Garrett McNamara: the legendary surfer that put Nazaré on the map of big waves

He is one of the most experienced big wave surfers on the planet. Discover the most popular quotes, thoughts, and sayings from the one and only Garrett McNamara.

Garrett McNamara was born on August 10, 1967, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, roughly 150 miles away from the Atlantic Ocean.

McNamara's surfing career may very well have started when his mother "forced" him and his younger brother to move to Oahu, in Hawaii. He was 11 years old. Soon after, young Garrett fell in love with the sea and began surfing small waves.

However, as he got better, he started going bigger and bigger. When he was 15, "GMAC" wiped out for the first time in a big wave at Sunset Beach. The incident made him promise he would never go out again on a big day.

But, one year later, with the right board, a friend pushed him to Sunset to challenge his inner demons. McNamara was scared, but he ended up catching and riding several big waves. And from that moment on, Garrett knew he was going to do it for the rest of his life.

At 17, he turned pro. At the age of 20, GMAC broke his back and nearly lost his life. Then at 33, tired of not winning contests in small wave, he retired from professional surfing.

Two years later, he closed his surf shop and returned to the ocean, only to focus on big wave riding. Garrett had a map and a plan to be successful.

"It was like a dream. I used to draw these cartoon characters of tiny guys on giant waves doing big maneuvers. Now, we were the cartoon characters," McNamara once revealed.

Garrett McNamara quickly understood that he was meant to ride the thundering surf. He began training hard, learned breathing techniques, started practicing yoga and meditation and improved his surf forecasting skills.

Garrett McNamara: riding a giant wave at Nazaré's Praia do Norte, in Portugal | Photo: Silva/Red Bull

On November 1, 2011, he broke the Guinness World Record for the biggest wave ever surfed in Praia do Norte, a beach break located in the Portuguese fishing village of Nazaré.

The surf spot is powered by an underwater canyon that funnel's the swell's energy and increases the size of the wave when the water hits shallow waters.

McNamara, who is able to stay underwater for more than four minutes, took off on a historic 78-foot giant wave and rode it flawless until the end. Since then, he became part of the local community and a popular and charismatic figure in Portugal.

Today, Garrett McNamara continues to ride giants, but he also dedicates his time to driving jet skis and rescuing other athletes caught in tricky situations.

Take a look at the most inspiring quotes by Garrett McNamara:


The best training for surfing is surfing. And getting pounded.

I went to Alaska a while back and surfed the waves generated from a glacier calving and, ever since then, I've never been afraid in the ocean. I feel very comfortable in the ocean.

It's fun to do things for the first time. It is like being in love for the first time.

The first day I went down the cliff, I saw the biggest waves of I've ever seen.

It was only when I got in the wave that I saw the size. I was in awe.

It looks smooth, but it's not. It's like bouncing down moguls. You hit every ripple in the water.

We were surfing in zones we haven't surfed, so it was a little overwhelming.

Nazaré is the most challenging, dangerous wave I've ever surfed. It is the only place in the world in which a giant canyon reaches all the way to the beach.

You just have to stay in the moment, and focused on what you're doing. We're really comfortable here, but some of those waves...

Riding one of these waves is like being chased down by a moving avalanche.

I feel so blessed and honored to have been invited to explore this canyon and its special town. The waves in Nazaré are such a mystery.

I feel very strongly that we, as athletes, should not endorse alcohol.

When there's no rush, it's probably not 100 feet.

My idea of what meant a perfect wave changed. It doesn't have to be 100 feet high, or even 60 feet. I can ride a 20-foot barrel and be content.

For big wave surfing, you've got to want it. But you might not come home.

Wipeouts are inevitable.

Fear builds character.

For the average person, a big wave could easily be hell.

I always loved being pounded by waves, and not worrying about the outcome, but I've realized I am not invincible.

The barrel is what I live for. I think it's all surfer's favorite place to be.

I have never seen many sharks.

I believe each one of us is born with a unique talent that separates us from everybody else.

In Hawaii, you got two choices: you go left to the beach, the most amazing fun of your life or go right to school. I went left a lot.

If a child becomes a surfer, you have an ocean protector for life.

In surfing, the egos are much bigger than the waves. We're all running around pounding our chests. It's really sad.

I do my best not to compare anyone to anyone.

I haven't found my limit yet.

I keep trying to listen when I'm in a big wave, but I really don't hear anything.

The only time that I really tend to face fear and start praying is in Tahiti when I'm going full speed for the reef.


Take a look at the best quotes about surfing.

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