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Interview #2: Kaj Larsen - Navy Seal, MPP Harvard and Owner Crossfit Santa Monica

YOUR WIKIPEDIA DESCRIBES QUITE AN AMAZING JOURNEY; PLEASE TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD AND YOUR FAMILY

I was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California. Both my parents are teachers. I was privileged to grow up in a place with great waves and chill vibes. There is a long tradition of great waterman coming out of Santa Cruz.

The surf there is big, cold, and sharky, so it sharpens your knife pretty quick. My family was incredibly supportive and placed a great emphasis on education and fun. 

kaj larsen

WERE YOU INTERESTED IN SPORTS/FITNESS THROUGHOUT YOUR LIFE?

I played 5 varsity sports in high school, but water polo was really my ticket to ride. I focused on polo because it is one of the most challenging sports out there.

Later on, I took up jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai, but it was really water polo, where I first learned the art of when to be aggressive and not. It's a dynamic sport, but also a team sport. I would go on to play water polo at the collegiate and national level, and it had a profound influence on my life.

kaj larsen navy seal

HOW DID YOUR FATHER BEING A MARINE INFLUENCED YOU TO BECOME A NAVY SEAL?

My dad's service influenced me in an indirect way. He never told me or suggested I should join the military. In fact, there were times he was incredibly candid about the downsides of military service. He was never one of those Semper Fi Do or Die kind of Marines.

He was more a little more rebellious by nature. I think because of that influence, I was more conditioned to be part of the unconventional warfare side of the military. Partially because I came from such an unconventional background. My father supported me in really different ways than most kids. He bought me flying lessons starting when I was 11 years old. That, in some ways had more influence than anything else. 

WHAT WERE YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES/FEARS WHEN TRAINING TO BECOME A NAVY SEAL AND GOING THROUGH BUD/S?

I just used all my life experience in sports, in fighting, in school to channel that 'never quit' mentality. Its some combination of mental toughness and stubbornness and ego that gets you through.

Staying calm is part of the key. In some ways, BUD/s is like getting held under by a giant wave. There is a moment where you can't fight it, so you just have to relax and control your fear. Then once it lets up a little, you paddle like hell!

kaj larsen

WHAT WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGES DURING YOUR MILITARY CAREER?

For me, the most significant challenges were leading men overseas. You have a responsibility to both the mission and the men. Sometimes those priorities are competing.

These guys from your platoon become your best friends, you watch them get married, see the birth of their children, all of these things that constitute deep friendship in the civilian world. Then you have to ask them to do things that could get them killed. That's a hard challenge.

HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE STUDYING AT HARVARD?

Harvard was an incredible place. I was surrounded by all these incredible people and ideas, and influences. An amazing way to transition from active duty to the civilian world.

HOW DID YOU END UP BECOMING A JOURNALIST?

When I was at Harvard, I got started doing correspondent work to help offset the cost of school. I spent my holidays reporting, Christmas in Afghanistan, summer in Somalia, Spring Break Cambodia. Was a great way to pay for school and see the world.

Kaj Larsen Journalist

HOW DO YOU KEEP FIT NOWADAYS?

My general approach is a variety approach. I run as much as I can, swim as much as I can, do CrossFit a few times a week. A couple yoga classes here and there, lots of freediving and spearfishing. I train new innovative breath work with Laird Hamilton and his wife, Gabby. Just a wide range of stuff to keep if fun and interesting.

Kaj Larsen Crossfit

WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND A 30-40 YEAR OLD THAT WANTS TO GET BACK TO A TOP FITNESS LEVEL AND SUCCEED? WHAT MENTAL STRATEGY WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?

I think the most important thing is to do what you love. You have to find something that brings you joy or its unsustainable. Mostly I recommend something slightly competitive and slightly social. For many people, it's hard to get up and run by yourself every day. If you are in a soccer league or have a good cohort at a CrossFit gym, then you will show up for your friends, and the fitness will follow.

It's funny, my sister, and I have a podcast @trfpodcast where we evaluate different workouts, and we always come back to this idea that the best workout is one you enjoy doing.

WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING NOWADAYS?

I'm producing and hosting TV shows and writing a book. I own CrossFit Santa Monica on the westside of Los Angeles. Somedays I feel like I have no jobs, and other days I feel like I have 9 jobs!

HOW DO YOU DRINK YOUR COFFEE?

I actually don't drink coffee. I'm a tea drinker, but I'll be stoked to introduce Hang Loose to some of the members of my gym! There's a regular post 9am workout coffee club, and they are real connoisseurs.

Where can people learn more about you?

I have posted a lot of my work and documentaries on my website: WWW.KAJLARSEN.COM also you can follow me on Instagram @kajlarsen

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ArticlesInterview #2: Kaj Larsen - Navy Seal, MPP Harvard and Owner Crossfit Santa Monica

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