in order to improve my balance.

      I use a stability ball as well as a Bosu to mimic the instability of my board. I also do interval training to improve my cardiovascular strength, which is important during contests when I need to paddle quickly to get back out in the lineup. I also try to stretch as much as I can to increase my flexibility, which helps me stay loose so I don't get injured!

      I typically workout six days on and one day off. Every other day I do an intense circuit training workout of 8 - 10 exercises repeated for three sets. I change my workouts often in order to keep my body and mind challenged.

      The workouts consist primarily of compound exercises, utilizing multiple muscles in one movement. Most exercises also require some form of balance in order to train my stabilizer muscles which are a real benefit when I'm surfing. It is all functional training using unilateral movements and plyometrics to build strength and speed in all directions on the wave.

      My typical weight training workout would look something like this:

      While training, I move quickly in order to keep my heart rate elevated and take little to no breaks. After each session, I spend close to a half hour stretching each muscle in order to maintain the flexibility that is essential while surfing.

      For my cardiovascular exercise, I cross train by running, biking, paddling, or swimming (freestyle and backstroke) for one to two hours, six days a week. This keeps me from getting bored with my workouts. It also stimulates my muscles in different ways to help prevent injuries. I surf seven days a week as well, which helps keep me in shape.

    Travis Surfs Seven Days A Week To Help Keep Him In Shape.
    Travis Surfs Seven Days A Week
    To Help Keep Him In Shape.


    [ BB ] Being that surfing is so physically demanding, do you use many supplements and if so, what exactly do you use?

      [ TM ] I try to eat healthy, which can be challenging while traveling so much. I always have Fubars on hand, which help give me the energy I need to get a good workout in and get me ready to go surf. I try my best to eat organic healthy meals and drink a lot of water.

      My diet consists of high protein and low carbs. Sometimes this gets hard on the road but I always just try and eat healthy. Like I said I love the Fubar Energy Bar and I also like soy protein shakes to make sure I'm getting in enough protein.

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    [ BB ] Being a professional surfer must mean that you have to get up at all hours to catch the surf; getting wet when it's cold and miserable is part and parcel of the game. When you are out there alone cold, wet and freezing your balls off, what keeps you motivated?

      [ TM ] What keeps me motivated is that I love surfing. Freezing or warm, rain or shine, I want to be surfing and improving. If the worst thing about your job is freezing in the morning then that is not too bad, right?


    [ BB ] Believe it!! You know that you are lucky when you get paid for doing what you love, but getting there must have been tough. Is there anybody in particular that helped you get where you are today?

      [ TM ] I would have to thank my parents for where I am today. They made a lot of sacrifices to make sure I was able to surf, practice, and to participate in events.

    My Parents Made A Lot Of Sacrafices To Make Sure I Could Surf.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    My Parents Made A Lot Of Sacrafices
    To Make Sure I Could Surf.


    [ BB ] So tell me this Travis, surfing is a tough sport, I have no doubt, but so is bodybuilding; which do you think is tougher? You see, I feel I can rip into a few waves, but do you think you could handle some drop sets or supersets?

      [ TM ] I could not tell you which is harder but I would have to say that every professional sport is really hard. They all take a lot of hard work and dedication. Drop sets and supersets sound pretty crazy. Maybe we will have to meet up and try each other's sports!


    [ BB ] A very diplomatic answer, but it sounds like a challenge to me! I look forward to trying to catch a wave or two, and tearing it up in the gym!

    Since initially beginning this interview, Travis has emailed me and informed me that he has suffered a broken leg, which required surgery, and he missed out on the US Open in Huntington Beach, California. He was watching from the shoreline, just like me!

    The x-rays show just how painful it must be to sustain such an injury. We all wish him a speedy recovery. Check out his MySpace profile here.