100 Foot Wave (2021–…): Season 1, Episode 1 - Sea Monsters - full transcript

Following a massive win at a competition at Maui's world-famous Jaws surf break in 2003, professional surfer Garrett McNamara comes out of retirement to pursue his lifelong dream of riding a 100-foot wave.

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The idea of surfing
on a hundred foot wave

came purely from trying
to get the rush.

There was no wave too big.

It was just looking for bigger
and bigger and bigger.

The 100 foot wave has become
this phantom legend.

Does the hundred foot wave exist?

I think, it does. Is it surfable?

I don't know.

It's a very fine line.

Surfing big waves is very exhilarating,

but quite scary too.

You have to have that mental attitude
to be willing to die.

And die again and again.

And that's wave after wave,
day after day.

You start to fear for your life.

It's pretty crazy seeing those images
of surfers on big waves.

And you wonder
how do we survive that.

Whenever you fall on a big wave,

you don't have any control
of what's about to happen.

You are blasted this way,
blasted that way,

flying up all over the place.

When you're holding on
to your last breath,

there's panic and there's fear.

The goal is to face fears,
to go straight at the fear,

to release it, to free it.

In doing this and facing this fear,

I'm going to discover a part of myself
that I didn't know was there.

Check out these monster
100 foot waves off Portugal.

The biggest wave ever surfed
as high as 100 feet.

To put that into perspective, that
is taller than an eight story building.

Surfers are always looking
for the next great thing.

It often breaks those brave
or crazy board riders.

Severe wipeouts and waves
of mind boggling height.

What happens here happens
nowhere else in the world.

The biggest wave ever surfed.

100 foot wave.


Chapter 1
Sea Monsters

My name's Garrett McNamara.
I'm an ocean explorer.

I just feel real comfortable
in the ocean.

Probably more comfortable
than I do on the land.

Garrett McNamara, known
for discovering and pioneering

and surfing the biggest wave
in the world.

Garrett is an American
professional big wave surfer.

Hawaii's big wave rider
Garrett McNamara has ridden

what could be the world's
biggest wave.

This daredevil Hawaiian
is still pushing the envelope,

chasing one final prize,
to surf the perfect wave.

Hey, baby!

- The waves are coming, huh?
- Yeah.

Tradewinds offshore?

Yeah, it's going to be giant,
like 15 miles an hour.

Perfect. All right, bye.

I've always wanted to ride
a wave over a hundred feet.

And there's not another place
in the world like Nazaré in Portugal.

That's the only place that I see
the potential of a hundred foot wave.

One, two, three.

I am getting ready physically,

spiritually to go back to Nazaré.

This year, I am very, very confident

that we're going to ride the biggest
wave ever ridden out there.

I've been surfing my whole life

and it has pretty much been a dream
the whole way.

When we were younger,
I would spend my last penny

to go hunt for a wave.

I would literally not have
any money left at the location

and I would have to sell surfboards
to get a plane ticket out of there.

I would do everything and anything
you could do

to get to that next big wave.

But at 35, I gave up on my passion
and I opened a store

because I thought
it was the responsible thing to do.

I thought it was
what we're supposed to do.

I had three children
with my first wife

and I didn't think
there was a future in surfing.

Since I had surfed
my whole life up to that point,

I felt like, okay,
I already got to surf till 35.

So working for the rest of my life
isn't too bad.

I should be very happy
to just work now.

My brother's t-shirt.
It's him on the shirt.

After about two or three years,

I was pretty miserable
going to work every day.

I was driving to the store

and I was passing perfect waves
and I was getting depressed.

I thought to myself, man, I really want
to give the surfing one more chance.

I wrote a business plan
to keep surfing,

basically a roadmap,
keep surfing was the goal.

Training, focusing, manifesting

was what I felt was the way
to achieve that.

We're in the parking lot of the store
that I very fortunately got to close.

It was doing well,
it was a successful business,

but it wasn't fun.

When friends came in talking about
how good the waves were,

I'd just be like, don't even tell me.

I don't remember it being red.

Garrett, I don't really remember
hearing from him for a while,

but when tow surfing emerged,

right around the turn of the century,

that's where Garrett
reinvented himself.

In the beginning,
there was paddle surfing

and it started out in smaller waves

where if you could just make it
outside was a challenge.

There was no jet skis,
there was no flotation,

so we went as far as we could go
with our arms.

At some point,
with all the North Shore breaks,

they're all just so crowded.

It's just so hard
to get the good wave.

It's like being in a ski resort

and there's just hundreds of people
on every run.

And then there's mountains
in the back.

Laird Hamilton, Derek Dorner
and I, we went,

"maybe if we take
my Zodiac out there,"

"we can start tapping into
these back mountains".

The very first day that we implemented
the technique in large conditions,

it was Thomas Edison
and the light bulb.

Everything lit up and we were like,
yeah, we're onto something.

I was on the beach watching
that first day.

And I was instantly like...

I'm just watching them ride wave
after wave.

I felt like I was a cartoon character
with the jaw dropped on the ground

and I'm just watching.

We knew
that it was something special.

We knew that it was going to
change the way we rode giant waves,

but I don't think we had any idea
to what extent.

When we started towing these waves,
it was like an untapped resource,

but it was kind of a risky thing,
especially with the Zodiac.

The challenge with the Zodiac
is there's a propeller

and that thing will chop you up.

So Zodiac can't really go in
and rescue you.

So the only way to catch it,
once it gets over like 50 feet tall,

is with a jet ski.

We took both the WaveRunner
and the jet ski over to Maui.

Then we found out that it can handle
as big as mother nature can send.

Using a jet ski allowed access
to these outer reefs.

And it turned out those waves breaking
out there were much, much bigger

than anyone really realized,

that there were suddenly
50 foot waves and 60 foot waves.

And they were everywhere.

Now, there was no waves
that were too big to ride.

You could surf anywhere.

Garrett really kind of burst back on
the scene in about 2001, 2002.

There was a series of swells at Jaws.

And one of them was
for the Tow-In World Cup.

There was a contest at Jaws
and I got invited somehow.

I thought winning the event
was the way to keep surfing.

I remember the very first day
that he came to Jaws,

it was probably one of the better days
that I've seen at Jaws.

The waves were really, really good.
And it was a giant day.

I'd never been to Jaws
and it was terrifying.

I was so afraid.

First wave, I panicked,
I chickened out.

And I was like, kind of embarrassed
and ashamed.

And then he put me on another wave,
right in the right spot, and I just ran.

Got to a channel, kicked down.

And then the next one, yeah.

And the next one started to turn,
started to have fun.

And right at the horn,
we got the third wave.

We ended up winning.
It was a 70 000 dollars purse.

The highest purse ever won with the
biggest waves ever competed in.

And then I wanted to get barreled.

I saw so many guys riding
so many waves, not in the barrel.

And so the next year,
went and got barreled.

Holy shit!

I was in the water shooting
a big 35 millimeter camera rig.

It was like a 50-foot day.

And I turned on the water
and I just zoomed in enough,

and I just saw this wave barreling.
It just spit.

And then this little guy came out

and it was Garrett
with his hands over his head.

That was the deepest anyone had
ever gotten inside a barrel

out at Peahi and come out.

It was something that we hadn't
been doing quite like that.

We had been moving
a lot more slowly.

We were just trying to survive it.

I have a saying,
ride to ride another day.

And I think Garrett's saying is,
ride to ride today

and maybe not tomorrow.

When Garrett caught that giant barrel,

I was sitting in a tree with my younger
brother and my best friend.

And we could not believe our eyes.

Part of me thinks he came
from another dimension.

I got sucked up into the barrel

and then, like a cannon,
just whoosh.

Opened my eyes, looked up,
my hands up.

Thank you, God.

That ride was like, the biggest
barrel ever gotten to date.

It's still probably the best barrel
ever ridden at Jaws.

That stands the test of time
almost 20 years later

as one of the biggest, best barrels
that any human being has ever ridden.

That wave revitalized
my surfing career.

I closed the store
and then it just went bananas.

He won some awards with that wave.
It was massive.

The winner is Garrett McNamara.

That was the turning point for him
to say: "You know what?"

"I'm going to focus on catching
the biggest wave in the world."

I'm a little lost for words.
It happens once in a while.

He got so focused on chasing
the biggest, gnarliest waves.

Anytime there was a swell anywhere,

you knew Garrett
was going to be there.

And he was frothy.

I mean, he went mad.
He just went everywhere.

Garrett's really found his niche

by being somewhere acceptable
by the surf industry,

but largely being a maverick
out doing his own thing.

He's never, ever been comfortable
just being part of the surfing herd.

And because of it,
he's really stood out

and had one
of the most spectacular careers

that's come out of big wave surfing.

Holy fuck, it's Garrett McNamara!

There's traditional surfing,
and there's extreme surfing.

I prefer to do extreme surfing,

put your life on the line
every time you go out.

Everybody always just thought
I was crazy, out of my mind,

but they don't realize
that I was focused.

I had a plan every big swell,
I was going after something.

I'm in search of the biggest waves
to ride.

And that'll take me all over the world.

I'll ride a hundred foot wave.

Actually, I have no interest
in a hundred foot wave.

I want a 120 footer. That way they'll
be no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Big wave surfing has been one
of the strangest evolutions

just over the last 20 years.

There was a time when the only place
that had big waves

was Waimea Bay in Hawaii.

And every few years just out of the
mist would emerge another place.

Mavericks suddenly emerged.

And Jaws really showed
that there were 60 foot waves,

70 foot waves, 80 foot waves.

Cortes Bank put the whole idea
of the hundred foot wave out there.

And the most recent one to shatter
everyone's notions of big waves

was Nazaré.

And for sure,
Garrett was the first to go there.

When I met Garrett,
he had all these brilliant ideas

and all these goals and all these
things he wanted to accomplish.

And one of them was riding
the hundred foot wave.

I really wanted to help him
get organized.

And so I traveled everywhere
with him, every swell.

I was always there.
We were inseparable.

At that time, nobody knew
about Nazaré.

It was not a surfing town.

I've been involved in surfing
for a long time.

I was at Surfing Magazine
in the eighties.

I did a lot of traveling in the nineties

and a lot of surf exploration
around the world.

I had never heard of Nazaré
prior to Garrett.

In fact, I'd never even heard
of big waves in Portugal.

First time I heard about Nazaré,
I got an email from Dino.

He was working
for the city hall of Nazaré.

I was walking and I stopped near
the cliff to see the view.

And I took a picture of a perfect,
incredible wave.

I didn't realize how special that wave
and that picture was

until I arrive home.

I immediately think that I need
to do something.

I found Garrett's website

and I sent him an email
with this picture

saying that we had a giant wave.

That's over a hundred feet.

He asked me, can you come see
if my wave was big and good?

And he sent me a picture
and it was amazing.

We emailed back and forth
for about five years.

Never really got anywhere.

And then Nicole saw the email chain.

That looks big.

And she said, what is this?

And I said, some guy in Nazaré
wants me to come check out his wave.

I think he had just been watching
these waves his whole life

and he wanted to see somebody
surf them.

When I was a kid, I was always
passionate about the giant waves.

And that was a passion
that I cannot explain you.

Every time that we had a giant swell,
I walk to the lighthouse,

spend there four hours or five hours
just enjoying.

And I always want to share that.

So I found the email

and I was like:
"Do you want to go?"

And he said, yes.
And then in a month we were there.

It was just Garrett and I,
and we had zero expectations.

We were in love

and it didn't matter what was here,
we were going to have a good time.

So literally the first place we went
when we arrived was the lighthouse.

This is incredible. Beautiful.

So we get out, we could barely open
the car door,

cause the wind was just pounding us.

So this is the first day.

This is crazy.

You feel the power from here.
You can feel the shaking.

That thing's probably 50, 60 feet tall.

You're gonna die right there,
guaranteed die.

This is incredible.
This is big and dangerous.


It's going to be a fun trip.

At that time in my life, I would almost
surf anything that broke

and nothing was too big
and nothing was too dangerous.

I was real hungry and real focused

and determined to find
this hundred foot wave.

And I thought with Nazaré,
it was possible.

I got lucky.

The one thing that defines Nazaré,

the unique aspect under the water
is the canyon.

It's three miles deep, three times
the size of the Grand Canyon.

When the swell comes down
on the canyon,

it moves faster
and gets compressed.

And that's what draws the waves
and magnifies them.

They cross up at the right time
and it just creates this wedge.

40 to 60 foot wave is all
of a sudden 80 plus.

These waves come out
of a 10 000 foot deep trench

and just lurch up out of the ocean.

I mean, they're basically
sea monsters.

The scariest thing overall
is the unpredictability.

It's a hundred foot beach break
and it's over sand.

What that means is waves
break everywhere.

There's almost no predictability to it.

Whereas Jaws is a solid reef bottom

and the wave will break in the same
spot just about every time.

Nazaré is very different than almost
any other spot in the world.

Jaws, Waimea Bay, Mavericks,

they all have a big channel,

which is a spot off to the side
where the water's super deep,

where waves will never break.

And you're able to sit there
on your surfboard or in a boat

or jet ski and just watch
what's going on.

And if you do ride a wave, you can
get off to safety rather quickly.

Nazaré is different because there
is no channel for you to go to

where it's safe.

Oftentimes you're going
through the rinse cycle

where you have to keep going
through wall after wall of whitewater.

It looks totally unrideable.
There's no safe zones.

I don't know how I was thinking
that we could ride it.

But luckily we stayed.

So we have big storms forming
in the Northern part of the Atlantic.

But this is a more typical
winter condition for us.

We went with Garrett
to the Hydrographic Institute,

where he learnt the process through
which big waves in Nazaré are formed.

We went out on the sea
with a probe.

And thus he found out
which were the best spots.

19, 20. We're in the canyon?

We need the cameraman right here.

He knew exactly,
by looking at the land,

if the depth was 100, 200,
or 20 meters.

And thus he found out which were
the best spots to catch

the big waves.

That's the wave. That's where
it'll break. See the swells?

Garrett came, he saw really
the magic of Nazaré

and he literally put his life on hold
and he studied these waves.

He learned these waves.
He put the time in

because he believed
in this place.

I guess I was just really hungry
for adventure at that time of my life.

You got to see the wave out there.
It's huge.

I don't know. I think probably 100 feet
waves are out there right now.

Did anyone come here before Garrett?

Yes. Of course,
a lot of surfers were here

and it was crazy,

but nobody thought that it was
possible to ride those waves.

So the first time I witnessed Nazaré,
it was in 2005.

When we walked up, and it looked like
a hundred feet, perfect pipeline.

I'd never seen anything so perfect.

And it looked like
you could make the wave,

but then you would
get washed up onto the beach.

Ross Clarke-Jones was pretty much
my mentor

when it came to huge waves,
his approach.

And for some reason
he decided not to go out.

I think mainly because it looked
possible to ride,

but not possible to rescue.

I regret not going out to get that one
wave in Nazaré the first time.

But the skis weren't right,
they were like puddle jumpers.

No one was either keen or capable
of trying to rescue someone back then.

The first year we went to Portugal,

we decided to build a brand
with the town of Nazaré.

It was called
the North Canyon Project.

When we build the project in 2010,

Nazaré was really known
and famous because of its summer.

Because it's a really beautiful place
with a lot of traditions.

The beach is amazing in the summer,
but during the winter days,

it was a really quiet place.

And that's why we built the project,
to show the waves to the world,

and to give reasons for the people
to visit Nazaré also in the winter.

Just like Jaws is on the map as one
of the biggest waves in the world,

Nazaré, the goal was to put it
on the map also.

Just like a knife to cut the waves.

There was no money, no sponsors,
no nothing.

What we did have was the full support
of the city hall.

It's a big pleasure.

The first year was real bare bones.

The main guy was Paulo Caldeira.

He is pretty much the only reason
we made it to Nazaré

because he organized it all.

Then we had Pedro Pisco.
He was our right hand.

He was in charge of getting us
where we needed to go

and what we needed to do
and how we needed to do it.

Jorge Leal got brought in
by the city hall

to just document whatever
we were doing.

He was mainly a still photographer, but
he knew how to hold a video camera.

Celeste supported
the North Canyon Project

and she gave us so much good food.

Thank you.

Then there was Pitbull.

When Garrett arrived to Nazaré,
everything was new

and different for us.

And he start putting people in places

and he decided
that I should be a safety driver.

I never went on a jet ski,
almost all my life.

So I was learning.

Garrett taught all of these guys
how to handle a ski

and how to take care of a ski,
how to maintain a ski,

how to put the sled on,
how to put the straps on.

That was all from the first project.

We were such a tight team.
We did everything together,

planned everything together.

The early days, it was really easy.

It was just us.
So there was no distractions.

There weren't very many people
or businesses that supported

the project in the first early years

because they didn't believe
what was out there.

Hey, Garrett. This is Lino.

But Lino believed in what we were
doing and saw what was possible.

Big wave surfing is particular because
it's not the kind of surfing

where you can grab a board under
your arm and go do it.

It needs a team. It needs logistics,

jet skis, proper boards,
proper suits.

There are no big wave
surfers working alone.

Lino did work
for the city hall basically.

When the project came in, the city hall
didn't have money to fund anything.

So Lino actually supported everything.

In the beginning, the community
in Nazaré was like:

"Who are these people?
What are they going to do there?"

The people from Nazaré have suffered
a lot in the past because of the waves.

Lots of people have died.
There have been accidents.

Nazaré was a small village,
a fisherman village.

In the past, there was no harbor

and the boats had to enter
on the sand.

The big waves, they put fear
on the fishermen.

Many times, fishermen died
during that process.

My great, great grandfather
died on the sea

and that's the history of most
of the families of Nazaré.

All my family are fishermen.

And if you are going to the sea,
you work 10 hours.

When you come back,
it's the big waves.

And sometimes the boats fall down.

And sometimes people die.
My uncle died in a ship.

It's danger.

It's not easy to look at the same
sea that brought so much pain

to these people as a place
for crazy people to play with jet skis

and boards.

The scariest day was...

Garrett didn't know the place
very well yet.

He was by himself without a jet ski.

And he was like:

"I'm gonna standup paddle from
the village all the way around."

"And I'll catch a small wave
on the other side and I'll come in."

And he decided to do this
in his board shorts in November.

The day that Garrett decided
he wanted to surf,

the waves were not that big, but
the inside was so much current.

And I tried to stop him, but he did:
"No, I'm going."

"People, trust me. I'll do it."

So he paddles around.

He catches a wave and he wipes out.

I was panicking.

I was thinking
that he wouldn't make it.

I was swimming in
and it kept sucking me back out.

I was getting very winded.

He had a really hard time getting
to the beach.

And he was exhausted.

If he didn't make it to the beach,
we didn't have a jet ski,

there was nobody to save him.
He would've just been swept to sea.

I think that day was decisive for him
to learn what Nazaré is all about.

This wave is powerful.

This is nothing to mess around with.

You got to have a really good driver.

You gotta know exactly
what you're doing.

It's so gnarly.

That showed Garrett the respect
that you have to have

when you go out there.

My only concern
is the safety of everybody.

I was really concerned
about what I did,

sending the picture to Garrett,
inviting Garrett to come.

And I have all the weight
in my shoulders of the responsibility

if something bad happened
to someone.

You might fall
because the rocks are...

- Slippery?
- Yeah, slippery.

Be careful because the rocks might...

Go down, go down.

We were a little afraid
of what could happen.

We didn't know Garrett that well.

And we thought that if this go wrong,
somebody's going to die.

We knew that all the big wave spots
around the world

already had guys dying.

The power of the wild California waves
has been a magnet for surfers

from all over the world.

Tonight, one of the very best,
Mark Foo, has died.

32 year old Kirk Passmore
of Haleiwa was last seen

wiping out on a huge wave.

Amid the wild waves, a tragedy.

A surfer found floating face down
and unconscious in Stillwater Cove.

We knew that guys died here
and there.

And we thought Nazaré
was more dangerous.

If somebody dies, somebody is going
to come to us and say:

"What the hell?
What did you guys do?"

On the first day that Garrett went out,

it really was giant

and we were on the top
of the lighthouse, just shaking.

We were like, really scared because
we were responsible for that.

We were on the cliff
and we were seeing the waves

and we're trying to guess the size.

And then we saw the jet skis arriving

and because the jet skis were there,

you had something to compare,
you know, finally.

And we all were looking at each other,
like, what is this?

The waves were looking huge.

When we saw Garrett on the water,
we finally understood

the size of those waves.

Okay, go!

When Garrett caught a wave,
it was magical.

We were like, the guy survived!

For us it was like a dream come true

because we really didn't know
if that could be possible or not,

somebody could surf that or not.

We understood that we had found
the gold.

And we went to the harbor
and he was so relaxed.

Like, this is doable. This is nice.

Garrett fell in love with Nazaré.

The corner must be fun right now.
See those little waves?

So we stayed that first year,
learning as much as possible.

Look how beautiful it is.

During that time, my brother came
to Nazaré to surf with Garrett.

2010. Yes.

Yeah. In 2010, that was
my first time to Nazaré.

I actually was in Guadalajara, Spain

and I was playing a season
of volleyball there.

Garrett said, yeah,
come by for the weekend.

So I went for three days
over to Nazaré.

We had surfed together and he said,
"you surf well enough".

"I can teach you how
to drive the jet ski."

"I can tow you into some
of the biggest waves of your life"

"and you can just learn."

And I was just blown away.
I didn't know what was going on.

I tied it too much. You with
the He-Man grip, the gorilla grip.

Let me see your hand.
Give me your hand.

You got more meat.
Yours are like salchichas.

My first impression of the waves
was why are we here?

Like, what am I looking at?

Can I be out in those waves
and have fun

and not just be getting
washed around?

And it was mostly just faith
in Garrett at that point.

I'm the only guy you listen to out here

and the only guy who pretty much
talks unless you have a question.

Nobody tells anybody what to do,
except me.

- I'm serious. I'm not joking.
- I know.

You don't listen to me on this

only when you're absolutely 100% sure
that what I'm telling you to do

is gonna kill you. Other than that,
you listen to me in the water.

He hadn't steered me wrong.
And he still hasn't really.

He was just egging me to go out
and this is what we're going to do.

So I'll put you on the wave.
We do this, super easy.

We go, catch some waves.
I'm like, all right, let's do it.

Just take your time and relax.

Hey, stay here.
You're going to go like that.

Go! Cut back, cut back!

- How was that?
- That was perfect.

So yeah, he brought me out
into the waves

and I just got a couple of waves.

He drives so perfect.
He put me right on the spot.

15 feet, 20 feet at the biggest,
the face.

Yeah, that was
my first tow-in experience

getting a little bit bigger waves.

So we just got done towing

and CJ went out for his first time.
How was it out there, CJ?

I am officially hooked.
I gotta work on my upper body strength.

Couldn't hold on any longer.

Just the stamina.
You just gotta do it a few times.

I was getting that choppy smacking
feeling on the drop, going pretty fast.

The hardest place in the world to train.

If you could do it here,
you can do it anywhere.

Technically I'm the first girl
to ever tow surf in Nazaré.

My dad's a surfer.
So I grew up surfing small waves,

but I love standup paddling
and I love standup paddle surfing.

The day Garrett took me out,
it was not a pretty day.

It was freezing cold.
It was stormy.

And he says to me, don't worry.
We'll just tow around a little.

And then this wave just came
out of nowhere.

He's pulling me up.
I'm not even fully up,

and he's saying: "Go, go!"

"Let go!" So I held on too long
and it flung me down the wave.

But I was like a stone,
I just skipped on the face of this wave.

And then you can see,
I go over the falls

and you can see my little arm
sticking out of the wave

when it's crashing down.

I was kind of disoriented
cause I was so cold.

And then at that point I was kind
of towards shore

and he's like: "Stand up!"

But it's just sucking you back out
to sea, it doesn't spit you out.

And then finally I got far enough up
that this little wave pushed me up

and you can see me like a starfish,
just like floating.

I couldn't breathe for like three days.

I really have PTSD.

Like just going out on small waves,
freaks me out.

I love to breathe. I just don't want
to be held under water.

I love breathing so much.

People really take it for granted.

Where's Chris?
Where was Chris going?

He's gonna go dive with Billy.

For a husband and wife
who work together,

we've learned how to really effectively
communicate with each other.

So this is really cool.

Garrett is an idea man and I'm more
of the practical woman.

So sometimes the idea and the
practicality and the logic interfere,

but we have an amazing life
and we've been really blessed.

This one spot around the corner
is one of the most beautiful places.

There's a pod of dolphins
that we hang out with a lot.

Swimming with the dolphins here
in Hawaii, it's just euphoric.

You're just connecting with nature,

in the ocean and the saltwater.

Just super special,

especially with the family.

Garrett's very intense,

but at the same time, he's a very
loving, caring, sensitive person.

And he loves his family.

I really don't know any other big
wave surfer who travels with his family

the way we do, but it's challenging
for him, for sure.

Garrett's not at peace with himself.

I feel a deep sense of responsibility.

I should just focus more on
my family and being present,

but I still feel like I need to do more
for some reason.

I know my purpose.
It's riding big waves.

In November 2010, the largest swell
of the season appeared

on weather maps.

That's a good swell.

So this big swell was coming

and we're like, okay,
who's Garrett gonna work with?

We needed somebody with experience
to drive the jet ski.

I definitely wasn't towing him in,
especially after my episode.

And we heard
about this Irish tow team.

Big wave riding is an opportunity that
even the most experienced surfer

might turn down.

But for two Plymouth surfers, it's more
a case of the bigger, the better.

Normally you'd have to sort of travel
to the other side of the world

to surf waves that sort of size.

Hawaii, Australia, places like that.

But it's sort of surprising that they're
actually right in your backyard.

We were sort of surfing big waves,
or trying to surf big waves,

but there wasn't really
any professional big wave surfers

in Ireland at the time.

So we didn't have anyone to show us
or tell us anything

about how to set a jet ski up.

We were just watching YouTube videos

and trying to work out
how you tow surf.

At that time, these big waves,
they only existed in people's minds

in Hawaii and California.

They didn't exist in Ireland.

Before I met Cotton,
I was struggling to find somebody

who had the same vision as me,
that wanted to ride bigger waves.

And I was sponsored by a company
who made surfboards

and Cotton was the guy
that fixed the surfboards.

And he also was working on a building
site as a plumber's apprentice.

He told me he'd ridden a couple
of big waves

and he wanted to see what this
was like. So I invited him over.

So within about the first week
of Cotton coming to Ireland,

I took him out to Mullaghmore Head

cause it was a gigantic swell coming.

We're gonna go tow surfing.
Should be fun.

I'd never driven a jet ski
and I wasn't the quickest learner.

And I was having a terrible time.

He was struggling to get me
on the waves.

So I then got on to the jet ski
to put him on a couple of waves.

Then like that bang, bang, bang,
he got like three waves.

So then he's like, right,
I want to get you one.

He gets on the ski. And there was
a big wave coming through,

like it was a proper 40 foot thick,
big, angry thing.

I can remember like in slow motion
just thinking

this is going terribly wrong.

Fuck, fuck!
Get the phone. Jesus!

The wave swung wide
an extra like hundred meters

and I couldn't outrun it.

I was like, I've got to get off
this here, like jump.

He positioned the ski
where I should have been.

And basically he went for a surf
with the ski and I didn't.

When I look back at that footage,
like, what are you doing?

But I didn't know what I was doing.

I panicked. It took me about
20 minutes to get back to shore.

And then I spotted the ski and him
on top of it way off the coast.

And the jet ski wouldn't start.

Somebody who happened to be
onlooking from a nearby house

called the coast guard.

Helicopter is now overhead.

They moved him from the jet ski
and took him out of there.

But the ski was gone, it disappeared.
That was the end of it.

It was a pinnacle point.
because for me,

it was like, give up now,
just like suck it all off

and just actually ask for your job
back and go back

or you got to really make it happen.

It was actually thanks to Al.

He was like, we're going to do this.
We'll get a new ski.

We'll come back harder.

So we surfed big waves in Ireland
for two years or three years.

And then that's when Garrett
reached out to me and Al.

October 2010, we had surfed
this new location off the coast

and it was really big
and really perfect.

And it got a lot of media attention.

And at that time Garrett was
in Portugal

and I think he'd seen this.

Look at that! Holy shit!

And at the time I believe he was
struggling to find people

who wanted to surf Nazaré.

When Garrett went to Nazare
the first time

I was actually doing
the standup paddle world tour.

And I can remember him asking me
to join him to go.

I think he couldn't find anybody else
to go at the time.

He was out telling me
and all the guys here are like,

"I'm not going there."

Yeah. Okay. Sure.
There's a giant wave in Portugal.

I don't like cold water
and halfway around the world.

It's like, no.

I tried to recruit a bunch of people.
A lot of people.

Nobody came.

I don't think I'd met Garrett
before this point,

but when he phoned me,
I immediately said yes.

How do you feel your level
of driving is?

We get by with what we know.

I don't know what you would say
we're capable of.

I think if you were here, maybe you
could teach us quite a few things.

I was kind of out of my depth.

I wasn't really that confident
on the ski.

And I think Garrett realized that.

He was on a search for people
that were obviously good,

but also willing to learn.

Andrew Cotton and Al Mennie came.
We became fast friends.

Meeting Garrett was kind of surreal.

We went from having the worst luck
or driving skills ever

to like being asked to drive around
Nazaré on a jet ski

with one of your surfing heroes.

That next morning, Garrett drove
the car up the hill to the lighthouse.

And at that time the lighthouse was
a kind of out of town area.

No one really went there. There's
a dusty road down to this old fort

down on a very prominent headland
off the west coast of Portugal.

And there's a real feeling about
the west coast of Portugal.

It's an end of the world feeling.

You feel like you're on the edge
of the world. It's raw.

On that morning,
I remember standing down there

and the explosions of the waves
hitting the rock

in front of the headland
were earth-shattering.

The waves were hitting this rock
and pouring up over the top.

It felt like it was almost reaching
for us.

It was like reaching up.

As it got to the edge of the path,
it just dropped down

and you're like, "oh".

Garrett actually asked the question,
he said:

"You are doing this
for your own reasons. Aren't you?"

Which made me realize
that he understood

that this place is very dangerous.

He understands the ocean
in terms of big waves

as well as if not better than any
other big wave surfer on the planet.

So for him to tell us that this
is serious, this is dangerous,

that really made me go:
"How dangerous is this?"

I think part of the reason
that big wave surfing resonates

with so many people

is because everyone's been
to the beach and played around

in two foot waves and been tossed
around by this little wave

that will hold you down
against your will.

And if a three foot wave
is going to do that,

what's a 60 foot wave
going to do to me?

Falling on a sixty plus foot wave
is like being in a car accident

for a solid minute.

It's just the most violent
rag dolling experience.

If you try to fight it,

you feel like your arms and legs
are just going to get ripped clean off.

It is so much power.

You're underwater getting beat
and you don't know which way's up.

It gets dark down there

and you're just getting spun
and you just let your last breath out.

There's always this feeling:
"God, is this ever going to let up?"

It's really terrifying.

The reality is that riding big waves is
dangerous and you can die from it.

And people do. It's not a joke.


I got the rush fully,
like more than I do in the waves.

- Let's just go home then.
- Yes, it's done. We're done.

Coming from Ireland, I was
a self-sufficient big wave surfer.

Everything I did was by myself.
I organized everything myself.

But turning up in the harbor in Nazaré,

all these local Portuguese men,
they were setting up jet skis for us.

They were like towing them around.
What is this?

I started to realize this was a huge
passionate endeavor by the local crew.

Most people can't get the funding
to run a local contest,

local small wave surf contest,

but they had managed to get
this crew of people

and the backing of their government

to fund and help support Nazaré
as a big wave surf destination

without even knowing
if it was possible to ride at size.

There was definitely an air of concern
from the local guys

and you could see it in them
and you could feel it in them.

And rightly so. Nazaré is
a very dangerous place.

The first time that we surfed together
in Nazaré,

there's a lot of pressure.

You doubt yourself.

Your anxiety, your fear,

you're stressing that the waves
are going to be big.

Are you going to be good enough?

The system we were trying
to develop for doing this safely

was that we were going to use one
surfer being towed by one driver

and another jet ski to track the first
team as a safety precaution.

That hadn't happened before
in the world of surfing.

This is my first time.
I'm on the ski.

Garrett's driving and we go
down to the rock.

We were rounded about three
seconds and Garrett's going:

"Get on the rope!"

And I'm going: "What?"

And there's like fifty foot peak
just going everywhere.

This was like a war zone,

peaks and waves coming in
from every angle

It felt like you were being hunted.
That's honestly what it felt like.

And he's shouting: "Get on the rope!"

And I'm like: "Would you shut up?
Let me have a look at it."

Nazaré isn't like any other big wave
spot. It's a different animal.

It comes in taller and taller

and wobbles and it moves
and it shifts

and it breaks a bit and a bit more
and then it goes waaah!

What'd you think of the waves?

It looks heavy.
That's the first time I've seen it.

So it's nerves and fear.

We've surfed and towed beaches,
but nothing like that.

When we first got there, a couple
of really big waves came

and it seemed really big

and it just seemed to get bigger
and bigger and more water moving.

When we first drove out this morning,

Garrett was like a kid at Christmas
and I'm sitting there going:

"Look at how crazy it looks!"

I heard you were the king of the
morning, you got the biggest one.

I think a big one. Did I?
It seemed quite big.

As I started looking down the wave,
all I heard was Garrett shouting:

"To the bottom. Go to the bottom."

He's driving the ski.

It's definitely been
a memorable session.

There's no doubt about that.
I'll never forget it.

It was big.
And a lot of water moving.

And the drops were...
Never got to the bottom.

Never got to the bottom. Right?
Did you get to the bottom?

I don't know.

And then all of a sudden
you start riding.

You keep going down.
It's like, scary.

Scary, right?

From speaking
to the locals afterwards,

there was a real turning point
that day.

When Garrett fell on a wave,

both Andrew and I immediately
ski straight in after him.

We went straight in
through all the chaos

where all the huge whitewater
is rushing through,

where we had never been before
and we got him

and then we raced all the way to shore
and we fought our way back out.

And I think that was the first time
that ever really happened.

Nobody had really had to go in
and do that sort of a rescue before,

but it made us realize
that this was possible.

You were a champion in there.

I was on the back of his ski
and I felt really safe.

Well, that's good,
at least you know that as a result.

The first day I surfed with Cotty,

I really had an amazing connection
with him and really felt comfortable.

At that point,
I was a plumber from Devon.

Not many professional surfers would
have trusted a plumber from Devon

to go tow him in Nazaré.

He gave me the time,
he didn't care where I was from,

my background.

So I think that just speaks volumes
to me.

It was just the right time for me.

I was just at a point
where I hated plumbing

and I was just so into my big waves.

It was just a dream
to be doing it at all.

Surfing with Garrett in Nazaré
opened my mind

to how you approach a big wave,

not just how you physically
approach it,

but how you mentally approach it,

what you can survive

and what that takes to surf
the biggest waves in the world.

I was just like a sponge.
It was just amazing.

So what's next for you?

I've got to get home.
I'm a plumber.

Gotta get home.

- I've got two jobs.
- So you're used to barrels?

Used to lots of water
leaking everywhere.

Today's our last day.
And we're going to go paddle around

and just really get to know
the canyon

and its surroundings.

And just enjoy it
and get ready to come back.

I got invited here to Nazaré by Dino

and the city hall and it far exceeded
my expectations.

The waves are giant, powerful
and challenging,

and I consider it a second home now.

I've surfed waves all over the world,

chasing swells everywhere.

There's all these guys searching
for this hundred foot wave,

and everybody wants to ride
the hundred foot wave.

I know it's here and I know it's
for real and I know it will happen.

So mark my words,
we'll be riding one out here someday.