Garrett McNamara

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Garrett McNamara
Web Summit 2017 - SportsTrade CG1 7032 (37533617704).jpg
McNamara at the Web Summit 2017 in the Altice Arena, Lisbon, Portugal.
Personal information
Born (1967-08-10) August 10, 1967 (age 54)
Pittsfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
ResidenceNazaré, Portugal
Height5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Weight175 lb (79 kg)
Surfing career
Years active1978–present
Best year2013
SponsorsRed Nose, Mercedes Benz Wavejet, Donjoy, Body Glove,[1] Kona Red, Maui Jim, Raw Elements, and Noll Worldwide
Major achievementsWorld record for largest wave ever surfed, first to surf tsunami from calving glaciers
Surfing specifications
Shaper(s)Dick Brewer, Greg Noll, YU, Rusty, Stretch
Favorite wavesLani's and Sunset
Favorite maneuversThe tube

Garrett ‘GMAC’ McNamara (born August 10, 1967) is an American professional big wave surfer and extreme waterman known for breaking the world record for largest wave ever surfed at Nazaré, Portugal, successfully negotiating a monstrous barrel at Jaws, and riding tsunami from calving glaciers in Alaska.


Early life[edit]

McNamara was born on August 10, 1967, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and spent much of his childhood in Berkeley, California. McNamara has Irish ancestry, and his surname is very common in Ireland and Scotland. In Berkeley, McNamara, and his younger brother Liam, were both known by friends to be rather fearless and to shrug off the pains of rough childhood play, foreshadowing his later ability to face danger while surfing.[2] During his early childhood, his mother took the family to Central America, where she was a victim of domestic abuse and occasionally abandoned him and his brother; at one point, a Guatemalan farmer sought to adopt him, but his mother returned and brought the family back to America.[3] He then returned to Berkeley, where his mother left him with his birth father; McNamara lived with him for several years until his mother returned with a new domestic partner, who moved the family to the North Shore of Hawaii in 1978.[3] At eleven years old, McNamara followed his younger brother's footsteps and began surfing at Sunset, Waimea and the outer reefs in search of giant swells. He entered and placed in the prestigious Hawaiian Triple Crown Series at seventeen and began to gain major sponsors from major Japanese brands. For the next ten years, both brothers joined the competition circuit, traveling and becoming fluent in Japanese.

Tow surfing caught on among the surfing community in the early 1990s and McNamara was one of the first to join the movement. Boats and personal water craft enabled surfers to chase down and catch giant waves that were thought impossible, beyond the bounds of surfers paddling with their bare hands. McNamara welcomed and craved the challenge to find the biggest waves in the world, which would instantly become his dream and mission in life.


McNamara speaking at the Web Summit 2017, Lisbon, Portugal.

After training for a year, McNamara and tow-in partner Rodrigo Resende won the $70,000 purse at the Tow Surfing World Cup in Maui at Jaws in 2002.[4] Later that year, he posed for the cover of major surf magazines around the world after being photographed in a dramatic barrel shot off of the coast of Teahupo'o in Tahiti. In 2003 he rode one of his most well known waves. McNamara was once again at Jaws and caught a wave with a 20-foot (6.1 m) barrel where onlookers believed he had been crushed by the lip of the wave. The wave spit and, escaping death, he emerged to the surprise and amazement of everyone watching, including himself.

The boundaries of big-wave surfing were pushed once again in the summer of 2007 by McNamara and partner Keali’i Mamala, seeking tsunami formed by 300-foot (91 m) calving glaciers in South-Central Alaska. A feature film was made documenting their experience.[5]

In January 2016, McNamara suffered a severe wipeout on a 50-foot wave at Mavericks in California that caused him to skip off the water three times before being swallowed by the monster-size wave. Rescuers on jet skis eventually pulled McNamara to safety, and he suffered a dislocated shoulder and a broken upper arm that required surgery.[6] Video of McNamara's wipeout went viral, and local surfers have said it was one of the worst wipeouts caught on video.[7]

World record[edit]

The Praia do Norte, Nazaré (North Beach) was listed on the Guinness World Records for McNamara big wave surfed (formed under the influence of the Nazaré Canyon).

In November 2011, chasing storms and tracking swells paid off for McNamara as he entered the Guinness World Records. He caught a 78 foot (24 m) wave in Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal, after being towed into the wave from a jet ski riding a 6’0 Dick Brewer Tow Board. His record beat the prior world record by over a foot,[8] but the premature announcement (by others, not by McNamara) proved a source of controversy in the surf world.[9] Meanwhile, McNamara continued to search for an even larger wave.

In January 2013, McNamara broke his own world record by surfing an estimated 100-foot (30 m) wave.[10] He also did this off the coast of Nazaré.[11]

Beyond surfing[edit]

McNamara became interested in Stand Up Paddle (SUP) and gave it his own twist by designing and creating SUP boards for a more extreme experience, venturing into big wave venues like Waimea, Puerto Escondido, and Mavericks. He was invited to compete in the World Stand Up Paddle Surfing Championship in June 2009 by the International Surfing Association, where only 32 elite surfers were invited to attend.[12]

Personal life[edit]

McNamara is married to Nicole McNamara (née Macias), an environmental sciences teacher. The couple wed at Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal, in November 2012.[13][14] They have three children, Barrel (2015), Theia Love Nazaré Celeste Rose (2018) and Fe do Mar Strawberry Lucy (2021). He has three children from his previous marriage to Konnie Pascual McNamara, including Ariana Kaimana McNamara (1995), Titus Waimea McNamara (1997), and Tiari McNamara.[15][16]



The following is based on Internet Movie Database data:[18]



  • The Glacier Project
  • The North Canyon Show by Garrett McNamara
  • 100 Foot Wave[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Body Glove Welcomes Garrett to the Family". Grind TV. Archived from the original on 11 May 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  2. ^ Personal Experience of D. Glaser
  3. ^ a b Theroux, Paul (July–August 2018). "The Epic Quest to Ride the World's Biggest Wave". Smithsonian. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  4. ^ "McNamara & Resende Win Tow-In World Cup". HoloHolo Hawai'i. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  5. ^ "The Glacier Project". YouTube. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  6. ^ "Pro Surfer Garrett McNamara Recounts How He Survived Epic Wipeout". ABC News. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  7. ^ Gafni, Matthias (9 January 2016). "Mavericks: Garrett McNamara surf wipeout worst ever on video?". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  8. ^ "78-FOOT WAVE SURFED BY GARRETT MCNAMARA CONFIRMED AS LARGEST EVER RIDDEN". Guinness World Records. 9 May 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  9. ^ "GMac's Controversial 90-Foot Wave". The Inertia. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  10. ^ "Surf's up to 100ft: Daredevil breaks world record for largest wave ever ridden". The Mirror. 30 January 2013. Retrieved 30 Jan 2013.
  11. ^ "Garrett McNamara Surfs Monster Waves in Portugal".
  12. ^ "SUP World Tour". OC Beach Blog. Archived from the original on 11 July 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  13. ^ "Garrett McNamara casa-se esta tarde". Retrieved 30 Jan 2013.
  14. ^ "Surfer Garrett McNamara Conquers His 100-Foot Wave". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 30 Jan 2013.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "100 Foot Wave".
  17. ^ "Big-wave surfer enters record books by riding 78-foot "monster"". Reuters. 11 May 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  18. ^ Garrett McNamara at IMDb
  19. ^ "100 Foot Wave".

External links[edit]