Ironwoman Jordan Mercer is one of our hottest athletes. But what is a day in her life like? We sent WH’S Alex Davies to find out...
Surf your way to fitness with all-round legend and Ironwoman Jordan Mercer
Gliding through sun-kissed water, seconds from catching a wave, I have a
Blue Crush moment. My board’s for paddling rather than surfing but, still, someone should bottle this blend of exhilaration, excitement and nerves. Though, that last feeling is eased by the fact Jordan Mercer’s holding my board.
I’ve been spending the day with the ironwoman, surf-lifesaving and paddleboard champ in her hometown of Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Our arvo cool-off in the water comes off the back of a beach workout with one of her trainers. For that,
I’d braced myself for gruelling sand sprints and burpees, but instead we went through a bodyweight session of small, controlled moves, such as hops and hamstring levers. It wasn’t the flog-yourself cardio I’d imagined having to politely duck out of before passing out on the sand; it was all about conditioning, strength and improving movement.
One priority of Jordan’s is that training in one area doesn’t harm another: her week’s made up of pool sessions, gym, running and ocean work. She’s also focused on recovery and rebuilding strength since fracturing her left foot in 2016. “The timing of the injury came just after I’d achieved some of my biggest sporting goals [including her first ironwoman title in 2016] and the next year, having to sit out, I didn’t get a chance to defend my titles,” the 24-year-old says. “Working to get back from scratch has been very challenging physically but also mentally. I directed my mindset to say, ‘Let’s not think about what I can’t do, let’s focus on what I can do.’”
One title Jordan will return to chase this year is the Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships in July. We’re talking about a 52km ocean crossing on her board, over a stretch sometimes referred to as – wait for it – the Channel of Bones. She’s won the Hawaiian event six consecutive times but couldn’t compete last year with her injury. “It’s probably the racing event on my calendar I’m most passionate about, and it’s definitely the toughest,” she says. “The biggest
thing is committing to the training and mentally backing up those long, long stints in the pool and ocean, just padding for hours on end. I’m not willing to turn up not feeling like I’ve left no stone unturned.”
Jordan’s work ethic is a Mercer thing. Her dad (also her coach) is ironman royalty Darren Mercer, who we met earlier in the day at her sunrise ocean training sesh, while her late uncle Dean Mercer also won a string of titles. “When I was born, they were at the height of their careers, so I was always down at the beach as a little sand crab, being a menace, running around the tent with all the competitors,” Jordan remembers. “When my dad raced he was the world’s best – he was the greatest. I probably don’t tell him enough, but I just love learning from him. I wouldn’t want to do this with anybody else.”
The close-knit family were hit by tragedy when Dean passed away in August last year at the age of
47, after suffering a cardiac arrest. Jordan refers to being ‘Mercer family strong’, and I ask what that means in the face of such a loss. “I’ve always felt so grateful that I was following in the footsteps [of] and representing such a strong, kind family,” she says. “Growing up, I just idolised my dad and my uncle – they were respected by fellow competitors as being great sports and really genuine, incredibly humble people. It’s so heartbreaking and devastating when you have this realisation that the things you love are so fragile. Life is so precious.”
The next wave
As we walk around Noosa pre- and post-workout, people say hello to Jordan – at breakfast (smoothie bowls), as we try to find a park at the beach, and when we stop at her favourite Cocowhip stand. It’s clear surf lifesaving is a big community. Jordan works with the local Nippers and on a program for young girls. “It’s to support and encourage them to get out there, and really to push for that supportive team environment, which I was so lucky to have when I went through the ranks, and [which] I know kept me in the sport,” she says. “You realise how important it is for women to empower women, and for young girls to support one another.”
Post-sport, Jordan would love to work as a teacher (she’s studying primary education), but for now, her sights are set firmly on Hawaii. We say bye as she heads off for evening training in the pool, then home to her partner Tim a few beaches along the coast. I finish my Cocowhip and leave for my flight back to Sydney, already thinking about when I can return for Blue Crush round two.
Women’s Health travelled to Noosa with Red Bull Australia