Finding Strength Through the Swell

The Ocean Warrior’s Elite Mindset Retreat provides useful techniques on how to overcome life’s many big waves.

“Perception is everything. We are truly limited by our rational mind, and if we’re stuck in our mind and controlled by our thoughts, we can only go so far,” says Mark Visser, professional big wave surfer, author, and founder of The Ocean Warrior. Through his life experiences, both in and out of the water, Visser has created a unique program that cultivates overcoming obstacles and challenges in all aspects — aquatic, in-office, and beyond.

After nearly drowning at three years of age, Visser used his initial fear of the water to help be the driving force of his transformation into competitive surfing. “Something that I really worked on was how to become comfortable in that environment, and basically trying to prove to that inner child that I wasn’t afraid anymore,” Visser describes. “In doing that, I went above and beyond trying to figure out the process of how to manage fear. How to live with it, deal with it, coexist with it, and the process of eliminating the stress, anxiety, and pressure around it.” After finding success riding the world’s largest and most dangerous waves, including the Hawaiian-juggernaut Jaws, Visser looked to translate his tidal methods of mindset to others to conquer their own fears and find confidence and control over extraordinary circumstances. He describes the origins of his program, saying, “I would come back from certain ocean situations, try to replicate what happened in a controlled environment, and to try and figure out the process of how I could get myself out of that situation.” He continues, “Eventually in time, I began to study the mind and process how we respond to fear, and how our mind responds in those situations.” The Ocean Warrior course was born. “And it all came together from wanting to help people.”


Visser’s techniques have aided a variety of students from all backgrounds — including Navy SEALs, corporate executives, business groups, and even pro athletes like Kelly Slater — utilize breath techniques as well as intellectual reasoning to navigate through high pressure situations. With The Ocean Warrior’s Elite Mindset retreat, students learn to master these skills through on-site training. This personalized and private experience features a unique opportunity to not only learn from Visser himself, but also receive an experience that is catered to your specific needs and aspirations. And what better place to find balance of the body and mind than Terranea Resort! “Although Terranea is about 35 minutes outside of LAX, you feel nowhere near Los Angeles,” Visser describes. “Terranea makes you feel like you’re in just a really special place that has an extremely beautiful coastline, such a pristine environment, and the air feels really fresh and clean.” With the retreat’s training held on the scenic Palos Verdes Peninsula, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, clients immediately felt at ease and in the perfect headspace to learn the program’s influential techniques. Visser recalls a specific perk of the program’s location, saying, “When [students] were going through different breathing exercises in the morning, they could literally hear the sounds of the ocean waves crashing on the rocks below us. They could hear birds, and see dolphins splashing around, which was amazing to have them look up and see that kind of stuff going on during this course.”

From juggling the stress of multiple tasks in the workplace to finding focus and self-assurance to encourage positive, critical thinking within everyday life, the Elite Mindset course instructs how to strategically respond to situations, rather than simply react. To really “ride that wave” and focus on ways in which one can work through any challenge they are facing with both confidence and strategic mindfulness. For Visser, as a coach, one of the most rewarding experiences is to see your student not only comprehending these lessons, but also witnessing growth from this knowledge first hand.

One particular highlight of the experience, for Visser, was unexpected. “Probably the coolest thing for me to see, was two students that couldn’t actually swim,” he explains. “Although they’re only underwater for very short periods of time, purely putting them out of their comfort zones in order for them to be vulnerable and really experience the things we wanted them to experience, in order to get that reward.” He adds, “To see those people that couldn’t swim and have that mental strength, they did things that people that can swim can’t do.”

Visser describes his experience at the Terranea-based retreat, saying, “Probably the biggest take-home for me was seeing people just so mentally strong, able to get out of that rational noise-making mind, and to go above that and really tap into the true version of who they are and understand the importance of having a balanced life.” Overall, the experience was successful in its goals, both conceptually and analytically. “Based on our scientific data we had recorded, [our students] blew all these stats out of the water,” says Visser. “That was super awesome.”

The future of Visser’s program is much like his overall perspective on live – limitless. Using unique landscapes as a setting, the program’s integral lesson is something worth sharing worldwide. “The courses are obviously growing,” Visser describes proudly. “We have a saying that basically most people try to live life to win at all costs, when really we feel it’s important to be winning on all levels, not only in your business but in all those other areas in your life.” Sharing these motivational mindsets and applying them to the lives of all who are eager to take part is a goal as deep as the ocean. “One of the main goals we want for all of our students is for them to work on all areas of their lives and really create a sense of fulfillment and happiness. Seeing them smile and achieve those tasks are the most rewarding aspects.”

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By Caitlyn Piercy