Garrett McNamara, who also goes by ‘GMAC,’ is an American professional big wave surfer, and extreme waterman, known for breaking the world record for largest wave ever surfed around the world. He has been a passionate surfer since his family moved from Pittsfield, Mass. to the beaches of Hawaii and he has never looked back. McNamara's professional career spans over two decades around the pacific and beyond.
Don’t let McNamara’s laid-back, surfer persona fool you: as an professional athlete in his mid-forties, an age at which most are thinking of stepping to the sideline, he's ramping it up a notch. His recent world record wave ride in Portugal was on a wave ranging from 90-100 feet in height, and for him it was just another day at work.
That day that was six-plus years in the making. McNamara was tipped off to the wave by an email sent from a small village on the coast of Portugal. A local that wanted to know if the wave, a geographic phenomenon off the coast of Portugal called the North Canyon, was worth riding.
Living with the constant quest of riding the “barrel” or “tube” of the wave, McNamara's adventures include surfing in Alaska on a wave caused by the falling ice of a glacier into the frozen arctic waters. McNamara admits it was "a little crazy, but worth the risk, because the falling ice creates perfect waves."
He credits his survival to planning and fitness along, with his ability to hold his breath. McNamara is currently taking classes so he can surpass his personal best of 4.5 minutes under water.
“You have to survive the beating the wave hands out,” said McNamara, “and sometimes the bottom is a bit rough, like a coral reef, so you really just take a series of breaths whenever you can.”
Over the past 10 years, McNamara has been on a mission to catch the biggest, best waves on the planet, and he has succeeded. He is arguably the most committed ocean explorer in the world. You can put him in any situation in the water and GMAC is not only ready to go, but go hard!
At 17 years old, McNamara entered and placed in the prestigious Hawaiian Triple Crown Series. Along with his brother Liam, McNamara began to attract the attention of major sponsors and signed deals with a number of prominent brands in Japan. The brothers spent the next 10 years on the competition circuit, traveling and becoming fluent in Japanese. It was the realization of a dream come true for both brothers.
McNamara continued to push the limits of pro surfing, and soon he started to get towed into waves on Personal Water Craft or Jet Skis, which enable surfers to chase down and catch giant waves that were thought to be impossible, beyond the reach of surfers paddling with their bare hands.
Predictably, McNamara couldn't leave well enough alone. He is still on a mission to explore the world’s oceans for the best and biggest waves Mother Nature has to offer.
Listen to the complete Garrett McNamara interview on Edging the Xtreme on Radio BDC with Dan Egan. GMAC talks about surviving the white water of his world record ride and compares it to riding on a moving avalanche of snow.
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