When you meet him, Jason Momoa is the kind of man to give you pause – at 6ft 4 he’s built like a true warrior, wearing a green military sweater with jeans and army boots. But then he extends a giant paw to greet you and the intimidating facade cracks open to reveal a warmth and enthusiasm for a life well lived, which includes his beloved rock climbing. RSNG caught up with him before the December release of ‘Aquaman’, the latest superhero franchise to come crashing through the waves, to find out how he added 30-40lbs of muscle for the role, the passions that keep him inspired, and how he hopes his kids won’t end up living in an Airstream like he did…
RSNG You go rock climbing and are a bit of a bouldering beast – what’s the appeal?
JASON MOMOA, ACTOR ‘Bouldering is the most technical and limitless form of rock-climbing. It’s brilliant to do with my kids, who always like to go hiking and climbing with me. They love being outdoors and bouldering is the best way they can get to grips with that world. We can do it together in safe spaces yet there is still the thrill of being in the wilderness and tackling the extremes of nature.’
‘Anything that’s indoors becomes monotonous after a while, and it sometimes feels kind of fake to be climbing indoor walls when it is man versus rock. You want the hiking, you want the breeze around, you want the looseness of the rock, you want to feel it under your fingernails.’
‘Mentally and spiritually, climbing is the most healthy thing you can do in the whole world’
RSNG What does it give you in terms of physical strength and your mindset?
JM ‘I wouldn’t say it gives me anything in terms of physical strength because it’s the strength I already have there that I’m using. You don’t go climbing to improve strength, you go to prove you have it in the first place!’
‘For me it’s mostly about the incredible high climbing will give you – it’s the combination of knowing every part of your body, it’s tackling something that evolves and changes as a challenge, and no matter at what stage you’re at, it’s bringing forward that little bit of fear that every climber has.’
RSNG Where’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve climbed?
JM ‘There’s the Red Rocks, up in Hueco Tanks in Texas. The bouldering there is out of this world. Perhaps the first time I really got the thrill from climbing – that would have been at The Needles in South Dakota.’
‘There are so many – obviously Colorado, then Italy, Tibet – that’s the great thing; there are climbs everywhere and they are all totally different, and you can explore them with little more than an open mind and a firm grip. I think mentally and spiritually, it's the most healthy thing you can do in the whole world.’
RSNG If climbing at home do you have a pattern that you follow?
JM ‘I'm used to getting up at 5am and going for a run or doing a heavy workout, so I can climb instead, if at home. It's a very peaceful time for where I get to think and clear my head, and it's a great way to start the day. It's also more fun to do some kind of sport or outdoor training than going to a gym and lifting weights which, like I’ve said, is kind of monotonous.’
‘Hopefully they won’t make the same mistakes I did – they won’t end up living in an Airstream!’
RSNG You take your son bouldering – you know that young people have an advantage, right? What happens when he outclimbs you?
JM ‘I love it. Watching my kids climb gives me the biggest buzz of them all. To see your kids thrive and enjoy something that gives you so much pleasure is a massive thing. I think kids have a big advantage in the way they view challenges too. The wall you see isn’t the same wall they see.’
‘Ultimately, family is a really important word for me. It’s everything to me, it’s what I live for. And after working with these guys, they are an extension of that. We worked together in these close confines, it was chaos and we were all there for each other, getting in it. These guys are like, if they needed me, anytime anywhere, I’m there for them. I am.’
‘The age they are at now they are just my absolute world. I loved the early days where I would just look them in the eyes and cook them pancakes, where I would read them stories and play and talk about dinosaurs, but this is another level.’
‘When I was younger, I pissed around, I pushed it too far and was a little punk pushing people’s buttons, and had fun too. Obviously I want them to have fun, but this to be is the best way to live, and hopefully they won’t make the same mistakes I did. They won’t end up living in an Airstream!’
RSNG You’re playing Aquaman – what’s the most memorable underwater experience you’ve had in real life?
JM ‘Some of the shoots for the film have actually been pretty hardcore. I’m used to putting myself on the edge where I’m battling my own strength and gravity. To find I’m going up against a whole new set of rules is pretty cool, but scary. Anyway it’s all about the lungs.’
‘But, you know, I’ve spent my life doing stunts and being physical. I love rugby, I grew up playing hockey and rock climbing, skateboarding, everything. I enjoy anything that presents physical extremes.’
RSNG Tell us about your typical training week in the lead up to Aquaman?
JM ‘My physique in these types of movies is often the same. It’s a combination of bulking up whilst staying on a diet that keeps me motivated and full of energy. That’s always been something I’ve had to battle with because those things don’t necessarily go together.’
‘I’ve had regimes in the past I’ve tired of really quickly and it’s tough to stay on them, although I have done. Then there have been those that take too much from my physically. Although there is a lot of build in these movies you’ve also got to be in the right place mentally as well. It’s a combination.’
‘So the idea is to work towards low-intensity bodybuilding and all-body exercises with regular peaks. If I’m climbing then it’s a contradiction to be pushing the bulk. Instead, it has to be built gradually.’
‘It’s six hours a day, the aim is to put on between 30-40lb – lots of cardio, lots of carbs, chicken, no alcohol whatsoever, gallons of water, and plenty of sleep. It’s about working with my trainer and constructing a plan that we know is realistic, yet that has good results.’
‘I get to play a brown skinned superhero – I feel privileged and charged with something sacred’
RSNG Were you inspired by the mystery of the world under our oceans when preparing for the role?
JM ‘That’s an interesting question because so much of what I have lived and loved has been on terra firma. It’s been a new world, even though I get to represent my people, Polynesians, and something that’s really significant for them is water, and the gods of water, you know that is where I’m at. I get to play a brown skinned superhero, I feel very privileged and charged with something sacred.’
RSNG Did you get to train with Ivan Drago (co-star Dolph Lundgren)?
JM ‘Only over steak and wine!’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Momoa and climbing legend Chris Sharma climb at Momoa’s home crag, Malibu Creek…
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