From Pro Surfer to Prisoner to Pro Triathlete

Aussie Clint Kimmins had a rather odd route to becoming a pro triathlete.

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Aussie Clint Kimmins had a rather odd route to becoming a pro triathlete. At age 20 he was a professional surfer with the talent to become one of the world’s best. But, after a 2004 late-night bar brawl in Queensland, Australia got out of control, Kimmins was incarcerated for six months. Subsequently, his sponsors bailed, and he was forced to find a new athletic outlet. Kimmins’ saving grace during his time behind bars was running in the prison yard—something he stuck with once he was free. Some friends piqued his curiosity for triathlon, and the rest is history. Wherever he lines up to race, Kimmins can be sure that he’s the only pro surfer and ex-convict in the pro ranks. Now 33 and based in Los Angeles, he’s begun to compete in surfing again and hopes to become the first person to win big wave and Ironman titles in the same year.

As for how the two scenes are similar? They’re really polar opposites. There’s a lot more camaraderie in the pro triathlon scene. You see that with athletes hanging out around the finish line until midnight to support each other.”

I really wanted to find a sport that was a first-over-the-line kind of sport. Triathlon is fair that way. If you cross the line first, you win. There’s a lot of luck involved with surfing because you’re dealing with the ocean. When I was on the surf tour, I could be on my best form but I’d go weeks or months without getting through a heat because I’d get unlucky with the conditions. With triathlon, the fittest guy is almost always the guy who wins. It’s a very honest sport—and I love how hard it is.”

Six months in prison didn’t change me as an athlete, it turned me into an athlete. I was never really disciplined or structured, even when I was surfing pretty well. That’s just the culture of surfing—you’re going out drinking beers every night and not really taking things too seriously. But in prison I really became a proper athlete, because I didn’t want to waste anytime once I got out. I wanted to hit the ground running.”

I loved the escape that running provided while I was in prison. I enjoyed that time by myself. I think that’s why cycling came naturally once I got out. It allowed me to just disappear and be in my own headspace. Even though I was only locked up for six months, I really appreciated being alone in the outdoors more once I got out.”

I’m in the process of trying to qualify for the Big Wave World Tour, so I try to surf as often as possible right now. Eventually I’d love to race Kona and win the Big Wave world title in the same year. Between surfing and triathlon, I’m probably training 25-30 hours a week at the moment.”

Surfing definitely has the better after-parties. I consider myself more of a triathlete than surfer nowadays, but when it comes to after-parties, triathletes have a lot of catching up to do.”

Kimmins’ Favorite…

Place to train: “Definitely the Santa Monica Mountains outside of L.A.”

Place to surf: “Hawaii for sure. Pipeline has always been a favorite, but lately I’ve been obsessed with Jaws, which is a pretty famous wave.”

Pump-up music: “I’m big into dance music. I wouldn’t call it EDM, but I’ve got a collection of DJ sets I really like.”

Movie he’s seen this year: “Icarus—the Netflix documentary about Russian doping. It really blew my mind.”

Thing about living in L.A.: “The diverse lifestyles here. If you want to live a healthy lifestyle, you can. If you want to go out and party every night, you can. If you want to live like a hippie, you can. And, of course, there’s the weather, the food, and the surf.”

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