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Garrett McNamara

Surfing A 100-Foot Wave


In this episode

Welcome to the second part of In Search of Excellence episode featuring Garrett McNamara, a legendary surfer who owns the world record for the largest wave ever surfed, 100 feet tall, which is the equivalent of the 10-story office building or the height of Niagara Falls.  

He is the first person ever to ride a wave created by breaking glaciers.  Garrett is also the author of the book “Hound of the Sea: Wild Man. Wild Waves. Wild Wisdom.” and the star of the fantastic HBO documentary TV series called “100 Foot Wave."

He is also a dedicated philanthropist. Garrett and his wife, Nicole, started an amazing Waves of Life McNamara Foundation, which helps kids to discover nature and be more environmentally conscious and self-sufficient, with a particular focus on disadvantaged kids.

Time stamps:

02:05 From a hippie commune to a crazy cult

  • Born in Massachusetts, grew up in Berkley
  • Raised by a single mom in a hippie commune
  • Found the cult The Christ Family
  • He was around 6, and his brother was 4
  • Those were the crazy times

07:57 Life in Hawaii

  • Was being poor motivation for his success later in life?
  • In Hawaii, mom had a husband Daryl
  • Lived on welfare
  • Always wanted to feel secure and not worry about the money

11:14 Surviving elementary school

  • First went to elementary school in Berkley
  • In Hawaii, he fought with Filipino gangs
  • In high school, fought with another guy and took him out
  • Hawaiians and Filipinos fought mostly with brass knuckles and knives

16:30 Garrett’s first surfing board

  • Anybody with darker skin who moves to Hawaii is accepted faster
  • Haole – Hawaiian term for anyone that is not a native Hawaiian
  • His garage sale surfboard
  • Surfed for the first time with his friend Butchy Boy Wong, a Chinese Hawaiian
  • He fell in love with surfing at 11

21:25 Falling in love with big waves

  • His bad experience surfing at Sunset and his fear of big waves
  • Didn’t have a father in Hawaii, but had father figures (Roy Patterson, Gustavo Liberte)
  • Was hanging out with Gustavo, smoked marijuana
  • When he was 16, Gustavo wanted to take him to surf at Sunset
  • Gustavo literally grabbed him by the neck and took him

27:27 How Garrett quit drugs and alcohol

  • Was using often drugs, but stopped at 19
  • He was invited to a Triple Crown
  • Realized that it was possible to earn a living from surfing
  • Quit using pot, cocaine, and alcohol to become a professional surfer
  • How much money did he earn in Japan?

33:30 Garrett’s brother Liam

  • Liam was better than Garrett, had more sponsors, made more money
  • Liam became the most photographed surfer in the world
  • Caught more waves than anybody at Rocky Point and Pipeline
  • He should have won the Pipeline Masters one year but didn’t
  • Breaking his femur and how it affected his career

41:35 What is big wave surfing?

  • Surfing on big waves became popular
  • Anderson Cooper described it as cruising at the side of a skyscraper but the skyscraper is collapsing on you
  • Garrett describes his best experience with big wave surfing



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