WAVING GOODBYE TO THE SURFBOARD
Clint Kimmins was one of the world’s best young surfers. A freakish talent earmarked as a future world champion. But his life was turned upside down when he was attacked by a group of men as he left a friend’s 21st birthday party. Clint was charged with unlawful wounding and spent six months in prison. Now he’s given up the surfboard to chase a new dream – an age group world title at the epic Hawaii Ironman.
How do you go from being a big wave rider to an elite ironman? It’s quite a dramatic shift.
Oh yeah, it’s a hard one. I actually get asked that quite a lot and I never really know how to answer it. But I guess it must be something inside me that I like to challenge myself and I figure if you’re going to do triathlon the ultimate is to do the long course stuff. Obviously, the Hawaiian Ironman is the one I qualified in for this year so I’ll be racing in that in October.
You didn’t think about easing your way into the sport? Maybe trying some of the shorter ITU distances first?
Not really. I think those guys are just too fast. I think those young guys run too quick. I think at the age I’m at, I’m 29 years old at the moment and apparently you get in to your best years in your mid-30’s, so I’ve still got a few years up my sleeve to get some miles in my legs and try to do well in the Ironman distance.
Did you have any ambition to go down this path, say 10 years ago? What was the trigger point for you to think ‘gee I might give that a go’?
Never in a million years. I never ever would have thought that I would end up riding around on my weekends in my lycra or something like that. But a few of my friends did it, then I went for a couple of rides with them and I fell in love not only with cycling but the outdoors and getting away from everyone and getting away from the internet and all the social media. You know, just going out riding and just really enjoying yourself. I’ve got one of those personalities where once I start something I’ll try and better myself and with cycling, the sky’s the limit. You’re never going to be as good as the guy next to you. There’s always a mountain to climb so I’m on that voyage at the moment.
There’s three disciplines in triathlon. What’s been the hardest one to master?
Funnily enough, definitely swimming. Everyone thought that I would be a good swimmer coming from a surfing background where I spend a lot of time on the water paddling around. But it’s such different dynamics from paddling a surf board to swimming. Then also with the running and everything like that I’ve always had a bit of a bad back so swimming is a really hard one for me. But I’m working through it and I’m definitely getting a lot better in the water.
A lot of surfers say that there’s no thrill like the big wave and it’s the adrenalin rush that keeps bringing them back to the wave. Have you been able to replicate that feeling in any way? I mean it’s a pretty huge adrenalin rush to try and match.
For sure, and you know that’s very true. Catching a really big wave and getting spat out of a huge barrel or even surviving a bad wipe-out – you know there’s no real feeling like it. But to me, I still think the best feeling I’ve had is finishing my first Ironman in Cairns. Just the things you have to go through. A lot of the time with surfing there’s luck involved.
Do you have a favourite memory of your days taking on the big waves?
Yeah, there’s a lot. There’s been memorable sessions where I obviously caught a lot of good waves. And there have been a few moments where the sun is going down and the waves are huge and the crowds have gone in. I’ve just spent some pretty peaceful moments in some pretty unpeaceful situations if that makes any sense. But just surfing in general is such a beautiful thing to be out there dealing with nature and especially the ocean because there’s no controlling it. It just makes you realise how small you are. But there have been sessions in Tahiti and sessions in Hawaii that really stand out for me.You might luck into the best wave of your life or you might fall off and get really worked up and come up and that’s from doing something wrong. But with triathlon there’s a purpose behind everything and you have to train really hard just to get to the start line and to do well on race day. Running a 9 or 10 hour race is a great feeling of achievement so for me nothing has beaten the finish of my first Ironman.
The isolation of surfing must be something you missed a little bit because can’t really get that in triathlon can you. By nature it’s a congested sport.
Yeah, exactly. But then even these days surfing is so popular you don’t really get to surf by yourself all that often. The time you surf when there’s the least amount of people is actually in a heat. There might be tens of thousands of people on the beach but in the water there’s only a couple of people. But in triathlon you find your own head space and you’re on the bike for anywhere from four to six hours so that’s definitely one place you can try and find some head space and try to relax into a rhythm and be by yourself.
When you get to Hawaii, what’s a realistic result and what would you consider a success?
I’d really like to win my age group. That is going to take a lot of work but I’m improving quickly. I’ve got a good group of people around me helping me out and I’ve got all the right sponsors supplying me with all the fancy bells and whistles. I really don’t have any excuses to not do well it’s just about getting in my training and going to Hawaii and trying to not get too carried away. I’ve heard a lot of people get carried away with trying to race out of their skin so to speak. But I’m realistic. I know where I am at. Hopefully I’ll just put it all together and walk away with an age group World Championship and then reassess and maybe getting my professional license.
You’ve got to go into an event like that with no fear don’t you?
Pretty much yeah. You can go in with no fear but at the same time you really have to respect the race. And I think there’s a very fine line between the two. But you know I’ve spent a lot of time in Hawaii surfing.
It’s a spiritual place and I’ve got a good connection with the island so hopefully I could turn that into running around the island in some lycra and having a good day.
When you do triathlons your nutrition is really important isn’t it? I’m assuming in your surfing background it was just something you had no experience in?
Exactly right. It blows my mind actually how uneducated surfers are with the whole nutrition management. I know surfers are only out there for maybe 20 to 30 minutes at a time but having been through it myself, now if I could tell surfers about it, I’d be jamming power gels into them and getting electrolytes into them throughout the day. Just having a full nutrition plan especially if they do have to surf more. I mean in triathlon, especially the long course it’s paramount. You get your nutrition wrong and I don’t care how fit and strong you are, it’s all thrown out the window. So It’s definitely important.
So you think surfers could be better and get more out of themselves if they went down a proper nutrition path during competition?
Definitely. Surfers are getting a lot better at it though. There are a lot of people in the sport now educating surfers . And you always see the guys on exercise bikes and foam rollers and drinking out of a water bottle. So surfing has definitely come a long way and it’s exciting to see what’s happening with it, especially the nutrition side. I’m pretty lucky. One of my sponsors is Body Science. That’s one good thing about that. They educate me and then I can take that to some of my friends competing in surfing still.
How often do you get out in the water for a surf now?
I don’t get to surf that much these days. Just because of the training work load and when I’m recovering I like to just be on the couch in my compression gear.I have surfed in an event to raise awareness for suicide prevention and it’s something that I’m really passionate about. I have lost some friends to suicide and they’ve all been surfers. You just never know who’s in trouble. So if I can come down and do my bit and have a surf I’m proud to be there.