Liam Hemsworth is lucky to be alive.
In the September issue of Men's Health, the 22-year-old actor opens up about surfing competitively as a teenager in Australia. "Every day, before and after school. I wanted to surf for the rest of my life. It's what all my friends did," he says. "I even had it as a subject in school for a number of years. They teach you all parts of the surfing industry: How to judge surf heats, that sort of thing."
Hemsworth, of course, knows the risks associated with surfing. "The fear of dying? That's part of the fun of it," he explains. "The adrenaline you get from surfing big waves. I've seen a shark before. You get the worst wipeouts when you're not expecting it."
In fact, "When I was a kid, one time I got my leg rope wrapped around my whole body like a ball, under water. Couldn't get up," the 6-foot-3 star recalls. "I was in waist-deep water, but I almost drowned. You know, I've had a few times."
Though he still surfs in Indonesia "whenever I have enough time," Hemsworth now gets his adrenaline rush from acting in big-budget action movies like The Expendables 2, costarring Sylvester Stallone, 66, Jason Statham, 44, Jet Li, 49, Jean-Claude Van Damme, 51, Bruce Willis, 57, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 65, Chuck Norris, 72, Terry Crews, 44, and Dolph Lundgren, 54.
"There wasn't the testosterone or ego you might expect on a set like that. Everyone was so cool and professional." Though Van Damme accidentally kicked him in the chest while filming an action sequence, "It was a present from him, in a weird way," according to Hemsworth. "I was honored to be kicked by him."
Hemsworth also gets an endorphin rush from boxing. "I love going to the gym, sweating, running around, feeling like I'm having a heart attack. I like the physical side of boxing — it's fun to punch a bag for 20 minutes — but I also feel mentally strong when I box, I feel good in my own body."
Though The Hunger Games actor points out that "ninety percent of my best friends back home are plumbers, electricians, builders or landscapers," he feels at home in Hollywood — and especially with Miley Cyrus, his fiancee since June 2012.
"She's an extremely strong, intelligent, supportive person," he tells Men's Health of the singer-actress, 19.
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