"For all the times I've been there, I've never done much watching of Nazare – but I've been looking at it thinking, f*** that. Why would anyone want to do that?” laughs Cotty, who has spent a bit of time helping out on the radios at Nazare since breaking his back during one of the most brutal wipeouts ever seen in November.
But, Cotty's back is feeling good. He can now do most things he wants to do, except for surf. Yet hopes to get onto small waves in the next few weeks and back into the heavy stuff over the next few months.
With the Big Wave Awards announced and Cotty in the running for Wipeout of the Year, MSW checked in with Mr Cotton to talk recovery, Nazare's rise to prominence at the awards and the resurgence of tow surfing.
MSW: So, how's the recovery going Cotty?
[laughs]AC: Yeah, it's going. It's been constantly positive from day 1. Every week it's got better. I feel good – my movements are a bit slow and a bit painful. Everything at the gym is fine but explosive movements are slower. You know, surfers, we don't realise how much we go through. I can do everything, except for surf but then surfing's all I want to do [laughs]. I don't wanna go the gym, I want to go surfing.
It's frustrating but on schedule. Rehab and the people around me have been amazing. Red Bull have been incredible. I'm pretty lucky.
That sounds super positive. How's the prognosis for getting back in the water looking?
Before I started seeing the experts, I thought I'd be back in the water ASAP. But the reality is, it just takes time and what's the point in rushing it? I'll be ready to surf a longboard pretty soon. But ready to charge, it's probably a few months away.
I'll definitely be 100 per cent for Nazare next season, that's always the main goal. Last year I went to West Oz and did a month there, I'd like to do that again this year. That's a hopeful thing really.
Where are you now? Lisbon?
Yeah Lisbon right now, I'm doing a a few surf fit weeks that start next week. It's perfect really because I feel 100 per cent doing these things, it's just I cannot surf.... You know, I've started doing a little bit of jogging...and I hate jogging. Hate it. [laughs] But my back's feeling pretty good, it's just those explosive movements that are playing up.
What a journey, that accident was back in November...
Yeah, yeah, six months!
Have you been down to Nazare since to check on the boys? Help out on the radios maybe?
Yeah, I've been down there a couple of times. It's a great place to train as well, there's a gym, a pool, nice place to hang out and focus. Whereas at home, there's a lot of distractions. Every time I've been there it's coincided with swells... yep, been on the radio and helping out Hugo. For all the times I've been there, I've never done much watching of Nazare – it looks fucking mental [laughs]. It almost puts you off, I'm looking at it thinking, fuck that. Why would anyone want to do that? [laughs].
After that wipeout, it went everywhere. Guess it means you've that rare accolade of not only surfing one of the biggest waves of all time at Nazare, but also one of the worse wipeouts ever...
[laughs] yeah, it's kind of frustrating to be honest. It's funny, the XXL awards have been such a huge focus for my surfing, for my career.
Wipeout of the Year, fucking hell, I almost hope I don't get itMy goals were, surf the biggest wave and then focus on ride of the year, it's a big event – as a big wave surfer, the Big Wave Awards are what you aim for. I've never been interested in being there for Wipeout of the Year and now...uhhh..I'm nominated for Wipeout of the Year and, fucking hell, I almost hope I don't get it. [laughs]. You know, it wasn't in my plan. Never wanted to be in contention for Wipeout of the Year [laughs].
Have you seen the amount of entries from Nazare for the XL awards? It's blown up this year.
Do you know what, that's really interesting because tow waves have made a resurgence as ride of the year. It's always been about; biggest wave is a tow wave, ride of the year is all about paddle. I don't know why that is. It's slightly bizarre.
Could it be down to Nazare taking prominence in headlines over the past few years? The biggest wave of all time has been surfed there, so those rides can't just be pigeon-holed away.
Yeah. It does get so much mainstream media, you can't ignore that. It was shunned by the surfing community and pushed to one side in the past. But now, it's everywhere and maybe the thinking is, we can't ignore it, Nazare gets so much press.
It is interesting. For me, as a surfer, when you're planning trips and places you want to go, you're thinking, right, where can I go that's going to get me that XXL nomination. Or ride of the year, or tube. But I'm looking at those nominees now and I'm thinking, well, maybe I want to put in as much time at Nazare now. The past few years I've thought, let's go to Jaws, Maverick's; I'm going to get my tube nomination at Mullaghmore. When actually, all I need to do now is go to Nazare [laughs].
Think Nazare being propelled into the mainstream is positive then?
It is for Europeans. It's interesting for big wave surfing as a whole. It might shift the emphasis back to tow surfing. And I don't know whether that's a positive or a negative. You've got those guys who will only paddle.
The last two years, I've definitely towed less because that's the way the awards were going. And the big wave community are kind of in all that together, it's like, ok let's all paddle more. Is tow the right representation of big wave surfing and the movement as a whole? It's a big question.
But if it's going towards tow, doesn't that change the dynamic of how surfers train, of where you surf, of who you surf with?
Yeah, yeah, I think it does. We're all trying to make careers out of it so of course you need to know where the focus is for the awards. You need to change your training and fitness. Paddle vs tow, they're almost two completely different sports.
I can be super tow fit but not be so paddle fit. The last few years, I've been hyper focused on paddle and my tow fitness took a little hit....unless you're Kai Lenny, he just does it all [laughs].
Which do you prefer, paddle or tow?
Always the classic question. I just love surfing big waves. 100 per cent happy to paddle anything. But if I am not catching any waves, for me it's all about surfing however I can. You just have to be prepared to do both. I am not that guy who would say, yeah, I'm definitely not towing. Or, I'm not paddling just towing. You have to be able to do both.
I'm set up for both, got amazing tow boards, been working on big wave paddle boards for years.
So what's next in the world of Andrew Cotton?
The Surf Fit weeks I am doing. Then focusing on my fitness and being 110 per cent for next season, which kicks off in September or October. I don't want to say ground hog year, but the XXL awards are a focus. Hopefully I'll get a wildcard into a big wave event. And hopefully getting recognised for making a big wave and not falling off [laughs].
Yeah, I guess you don't want to be remembered for a wipeout...
That's it [laughs]. Ride of the Year, biggest wave, that's the mission. It has to be. I'm hyper critical of my surfing and the lines I draw. Guess that's how I fucked my back. It was all or nothing.