Paul Walker, extreme sports fan

jiu-jitsu-portugal-paul-walkerWalker (center) with his MMA buddies

“My motto is, you have to get in a sport a day. Playing a little basketball, volleyball, going out surfing, skating, whatever it is. It’s the best way to live.”

Paul William Walker IV said those words. He was a race car driver. An actor of over two dozen films. He surfed. Weight-lifted. Was on the cover, with chiseled abs like Pacquiao’s, of Men’s Health magazine. He was the father to 15-year-old Meadow. And, like many of us, he loved and played sports.

Sadly, the world mourns his shocking death. To us Filipinos, his death is even more personal. Just moments before his life ended, he did charity work. He helped raise funds for the typhoon victims of Yolanda.

We all know Paul Walker as the blue-eyed star of the Fast and Furious series. But he has two other movies that our family particularly like: Eight Below and Into The Blue.

Based on a true story of an expedition group that left a pack of dogs in the polar base because of a heavy snow storm, Eight Below is an inspiring and moving film.

With Into The Blue, he starred alongside Jessica Alba in a sport that he loves most: surfing. He started in high school (California) and never stopped hitting the beach. “It keeps things grounded for me,” he said of surfing. “It’s where I came from, and it’s who I am. I sometimes struggle, because my job is like the antithesis of what surfing is all about. Surfing’s simple. It’s real.”

Next to car racing, the sport Paul Walker enjoyed most was mixed martial arts. He was a huge UFC fan. In an interview a few years back, he said, “I just thought, wow this is a really cool sport. This is something I’d like to do.”

He enrolled in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He had a brown belt under Ricardo “Franjinha” Miller in California.

Ronn Shiraki, who owns an MMA gym in Honolulu, recalls a time when Walker called him seven years ago wanting private lessons in Hawaii. The caller simply said he was “Paul” and Shiraki shrugged him off because he was busy with other clients. Weeks later, he found out the caller was Paul Walker. Of the man he’d become very good friends with later, Shiraki said of Walker: “If he wasn’t an actor, he’d probably be very, very good. He would probably be competing in the sport at a very high level.”

Of surfing and MMA, here’s a Men’s Health article entitled “How Paul Walker Got Those Abs.” Written by Daniel Duane, it’s dated Sept. 2005: “Nowadays, the only formal fitness training Walker does is martial arts, which strips unnecessary bulk off his frame while building his speed, balance, flexibility, and coordination. He starts every day with 2 hours of Brazilian jujitsu at a studio near his modest Santa Barbara home, then follows up with an hour of Muay Thai kickboxing. After that, it’s all about the water: ‘If there’s any surf, any fishing, I’ll whip out in the boat.’ That would be the fast rigid-inflatable that allows Walker to rip across to the Channel Islands and catch a few waves, maybe spear a calico bass for dinner, then have a buddy drive while he surfs the boat wake all the way home. And if he’s still itching for a good time after all that, he and some friends might do a few downhill skateboard runs on a quiet canyon road, or take his Nissan Skyline (0 to 60 in 5.2 seconds) to the racetrack.”

Walker also snow-boarded, counting his fall when he tore a tricep and shattered an elbow as one of his worst accidents. Still, he said, “That was not fun. That one hurt. But I’m not giving up extreme sports because I love the adrenaline rush.”

When asked if he was ever scared, he replied, “I’m not afraid of anything. That’s just the way I am. That’s the way my grandfather was. He used to race cars and he had the first 160-mile-per-hour Ford Falcon in the San Fernando valley. And my dad was a two-time Golden Gloves winner, and now he’s into downhill mountain biking and white water rafting. I guess you could say I come from a family of thrill seekers.”

He’ll be missed. And may his motto resonate with all of us: “Get in a sport a day… it’s the best way to live.”

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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