GARRETT McNamara makes the XXL again after being towed into a bomb off Nazare in Portugal by Andrew Cotton. It is being called 90ft, making it one of the biggest waves ever ridden.
"At the end of the ride when it landed on me it felt like a ton of bricks" said Garrett. "At that moment it brought it all into perspective and I was very thankful to have made it because one mistake here could be your last."
"There had been a couple of huge sets hitting the cliffs before this one swung in" said Cotty. "It's when the canyon's refraction combines with the running swell that you get the big ones, sort of a combination effect."
"We were without the main safety ski and no helicopter back up." Said Al Mennie, who was running water support. "All we had was a ski to tow and another ski which doesn't work in white water, plus Nicole spotting for us on the cliff top. Instead of yesterday's five man team on the water, we were only three.
"We saw the set coming, a three wave cluster much bigger than all the other sets we'd seen that day. The first wave was big, the second bigger and the third a monster. It was that third wave which Garrett surfed and then immediately afterwards the ocean sank back as if it had spent itself."
"Both Cotty and I rode two big ones in the 60ft+ range and then when Garrett got on the rope, a wave, maybe 30ft bigger came out of the canyon, it was meant to be. I had the best seat in the house as he dropped down the face of the biggest wave I've ever seen. It was incredible."
"Keep in mind Cotty and I had just ridden set waves which were around 60 feet or so. Nowyou know when you go surfing on a normal say 6ft day and you might get a random 10ft set? Well as if it was meant to be, a set of three waves stood up on the horizon. Nicole was going nuts on the radio 'huge set approaching' she screamed.
"Cotty pulled Garrett up and I followed closely behind on the safety ski. We have a system where the safety driver follows the other ski and as soon as the surfer goes on the wave, both skis go in one after another so that if the first ski misses the rescue the other is seconds behind them.
"The sets so far were 60ft plus, this set appeared to have at least another 20ft on that. I faded back and they headed out to swing in, It was effortless on both Cotty and Garrett's part, in the perfect spot right on the peak of what was to become the biggest wave ridden at Nazare."
So how does this happen? 60ft set waves suddenly hitting 90ft? Under normal circumstances the largest waves in any swell can be up to twice the significant height of the average set wave. At Nazare the bathymetry conspires to further exaggerate this magnification through what is known as constructive interference.
In simple terms, as the long period swell passes over the shallower edge of the deep water canyon it slows and bends, travelling back into the path of oncoming waves further up the coast, as these waves (from the same swell) meet they produce significantly larger peaks with that typical a-frame shape.
When these waves double-up, it's pretty much a case of one plus one equals two. The size ramps up and the wave transforms from a straight line of swell into a mutant peak.