Garrett McNamara on Surfing a 100-Foot Wave (Allegedly!) in Nazaré, Portugal

The surfing legend is not entirely sure where that number came from or how accurate it is—"I don't measure waves," he told us—but he is sure of one thing: This was one of the most dangerous situations he's ever been in

    Photo: Courtesy of Garrett McNamara

Garrett McNamara

McNamara poses with his board.

Yesterday, media outlets and surfing enthusiasts went crazy when reports came out that Garrett McNamara had surfed a record 100-foot wave near Nazaré, Portugal. The one problem: McNamara never said it was a 100-foot wave. But he says it was the biggest wave he’s ever surfed—and he currently holds the tow-in surfing record of 78 feet. We called McNamara after another big day to talk about the potentially record-breaking ride.

How are you feeling?
I’m exhausted. It was another great day.

How long were you out there yesterday before the big one came?
I think about an hour.

Did it look like they were just getting bigger and bigger?
That one broke in a totally different spot than all the other waves that day. And I was waiting for it.

Are you thinking, “This is the one”?
As it was coming toward me I was just focused on getting it. Entering and navigating my way down. You gotta really choose your line.

So you’re riding this massive wave. What does that feel like?
There is so much water moving and it is moving so fast. It was like it didn’t break forever and it finally crumbled at the top. It was a much deeper place than I have ever surfed. It was very different than any other wave I’ve been on.

When did you realize that it was a 100-foot wave?
I had no idea how big it was, and I have no idea. I don’t measure waves; I’m just blessed to be surfing. There are some other guys who measure waves.

So who found out it was 100 feet?
I have no idea where that came from. It’s still news to me. Nicole [Garrett’s wife] is trying to figure out where this number came from. Surf Europe was the first one we’ve found to put it up. It’s all from a picture, they don’t even know if it’s Photoshopped or not. My mother-in-law told me, “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.” That’s a good way to think about it.

Were you towed in or on the WaveJet?
I was towed in. I’d rather be towed in on a wave this big. The JetSki got taken out and we were almost swept under the rocks. The second wave almost got me—it did get me—but it let me go right as it was about to take me into the rocks. I wouldn’t be talking to you if it had. It was the most dangerous situation I’ve been in outside of glacier surfing.

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