It’s now 1 year ago that big wave surfer Carlos Burle took on a giant wave, created by the St. Jude storm near the Portuguese village Nazare. At almost 30.5m (100ft), it is believed to be the biggest wave ever ridden by a surfer …
Riding Giant Waves
Same as the Brazilian Carlos Burle, Andrew Cotton is a British big wave surfer. For him a 5 or 10 meter wave isn’t crazy enough, he also goes for the max. possible. Each time his life depends on the merci of a wild ocean. Andrew Cotton actually didn’t want to become a big wave surfer in the first place. But he wasn’t good enough for the WSL contests.
Especially during winter time, violent storms in the Atlantic Ocean generate waves as high as 6-story buildings. Despite the cold water big wave surfers try to ride them. They are just a slip away from injury or death. But with a suitable breathing technology, a feeling for the right moment and a supporting team behind you it’s doable. At some point, a wave simply becomes too big to manually paddle into. This is when so called tow-surfing begins. Somebody needs to tow you into a 30 meter wave; try to get out there alive. In 2012, Andrew Cotton towed his Hawaiian friend Garrett McNamara into the Guiness Book of World Records when he rode a 24m wave at Nazaré, Portugal. That’s been officially recorded as the largest wave ever ridden, until this week.
What outsiders don’t see: Big wave surfering is teamsport with not much space for egos. Meticulous planning and strong support are essential to get this done without casualties. But the price seems to be worth it. A huge canvas opens up before you, allowing you to draw some amazing lines and go anywhere you like = a strange feeling – probably only comparable with Wingsuit Flying. But it also comes with a nasty downside: the wipe outs. They feel somehow like car crashes – there is no better explanation to describe it.
Pushing the limits
Big wave surfing has evolved so rapidly in such a short space of time, there’s no telling what and where we’ll be surfing in the future. Big waves means big trouble, because the accelerating speed of the falling lip plus half a million kilograms of water over your head travelling at 70km/h can break your bones and push you several meters below the surface.