Garrett McNamara on winning the Monster Paddle Award
Garrett McNamara on winning the Monster Paddle Award
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 19 April, 2007 : - - What does a place called Pillar Point Harbor, a loner from Hal Moon Bay, California, a white haired German Shepard, a Flea and a guy named Garrett McNamara all have in common? Something close to nothing, really. But hang with us.
In 1975 a kid from Half Moon Bay named Jeff Clark caught wind of a little know, ominously dangerous surf spot located just off shore from Pillar Point Harbor. Due to its funky shaped underwater rock formation, winter storms sent across the northern Pacific Ocean would come freight training in on Pillar Point Harbor, sending in 15-to-20-foot boxcar-size waves.
For 15 years, Clark did a masterful job of keeping the place on the down-low, only a few locals aware — and in possession — of one of the finest breaks in the World. In the March of 1991 three local surfers, having learned of the spot, decided to give it a shot. So did one of their dogs. His name was Maverick and the white haired German Shepard got so wound up on the 20-foot waves, he too joined the crew in the water.
Worried for him, they brought Maverick back in and tied him to the bumper of a truck. The dog had his day, though, and by the surfers had left the spot for the day, they had dubbed it “Maverick’s Point.” That same year, Surfer magazine published a photo of Maverick’s and it was on. Surfers from all over the world converged on the place to ride giants and tempt fate.
In fact the late but great big wave ace Mark Foo was killed there in the December of 1994. In 1999, a world class contest at Mavericks’ was held and won by a local Santa Cruz surfer named Darryl “Flea” Virostko (Richard Schmidt, Ross Clarke-Jones and Peter Mel placed second, third and fourth, respectively).
Which brings us to Friday evening, April 13, 2007 and a place in Orange County, California called The Grove, site of the BiLLABONG XXL GLOBAL BIG WAVE AWARDS. The epicenter of the American surf industry (make that global surfing industry), a few thousand surf enthusiasts made it out to the big hall — based immediately adjacent to Angel Stadium — to hoot, holler and cheer for the wavemen who had been nominated to potentially win Billabong XXX Global Big Wave Awards.
When one envelope in particular was torn open, a piece of paper removed from it, and the contents of that piece of paper read aloud over a microphone, it was declared that Garrett McNamara had won the Monster Paddle Award.
McNamara, of Haleiwa, Hawaii, USA was give a big oversize, make believe check for $15,000, his reward for catching, riding, and surviving a Godzilla-like wave at Maverick’s on December 14, 2006. (McNamara also won Surfline Men’s Best Overall Performance Award for the deed).
Later that evening in The Grove, Garret MacNamara reflected back on the day in Half Moon Bay, California that brought him international fame, glory and fortune (not in that order). “That day — December 14 — was perfect and glassy and the waves were at about 18-to-20 feet,” he explained. “There would be a couple of bigger ones here and there, but it was pretty consistent.
I had been watching guys surf there the day before and they were catching good waves, but I realized it would be better to go deeper and farther back into the bowl. So Vince Collier gave me a 10’ 10” the next day and I paddled out.
“I knew where I was going was dangerous,” he went on. “It was a place that you’d make 10% of the waves that came in; the other 90% would be close outs. So when I went out I told Peter Mel, ‘Hey, I’m going in where it’s dangerous. Watch over me, would you?’
So I keep paddling and notice that he’s taken his jet ski and gone off to the left. I paddled as hard as I could to catch back up with him and yelled, ‘Hey! I’m not messing around here!’ I wanted to catch a monster wave and was confident that Peter would be there if I got into trouble. I’m a wimp, you see.
“So I see this perfect wave coming, and think to myself, should I turn around? I thought, not yet. It was one of those glossy California waves and I wasn’t sure.
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So the wave got right up on me, I turned around and shoved the tail in. The board stuck immediately and I made the drop. It felt perfect — like cutting butter with a hot knife. I was upside down and backwards, but in control. I felt great. I got to the bottom and looked up and wanted to try and make the turn, but I could see it was all about to come down on me.
I took a pounding, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. When Peter Mel came up and grabbed me, he was just freaking out. He was saying, ‘Oh my God! That was the biggest wave ever paddled into here! No, that was the biggest wave anyone has ever paddled into anywhere!
That’s it, man! You’re going to win every award there is!’ I told him to take it easy and tried to reflect on what I had just done. Everyone around was freaking out.’” And how did it feel to walk out of The Grove with two big-ass cardboard checks he’s try and cash at the friendly, local Bank of America?
“It was awesome,” he enthused. “I had no expectations to win and I ended up coming home with two awards. I mean the awards don’t mean too much, but it was real nice to be acknowledged by everybody.” Now typecast as a tow-in surfer, the ever-friendly and amusing McNamara went on to explain he was especially proud of the fact that he won the XXL Awards for actually paddling into a wave.
“I was definitely stoked to win Monster Paddle Award,” he said. “You know I grew up surfing at Waimea. I paddled in and surfed there my entire life. It was always a paddle spot, but the place got too crowded. So to get away from everybody I started to surf the outer waves. Because of that I think everybody forgot that I knew how to paddle. Tonight, I was able to show everyone that I haven’t!”
Team - Surfersvillage