For nearly 10 years, extreme surfer Garrett McNamara has been on the hunt for the world’s biggest waves.
Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1967, McNamara was leagues away from the sea. But after he relocated to Hawaii with his family in 1978, the sea became a driving force in McNamara’s life. As a teenager, he entered and placed in the renowned Hawaiian Triple Crown series, and signed deals with major brands in Japan as well as attracting notable sponsors. His older brother, Liam, is also a surfer.
McNamara always had a thirst for the big-time waves and competed and won in prominent competitions such as the Eddie Aikau Invitational where he surfed 70 foot waves. This further ignited his quest.
When McNamara first came to Nazare, Portugal in 2005, he encountered the largest waves he had ever seen, some as big as 100 ft., and realized he might achieve his biggest-wave feat on this Portuguese coast. McNamara’s dream did not come into fruition until November 11, 2011 when he broke the Guinness world record for largest surfed wave. The swell was an estimated 78 ft. tall.
However, McNamara’s sights were set on even larger waves. “I wanted to be the first to ride a 100-foot wave,” he joked in an interview with The Daily Beast after his first record-breaking ride.
A year later he might have done precisely that. On January 28, McNamara set out to surf Nazare once again, and it’s estimated he rode a 100 ft. wave. The exact height has yet to be confirmed by the Guinness World Record.
McNamara explained to Time Magazine article the cause of the titanic waves on the coast: “a canyon about 10 miles out into the Atlantic that’s up to five miles at its mouth, gets narrower and narrower at its approaches the shoreline. They get compressed, and just before the reach the rocks at the shoreline they stand up and reach their full potential.”
This inspiring surfer, who has roots in Ireland, does not seek the celebrity of breaking records but instead looks forward to the publicity his history-making could bring to the people of Nazare and its waves. And whether or not his wave is confirmed to have been 100 ft., McNamara is not worried. His sights are already on other horizons as he searches for the “perfect barrel waves.”
Watch a preview for the video of his record-breaking ride here: