Surf's Up

1 December 2013

While many Europeans were battening down the hatches and heading indoors until the storm known as Saint Jude had passed in late October, a group of surfers in Portugal made their way out into the ocean to catch what may be the biggest waves ever ridden.

Father-of-two Andrew Cotton is a part-time professional surfer, part-time plumber and lifeguard from Devon, England, who took on the monster waves at Praia do Norte, near the sleepy fishing village of Nazare.

Andrew, 34, was towed into the waves by his US surfing partner Garrett McNamara. The pair work together in big surf by towing one another into the swells using a jetski. This is because waves of this size move so quickly it is impossible to paddle into the wave using just arm power.

The record will be officially announced in May next year, at the Billabong XXL awards. “They were absolutely giant waves, I don’t know how you would even begin to measure them. It was really exciting, a big day,” Andrew said.

This potentially record-breaking achievement is also something of a payback for Andrew. He had towed surfing partner Garrett out on a jetski to ride the wave that set the same record two years ago. “I got him the Guinness world record at the same place, and now he towed me into this one. I’ve been here in Portugal for a month now and we were lucky to be here, in the right spot,”

Andrew said. Andrew has been surfing since he was nine and runs through safety procedures with his team before going out to sea. “We have a safety crew, everyone has radios. It’s not just like nipping down to your local beach – there’s years of training and practice. It’s calculated risk.”

When the big storms such as Saint Jude begin to brew, he thinks of nothing else than finding the best surf. “Britain isn’t famous for its legendary surf. England has a big surfing community, but you have to travel for the big waves. It’s a niche I’ve found myself in,” said Andrew.

But Andrew’s parents were quick to remind him he had more mundane duties to return to at home. They sent him a message after his morning’s surfing: “Darling, Just read journal of your monster wave this morning. Thrilled to bits and very proud. Well done. Keep safe as we have a new washing machine that needs plumbing in! Loads of Love, Mum & Dad.” Watch a video of Andrew surfing here.

Watch the video of Andrew surfing here.

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