Surfer Andrew Cotton rides the biggest wave of his life
IT IS hard for any British surfer to make an impression on the world stage, let alone become known for some of the most radical surfing on the planet.
But Andrew Cotton has managed it in a busy year, which has included getting married to Katie, the birth of his son Ace, an XXL big-wave nomination and being recognised for promoting British surfing around the world with an award from Surfing GB.
Cotton has just returned from another tour of duty at the Portuguese spot Nazaré, a place he helped break to the world when he towed Hawaiian Garrett McNamara into the biggest wave ever surfed, measured at 78ft.
The Journal caught up with him at home in Braunton following his latest monster-chasing expedition, which saw him catch the biggest wave of his life.
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"It's been a full-on year with a baby, wedding and then my surfing, which seems to have gone from strength to strength," said Cotton. "I've been kept on my toes, but that's how I like it.
"Katie is amazing and understands I've got my goals, which I'm focused on now. I can't thank her enough for all the support."
He was back in Portugal as part of a team backed by the local government, which wanted to promote the region as a big-wave playground.
There were plenty of huge waves but nothing to quite top last year's record.
Cotton did surf what he considers his biggest, but, understated as ever, he was unwilling to put a number on it. He said: "How big it was, who knows?
"It was my first wave of the morning and I hadn't even really warmed up properly.
"It popped up way outside, so I knew it was big, and the second I let go of the rope I hit a couple of huge lumps which put me off rail, so I was sort of out of control hurtling down this wave. I ended up falling, then getting sucked over the falls.
"The whole experience wasn't great and sort of blew the chance but there will be others."
The team have now scattered and the project is at an end, but there are plans to head back.
"We've worked out exactly what conditions are needed to produce the biggest waves," said Cotton. "The swell direction and period have got to be just right.
"Although Garrett has gone back to Hawaii for the comps, we've all made a promise that if we see a perfect swell on the way we're all going to head back.
"We want to surf 100ft waves, that's what it's about."
It has not all been plain sailing for Cotton, who has had local support from Tiki, Diplock and Gulfstream but lost his main sponsor Analog.
"I was with them for more than seven years and they helped me out immensely," he said.
"So it's going to be a lot harder in the coming months unless I manage to find someone else.
"I really need a sponsor who can support what I'm doing on an international level.
"Coming from the UK is pretty unheard of on the big-wave scene, which I'm really proud about."
The new year is already filling up with invitations to a number of European contests, including a Big Wave World Tour qualifier.
"The North Atlantic gets much bigger swells than the Pacific and there are so many more places that you can catch these waves," said Cotton.
"I'm looking to broaden my horizons. I think I could be surfing the big stuff a lot more regularly.
"I'm putting my focus into big-wave projects, whether it be paddle or tow, and want to win an XXL award while doing it."
Cotton will be attending the premiere of Nazare Calling, a documentary recording last year's world record, at The Thatch, in Croyde, on Wednesday. Tickets are on sale at the British Surf Museum, in Braunton, and The Thatch, with proceeds going to the museum.
To see highlights from Nazaré, visit http://bit.ly/ST2X2T