Magazine article The New Yorker

The Deep End

Magazine article The New Yorker

The Deep End

Article excerpt

The Deep End

"At first, I didn't massively enjoy it," Danny Cipriani, a bearded British rugby fly-back who was spending his summer in Malibu, said the other morning, over espresso mixed with the oils of coconut and red palm. He meant the ice bath that his hosts--the big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton and the retired volleyball star Gabrielle Reece--prescribe as part of a radical underwater weight-training routine that they lead for friends at their house three times a week. The secret to ice, Cipriani said, is to endure past hurt to numb (two minutes for him) before fully submerging for twenty seconds. "Then you have that euphoric rise, and you're happy like a thunderbird."

Outside, a dozen figures, muscled and inked, were arrayed as if on an amphora at the deep end of a pool. There were alumni of the N.F.L. and the N.H.L., a two-time Olympic gold medallist, a vegan superfoods hunter, a couple of M.D.s, and a jujitsu black belt who keeps the riffraff from Oahu's North Shore. Reece, who is six feet three, with long blond hair, watched her husband applying himself to a line of dumbbells. Every few seconds, weight in hand, Hamilton popped up to the surface, caught a breath, and descended, trailing bubbles. "It's harder than it looks," Reece said.

Hamilton, who is fifty-two and bearish, with a freckly tan, grew up on Kauai in a house with no indoor bathroom. At the local pool, he liked to squat down in the shallow end and then burst up through the water: the active boy's version of an underwater tea party. To expand his lung capacity, he'd grab a rock and run along the ocean floor, holding his breath for as long as he could. Then he started exercising underwater, wearing a weight vest. One night a decade ago, he had a dream about jumping up and down in the water, breathing rhythmically, as he'd done in childhood. In the morning, he and Reece began to develop the routine, which they call X.P.T.--extreme physical training--and which, after years of testing on friends, they have begun to promote through retreats in Malibu and on Kauai, where they live during the big-wave season. Videos, apps, and books are in the works.

"O.K., how about some Reeces?" Hamilton asked, pulling himself onto the diving board. Reece Hamilton, a strapping twelve-year-old, swam over to her dad. Because, at four, she liked to retrieve weights one-handed from the bottom of the pool, a one-handed squat press is a Reece, while a Gabby is an underwater stretch with a single jump. The Rubin--named for the music producer Rick Rubin, who is a regular at the Hamilton-Reece pool--is a submerged jumping jack done with a weight in each hand. …

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