Jumping to Conclusions
11/20/17 | by Jon Miller
Steve Hernandez has already won the Golden Rope 5 times. What keeps him hungry for more?
On a beautiful June morning, while the rest of his teammates are still in bed, Steve Hernandez is up before the sun, getting his calves massaged. The captain of Dolphin Fever has a pet Chihuahua named Chancho. He keeps me company as I wait in his dining room, which boasts an incredible view of Miami's South Beach. I can hear Salsa music playing on the radio in the living room where Steve is getting his massage. Chancho is staring at me as if I'm planning on rewarding him with a treat at any moment. "Chancho! Ven paca! Leave him alone!" Hernandez says as he walks in to greet me. He shakes my hand, and says, "Sorry bro. He probably thinks you have a snack for him or something. Listo?"
As we walk out of the building, the doorman nods and says "Another day to be the greatest, Wave". Hernandez nods in approval but as we walk off he whispers to me, "He just wants me to give him a tip". The gym is a quick stroll from his apartment so we get to admire the sunrise for a few minutes. "Why would anyone want to live anywhere other than South Beach?" he says. "The sound of the waves are what bring me peace. That's why I call myself 'The Wave'. Mira..." he turns around and pulls up his windbreaker jacket to show me a massive tattoo on his lower back. It's a bright blue ocean wave. "It didn't hurt so bad I guess. My cousin did it for me a few years ago after I won my second golden rope. I'm gonna get him to add some dolphins in it for Dolphin Fever."
An older man greets us with a smirk as we walk into the gym. This is Steve's trainer, Francisco. He doesn't speak any English, so all of my questions about his training regimen had to be answered by Steve himself. "It became a normal thing for me, this routine. Wake up early, train hard, and most importantly, take care of my knees." As he's telling me this, Francisco is standing by the entrance of the gym trying to shoo away some female spectators. "Are those...groupies?" I ask Steve. He just smiles, winks at me and turns to make his way over to the ladies. He has a short exchange with Francisco, and begins to engage with the groupies. After about 10 minutes of signing things, taking photos, and flirting with the girls, Francisco finally gets them to leave. It's time for The Wave to get to work.
I really can't even begin to explain how absurd the training session was. But Steve and Francisco were so in sync throughout the entire workout that it was actually pretty incredible. Salsa music was blasting, and Hernandez did his entire workout while wearing a high altitude training mask. He put it on and tried to explain the importance of it to me, his voice muffled "It makes it harder for me to breathe! Like my lungs think we are in the mountains right now!" Every few minutes, I noticed Hernandez would check his hair in the mirror & make sure everything was in order. The jet black curly hairstyle was a tradition amongst the men in his family. So like any other Hernandez, Steve's morning routine consisted of at least 20 minutes of styling, and blow drying his hair. And I have to admit, his hair looked GREAT, even during his training session.
After about 90 minutes of footwork, box jumps, and other explosive exercises, Hernandez signaled something to his trainer. Francisco nodded and started walking towards the locker room. "You like Gatorade bro?" Hernandez asked me as he started taking off the training mask. Francisco walked out of the locker room and tossed me a nice, cold lemon lime Gatorade. I thanked him, he nodded, and then tossed Steve an empty Gatorade bottle. Hernandez then walked over to the corner of the gym, turned his back to us, and started to pee in the empty Gatorade bottle. He filled up about 3/4 of the bottle then held it at eye level to examine it. Still breathing heavily from his workout, he looks at me and says "It's for recovery. I need the vitamins that I pee out. Gives me an edge." He then proceeds to drink the urine filled bottle in its entirety. He struggles with the first gulp, but finishes it off like a glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. I'm sorry for that description, but you get the picture.
Now that the training session is over, Steve and I are killing time in the garage of the gym before his photoshoot for Hernandez Hair, the family hair product line. "You know I'm the only guy in my family who can jumprope? My older brothers were always getting into trouble. Like they actually wanted to get in trouble." Steve is the youngest of 4 brothers. He sighed, "But if it wasn't for my brother George, I would have never picked up a jumprope. This one time when I was a little kid we were playing outside and George found this old jumprope. We had never seen one before and didn't know how it worked. He thought it was cool when it made that whipping sound when he would twirl it real fast. So that's all he would do with it, and when I told him he was using it wrong, he started whipping me with it." I grimaced but Steve laughed it off and made his way to the garage entrance to greet the photographer from Hernandez Hair. What was that about? He cut himself off before he got into any more detail about his brother George. It seems like the 5 time Golden Rope winner has some demons that he's hiding from us.
I ask Hernandez what his prediction is for Dolphin Fever as well as himself. "The best jumper ever," he says. "and as for Dolphin Fever, as long as they can keep up with my jumps, then we'll be champs again." The photographer calls Steve over to let him know that they are ready to shoot. Hernandez makes his way to the set, kicks an empty Gatorade bottle across the floor, puts on his sunglasses and looks at me, "I've been drinking my own piss for 5 years," he says.
"I already am the best ever."