Garrett McNamara at Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal earlier today. Photo by ©TOMANEPHOTOS/Billabong XXL

Garrett McNamara at Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal earlier today. Photo by ©TOMANEPHOTOS/Billabong XXL


The Inertia

I’m getting sick of the way surf media treats Garrett McNamara. And I never thought I’d say that. Especially given that my first exposure to GMac was through a seemingly indomitable engine of self-promotion – one that lead to calving glacier surfing and other awesomely outrageous feats born of the same, made-for-TV scripting. But last week, my friends, Garrett McNamara and his crew surfed some terrifyingly gigantic waves in Portugal, and whatever praise that’s coming their way – claims of 100-foot and beyond, they deserve.

And I’d like to clarify, that as far as I know, those claims were not self-announced. Because that’s super important to us arbiters of surf etiquette. No claims, brah! Rather, they were bestowed upon him by eager headline-makers. As they should be. It’s big news. Literally.

But you’d be forgiven for missing the event altogether if you get your news exclusively from surf media outlets. (Do not allow that to happen. Seriously.) Nowhere in our precious little surf publishing world was McNamara heralded as a frontiersman or innovator for pushing the limits of what’s humanly possible on a surfboard. Rather, we mostly saw questions and incredulity. “Is this really 100-feet? Biggest wave ever surfed? Garrett McNamara is at it again…!?!?!? Decide for yourself…

I realize that upon closer scrutiny, the wave itself has been described as mush(ier) than other big wave destinations, but, man, those imagesthose things, are worth discussing, sharing, #gramming, re-gramming, whatever. Indisputably, they are. And what percentage of the surfing population is really qualified to critique a wave of that size with any degree of authority? Seriously. .000000001%? Not even. Maybe if we round up.

I’m all for skepticism in reporting (it’s among my favorite things), but it’s as if surf media views Garrett McNamara as some mischievous ne’er–do–well, instead of one of the most fearless motherf*ckers on this planet – whose determination to push human limits has thrust surfing into mainstream relevance and public consciousness time and again.

It’s a funny thing about surf culture. The anti-claiming phenomenon. The fact that we need USA Today or Gawker to announce mankind’s conquest of the 100-foot wave rather than make that distinction for ourselves is absurd. You’d think we’d be all over that, right? But by the time the scientists in lab coats at Billabong XXL arrive at an unequivocal measurement of that wave’s exact height (good luck with that), the world already moved on. It’s big enough to matter to people living in Minnetonka, Minnesota. So claim it.

I’m all for humility. It’s possibly the most attractive quality in a truly self-confident person, but certain scenarios call for bravado: The touchdown dance. The swagger dunk. The post-win backflip. We landed on the moon! Hell yeah! This is touchdown dance time. And I don’t really give a sh*t if that wave was definitively 100-feet or not. I bet Garrett doesn’t either. However, I do believe that Garrett McNamara and the surfers who tracked that swell and rode it deserve nothing but praise (especially from within the surf world). Loud, obnoxious praise from Anderson Cooper and Oprah and Jimmy Kimmel, too. Keep it coming. And next time, maybe we can claim it before AC360 does – instead of the other way around.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dave.mailman Dave Mailman

    Yeah Zach!!! Spot on!!! Too bad it wasn’t Greg Long out there, then the surf media would have been on it faster than flies to a pile of shit behind the sand dunes in Baja!!!
    And on another note… how many people (aside from members of the European surf media) can name the names of at least 4 other surfers who were in the line-up that day, and who rode massive waves that actually broke?!?

    • goodnightmoons

      Greg Long is likable and therefore marketable GMac is less so. Surfers like their ambassadors to reflect well on the community not reinforce Spicoli caricatures.

  • bubbletoes

    I think the lack of headlines in surf mags proved one thing: the editors at ING/er/line (which is like lingerie butt humped) are really cool. Those white guys are coool as cumbers. Straight ‘cumbers.

  • Guest

    You forgot to mention a clear fact – the wave never actually breaks While Gmac’s riding i. I have seen then video (photos tend to lie a little bit) and the wave rolls without so much as any sort of lip. AND I don’t mean that it is just a mushburger (which it is until it closes out – after Gmac has pulled off of the wave mind you) I mean the thing never breaks. It is more of a swell than a wave. At least that is what the video shows. AND to clarify – that Portuguese guy (one of the unnamed 4) actually rides a wave That DOS break. as does Gmac’s partner (last wave in the video). so it does deserve an “*” at least. Not to say it wasn’t heavy or extreme – but let’s not get too carried away Zach. And for the record – it was in all the “surf” publication sites so I don’t know where you are trying to go with that one…

    • matt obrien

      While Gmac’s riding “it”. and my name is Matt O’Brien, wasn’t trying to hide behind the anonymous: Guest.

    • Gorila

      The Portuguese “guy” is António Silva and Ramon Laureano the other Portuguese “guy” on the ski. You’ll probably forget their names after reading them, but they did surf what is an incredibly dangerous wave (just ask shane dorian).

  • matt obrien

    your link IS NOT the wave in discussion. the wave everyone is talking about is a right hander.

  • RadUncle

    ZW!!!! Well said Brother!!!! Possibly GMac isn’t loved by certain groups in the surf community…he is a little different then most of the pack….a real traveler so to speak if we went back a few hundred years…there would be GMac in the deep outback in Australia or somewhere deep in the Montana mountains searching for nirvana and that hidden state!!!! I’m sure the surf community really doesn’t know what to do with him and they are hoping that he will go away soon w his age approaching 50..He’s an old timer..Older then Laird perhaps…how can they market this RadUncle? Aloha

  • AnyWaveWillDo

    Dude is 46 and one of the hardest chargers on the planet. I feel he doesn’t get his due. He probably doesn’t care because he’s not that guy, but I definitely feel like the surf media doesn’t give him the respect he deserves. Just my opinion from several years of reading surf news and publications.