Garrett McNamara talks about safety at Nazaré
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 3 January 2016 - It’s become as familiar and seasonal as holiday window dressings and ugly Christmas sweater parties - photos of otherworldly giant surf at Nazaré in Portugal. Each season Nazaré blows up and the mainstream press obliges with my-god-those-surfers-are-crazy stories. “Biggest Ever!” and other claims are slung through the daily press along with breathtaking images. And in the middle of the maelstrom one surfer stands calm, Garrett McNamara.
He’s pioneered the spot and has recently been surfing it on a specially constructed and weighted board provided by Mercedes Benz and made of Varial foam technology. The reason GMac tapped the German auto maker was because his current crop of tow-in boards couldn't outrun the speeds at which those giant most-likely-not-meant-to-be-ridden-by-humans waves travel.
Q: Nazaré is heavily documented now. And with each giant swell it seems there is a physical limit to how big a wave humans can ride. What do you need to make it to the bottom of one of those sets that hit the ‘otherworldly’ realm?
You gotta want it first. Then I recommend a team you trust with at least 1 extra safety ski, Someone to get you on the wave or shadow you if you are paddling and one for back up. We actually have a back up for the back up on the giant days. Three skis, one surfer. One mistake with only one ski and you may not come home. Then you need a board that performs at a much greater speed then you are used to and if it can absorb the chops even better, not a stiff board, a board with flex up front
Q: You’re working with Mercedes on your towboards. We heard you’re using Varial foam in this year’s design. How is this season’s board different than last season’s board?
More flex, smother ride with the strength.
Q: Give us your opinion – when, where and whom – was on THE biggest Nazaré wave you’ve seen so far. (It’s OK to nominate yourself).
My goal here hasn't been to ride the biggest wave. It's more about bringing attention to the amazing country Portugal is and the endless waves from 2ft- ??? It's also about sharing our sport with the general public. There is no where else in the world you can watch giant waves so close and feel the energy. This wave has brought surfing to so many people that had never been interested and now follow and support our sport. We surfed five monster swells in the last four years all about the same size.
The left and the right are so different and you can't really tell how big they are from a photo. Andrew Cotton, Kealii, Carols, Axi, Eric, Antonio, Hugo, Scobby Benjerman and Sebastian have all made at least one monster.
I actually invited all these surfers in 2011 for an event we had. Cotty and Hugo were the only ones who showed up that year. Now that they are all finally coming we are seeing a lot more waves ridden on the big days. It is getting very interesting and fun to watch!!! If you get a chance come check it out for your self, jump in the water see what you feel. If you like it get your board out and join the fun. Paddle or Tow from two feet to who knows what size. it is always so different and always an experience to remember!!!
Q: You and your wife had a baby recently, has being a dad changed your approach to big-wave surfing?
Not at all. Safety first is still my priority.