Expert surfers come to Hawaii from across the globe every winter to ride the big waves found here. But one island big wave rider left Hawaii to find and ride a record setting wave located halfway around the world.
Garrett McNamara knows big waves. He has been on a mission for the past 10 years to seek out the biggest rideable surf and carve up 50-60 foot faces. But in Portugal, he found a break where the waves can get even bigger. Last month he found out just how huge the surf could get when he dropped in on a monster wave.
"It started to build and build as I was going down. I usually don't get a chance to look back, but I look back once, I look back twice, and it's still coming down. After I made a turn at the bottom and came up, a big gob of water came and landed on my shoulder really hard. It almost squashed me down and that is when I realized it was a big wave," said McNamara.
It was estimated to be a 90-foot wave, which would make it the biggest wave ever ridden -- extreme surf that only a few athletes could handle.
"I know what I'm doing could kill me," added McNamara.
Big wave riders are able to drop in on these huge sets because they're launched by Jet Skis. But in the future Jet Skis may not even be needed. McNamara not only hunts out new waves, he also seeks out new technology. One of his latest rides, a WaveJet motorized board could one day be all that's needed to take on towering surf. He's already ridden it in big North Shore waves, but also uses it to share his passion for surfing with many who have never even been on a board before.
"We take autistic kids surfing around the world and here in Hawaii. That's what I do to recharge my batteries," said McNamara.
McNamara is back in the islands to recharge before he charges the monster surf again.
In the world of extreme big wave riding, McNamara is not alone, he knows right now there are other surfers looking to top his 90-foot ride. They're hunting for a hundred foot wave.
"All these guys want to ride a 100-foot wave. I don't want to ride a 100-foot wave. I'm looking for 120 feet, so that way there is no doubt about it," said McNamara.
And he already knows where there is one. An even bigger wave than the 90-foot monster and McNamara plans to ride it next year.
A film was made of McNamara exploring and surfing the big break in Portugal last year. It will premiere at Turtle Bay on Dec. 10.