The sporadic silence of the last week was not because I was having an exhilarating, adrenaline filled excursion in some far flung place, but mainly due to torrential rainfall, the severing of all telephone and internet services after a direct lightning strike, and being trapped on our property for 5 days as our bridge off the property was more than a metre under raging waters! We had 20″ (500 ml) of rain over those 5 days. That was on top of 6″ (150 ml) the week before -so more than half a metre of water in 2 weeks! Thank goodness it’s over… I hope!
One thing I did manage to post was the incredible footage of Garrett McNamara setting a new big wave record – a staggering record. He, as you know, surfed a massive 90ft wave which was recorded for posterity. All this when he wasn’t even feeling in the mood to surf. “We went round and I just wasn’t feeling it that much, I didn’t feel so good. Then the other guys were saying you’ve got to go. You’ve got to go and – boom! – I was on the rope and on a giant wave.”
McNamara has, in the past 10 years, been on a mission to catch the biggest, best waves on the planet, the more extreme the better and his approach to each new challenge is just as extreme. He stand-up paddle-surfed Mavericks for goodness sake! In winter of 2003 he rode the monstrous barrel of Jaws and has ridden tsunami style waves that are caused by the breaking off of icebergs in Alaska. He has ventured deeper in the barrel than anyone has ever gone at Teahupoo in Taihiti – to name just a few of his feats. The following video isn’t that particular run, but it’s a great video to show you the might and strength of that legendary wave.
Massive Teahupoo – Big Wave Surfing
Did you notice how bumpy the wave is? “It looks smooth but it’s not,” says Gmac. “It’s like bouncing down moguls [on a ski slope]. You hit every ripple in the water.” For this reason, big wave surfers require special equipment such as a buoyancy aid and knee braces to protect the joints from the battering they will get bouncing down the huge faces. It’s a whole different approach to riding ordinary waves. Also, the second wave is generally preferable to the first wave in these huge sets. “The first wave grooms the sea bottom and can make the second smoother,” he explains.
Continuing his description of his epic ride at Praia do Norte off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal, he says, “Even then I just didn’t realise how big it was. So I started and I kept going down and down and the drop seemed like forever. And I thought – wow! I started making the bottom turn and I felt the lip hit me. You can see it in the video. Usually I don’t have time to look around but you see me look round twice and then I get hit by the white water on the shoulder and it feels like a ton of bricks. I’ve been hit like that before and I’m thinking: I’ve got to make this. I’ve never been held down by a wave that size and I’ve ridden big waves. I’ve seen waves rip a guy’s arms off so there is nothing holding them on but skin and I’m thinking this could tear my head off.
“That’s when I knew that it was pretty damn big. Andrew picked me up. And I’m shouting: ‘Put me in deeper. Deeper!’ And Andrew is looking at me like I’m a lunatic. Everyone else is saying: ‘It’s a monster. We’re going in.’
“It’s only when I got in that I saw the footage. I was in awe. I mean I felt it was a decent size. But you can see it then pops up 10, 20, 30 feet higher. It just supersizes.”
Indeed it did:
photo courtesy of Jorge Leal/AP
This is the highest recorded wave in Europe – to date, and it is uniquely formed.
The “Nazaré Canyon” is a rare geographical phenomenon, the biggest in Europe and one of the largest in the world. Basically it is as a gap in the continental plate which is 170 kms long. The underwater canyon, a thousand feet deep, runs from the Atlantic ocean right up to the cliffs like a funnel. At the ocean end it’s three miles wide but narrows as it gets closer to the shore and when there is a big swell it acts like an amplifier and creates waves of abnormal size. It breaks directly onto the cliffs which makes it extremely dangerous. If you fall you will be smashed so you have to surf off it.
Would he do this particular wave again? “I’m not so sure…” he said, but let’s have one more look at it ourselves!
Al Mennie from Ireland and Andrew Cotton from the UK, were also out there surfing this wave. Al had this to say about it: “Everything seemed to be perfect, the weather, the waves. Both Cotty and I rode two big ones in the 60ft + range and then when Garrett got on the rope a wave, maybe 30 feet bigger came out of the canyon, it was meant to be. I had the best seat in the house as I was doing water safety on the ski as he dropped down the face of the biggest wave I’ve ever seen. It was incredible. Most people would look scared but Garrett looked in control as he went down the most critical part of the wave. It was an inspirational ride by an inspirational surfer. After the ride it was as if the sea calmed down. We sat out there and just absorbed both what had just happened and the surroundings. What a day!”