Chasing the biggest waves in the world: One British father’s quest to surf the biggest wave ever ridden #UK #Surf #Photos



  • Andrew Cotton is tipped to take the crown of world record holder for the biggest wave ever surfed
  • The 34-year-old caught a wave off the coast of Portugal as the St Jude storm rolled across the Atlantic
  • The break is expected to be measured at around 80ft when officials make their verification in May
  • With the current world record standing at 78ft, Mr Cotton is tipped to take the world record holder crown
  • Father-of-two tells of his journey, chasing his dream to become a full-time professional big wave surfer

By Lizzie Parry

PUBLISHED: 11:43 GMT, 12 January 2014 | UPDATED: 02:27 GMT, 13 January 2014

Andrew Cotton is man on a mission – to surf the world’s biggest, most challenging and dangerous waves.

His journey has taken him to the four corners of the earth, placing him in terrifying situations, leaving him breathing many a sigh of relief at near misses survived.

But 2014 could be the year the 34-year-old enters the record books, as he waits for official confirmation that a 80ft monster wave he surfed off the coast of Portugal this October is the biggest conquered to date.

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Andrew Cotton Charging

Part-time pro surfer Andrew Cotton is tipped to take the world record for the biggest wave surfed after riding this monster off the coast of Portugal in October as the powerful St Jude storm rolled across the Atlantic. Experts say the wave could measure 80ft, two feet higher than the current record

Officials are in the process of verifying the size of the wave, but Mr Cotton will have to wait until May before the wave’s height is confirmed

As the St Jude storm rolled across the Atlantic in October, the force of nature whipped up mammoth swells out at sea.

And rather than batten down the hatches, pro surfers from across the world congregated on the beaches of Portugal’s Praia do Norte.

Among them and eager to get on his board was part-time pro surfer, plumber and lifeguard, father-of-two Mr Cotton.

Facing such gigantic waves requires surfers to enlist a little extra help to line themselves up to ride the huge expanse of water.

And so Mr Cotton was towed by jet ski to catch the wave, he and others hope could be set to break the world record.

Mr Cotton said: ‘People have been saying the wave I caught in October in Portugal is around 80ft.’

The current world record for the world’s largest wave ever surfed stands at 78ft.


The 34-year-old part-time pro surfer, plumber and life-guard, said while it would be great to hold the world record it is not why he goes out on his board. He said: ‘I love being in the water and my dream is to become a full-time professional big wave surfer. By pushing myself to catch and ride bigger and bigger waves I will hopefully achieve that dream’


The self-employed plumber chose to be his own boss to allow him to head off around the world to chase gigantic waves, at short notice. In October as reports of the St Jude storm broke, he joined professional surfers from across the world in Praia do Norte in Portugal where he caught this monstrous wave

Towing Mr Cotton in to catch this potentially world record breaking wave, is his close friend and pro big wave surfer Garrett McNamara, who currently holds the record having conquered a 78ft wall of waterAnd it is a record Mr Cotton is not unfamiliar with. The surfer currently in possession of the title record breaker is Cotton’s close friend and surfing partner in crime, Mr McNamara.
When the Hawaii-born pro surfer gained his title it was Mr Cotton who towed him in to catch his record-breaking wave.
And the favour was returned when Mr McNamara jumped on the jet ski in October, lining Cotton up to take on the wave, which is tipped to steal the record from under his board.Officials are currently in the process of verifying the height of the wave Mr Cotton rode, but the 34-year-old will have to wait until May next year for confirmation.But he says while a world record to his name would be nice, it is not what motivates him to get on his board and travel across the world, often at short notice, chasing gigantic waves.

‘I love to push myself,’ he told MailOnline in an exclusive interview.

‘I love being in the water and my dream is to become a full-time professional big wave surfer.


Mr Cotton is on a mission to try and conquer the world’s biggest waves. His ultimate aim is to become a full-time professional surfer

Describing the feeling of conquering a wave measuring 80ft, Mr Cotton, pictured here surfing at home in Devon, said: ‘You do get an adrenalin rush, but it depends on the style of the wave as to when the rush hits home. Sometimes it will be while you are riding the wave but other times it is when you are safe and back on dry land’

Relaxing at home in North Devon, the father-of-two has been obsessed with the sea since he was a young boy


Mr Cotton started surfing when he was around seven years old. His father Bob, a retired policeman, encouraged him on to his first board when the family moved to north Devon


‘By pushing myself to catch and ride bigger and bigger waves I will hopefully achieve that dream. A world record can’t hurt though, it’s the kind of thing that can really open doors.’

‘It is cool to think I could have a world record, but it is just as cool to say I helped Garrett get his. It would be awesome to think he helped me get mine too,’ he added.

‘The ideal would be for me to get the record and the pair of us to keep beating each other by going bigger and bigger, pushing ourselves further.’

Describing how it feels to ride a near 80ft wave, the father-of-two, said: ‘This is something I have always wanted to do. It is what I have been pushing myself towards.

‘It is scary, but at the same time it feels like the most natural thing for me to do.

‘You do get an adrenalin rush, but it depends on the type of the wave as to when the rush hits home. Sometimes it will be while you are riding the wave but other times it is when you are safe and back on dry land.’

Reaching speeds of up to 40mph, Mr Cotton said every bump in the water feels ‘hugely magnified’.

‘It feels like you are going really fast, but I felt at times like I was watching the ride in slow motion, feeling every bump in the wave.

‘At such fast speeds you really have to think about everything that you are doing, every movement.

‘Just staying on the board is half the battle, it can be really hard.

‘While the waves look really clean from the shore, when you are up there and riding it, any bump at 40mph feels hugely magnified.’


‘They are my inspiration’: Father-of-two is driven to chase his dream supported by his ‘amazing’ wife and kids

  • As a seven-year-old Mr Cotton’s father introduced him to surfing when the family moved to north Devon
  • Working in a surf factory kick-started his dream, taking him to Indonesia and South America to chase waves
  • When reality bit the then 25-year-old trained as a plumber giving him the chance to be his own boss
  • ‘Katie is amazing’ says Mr Cotton, who describes his wife as his ‘rock’ allowing him to reach for his goal


Mr Cotton hails from the village of Croyde near Braunton in north Devon.

And it is on the shores of the Devonshire coast that he rode his first wave at the age of seven, encouraged by his parents former classroom assistant Christine and retired policeman Bob.

‘I was really into swimming, having quite bad asthma doctors told my mum swimming could really help,’ he said.

‘When we moved to north Devon I was about seven and it was my parents who got me into surfing.

Andrew Cotton with his wife Katie and their children one-and-a-half-year-old Ace and Honey, six. Mr Cotton credits his wife with being his ‘rock’ supporting him to chase his dream


Left, Andrew and Katie Cotton, pictured on their wedding day with baby son Ace. And right, Andrew with Ace and Honey. The 34-year-old said six-year-old Honey has taken to surfing, loving being in the water like her dad. He said he would never push his children to follow in his footsteps but wants them to be comfortable in the sea


‘I haven’t looked back, I have loved it since the very beginning and since I first got on a board I have wanted to become a pro surfer.

‘At school a lot of teachers said if I had spent more time on my school work and less time surfing I might do really well.

‘Being a pro surfer was all I could think about but I wasn’t quite good enough to do the contest side of things. At that point, when I left school at about 15, my master plan was to work in the surf industry to enable me to mix surfing with work.

‘My first job was in a surf board factory – it was great.

‘I am the luckiest man alive to have such an understanding wife and two great kids. They have not just put up with me, they have supported me when I wanted to dash off at short notice. Katie is amazing’

Andrew Cotton


‘The factory shut in January, February and March and we spent that time travelling across the world. We went anywhere where the waves were, Indonesia, Peru, Hawaii, Chile, every time it was somewhere different.

‘I was very lucky, at the age of 16 I got a taste of what life was like living as a pro surfer.’

But when Mr Cotton reached the age of 25, the realisation hit him that he had to look for a proper job.

And so he took evening classes, training to become a plumber.

‘My parents were worried I would not be employable if I carried on as I was,’ he added.

‘And so I quit the surf factory and when I finished the college course I got a job working for a company that installed solar panels and under floor heating.

‘Around the same time I got my first sponsorship deal from the US company Analogue. It was a bit of recognition and a bit of money.’

Mr Cotton worked for about a year full-time before quitting.

‘It was a bit of a bone of contention with my family,’ he admitted. ‘But it was 8am to 5pm and I hated it.

‘I started trying to carve myself a career in surfing, following my dream properly for the first time.


One-and-a-half-year-old Ace, left, is still a bit young to be jumping on a surf board with his big sister Honey, pictured with Mr Cotton right. Mr Cotton said Ace is still a bit unsure of the water, and doesn’t like the cold. He said his children and wife Katie are a big inspiration to him, supporting him unconditionally as he chases his dream


‘I started working as a self-employed plumber with a bit of life-guarding in the summer. It meant I could spend as much time as possible in the water, I can be flexible, going off to chase a wave at the last minute.’

After the exotics travels of his youth, Mr Cotton said he tends to stray no further than the seas of Europe these days, constrained by cost and time and his desire not to travel too far from the ‘loves of his life’, his family.

Behind every successful man, there is a great woman so the famous saying goes.

And for Mr Cotton this sentiment holds true.

Set up by their mutual friends on a blind date four years ago, Mr Cotton and his wife Katie, who had lived in the same village for years, instantly hit it off.

The couple, who tied the knot last September, have two children, six-year-old Honey and Ace, who is one-and-a-half.

And Honey is following in the paddle strokes of her father, loving the water and enjoying learning to surf.

But her little brother Ace, is not a fan of the cold water.

Mr Cotton said: ‘I will never push the kids to surf if they don’t like it. The most important thing for me, as a life-guard but also as their dad, is that they are comfortable and not afraid of the water.

‘My dad made sure that I was comfortable being in the sea and that is all I can hope for, for my kids.’


Aside from his family, Mr Cotton said friends and pro surfers Garrett McNamara, left, and Al Mennie, right, have inspired him to chase his dream to become a professional


Pinpointing his inspiration, Mr Cotton said it ‘goes without saying’ that his wife and children top the list.

But he added there have been a handful of people, surfers and friends, who have inspired him to chase his dream.

‘There are people you feed off, people I have been surfing with for years.

‘Big wave surfer Al Mennie was a real inspiration in the beginning, he was a real motivator for me. He always told me anything was possible, at times when perhaps I would have given up, it was Al’s encouragement that kept me going.

‘It was his advice to stick with plumbing and he was the one who really pushed me.

‘And Garrett is another inspiration for me. Over the last couple of years seeing how he does things and the opportunity to team up with him has been invaluable.

‘But I am the luckiest man alive to have such an understanding wife and two great kids. They have not just put up with me, they have supported me when I wanted to dash off at short notice. Katie is amazing, she is my rock.’

Katie Cotton, pictured with Andrew on their wedding day, said his dedication is a real inspiration to her and their children

inger and music teacher Katie Cotton said hearing the news of a storm brewing instills fear in her.For it is news of bad weather which ignites excitement in her husband Andrew, as he scours the reports searching for the next big swell to surf.But the 37-year-old said she has to ‘keep it together’, dealing with her own anxiety as her husband takes on some of the biggest and most dangerous waves in the world.‘I can’t convey any of my fears to him at all,’ she told MailOnline.‘He needs every bit of strength he has for himself, I can’t have him worrying about me.‘I have to deal with my side of things and the kids. It is really difficult, you can’t help but think “is this the last time I am going to talk to you”.‘But I have every bit of faith in him.’Mrs Cotton said her husband’s brave quest to surf the world’s most dangerous waves is an ‘inspiration’ and a ‘great example’ to set their children.

She added: ‘Seeing him so focused, so determined it is a real inspiration.

‘It might just appear to others that he is just getting up and heading off to catch a wave, but so much goes into it.

‘He is doing what he was put on this earth to do, he was meant to surf. If he wasn’t following this dream he wouldn’t be being true to himself.

‘While it is scary for me, it is the greatest lesson for our children, watching their dad follow his dream and his heart like this.

‘Even if your dream is some absolutely crazy thing to other people you have to be true to yourself, and that is the example Andrew is setting Honey and Ace.’

Despite living on the coast Mrs Cotton is yet to follow her husband on to a board.

The mother-of-two does not surf and admitted as a child one of her biggest fears was big waves.

‘It is almost like I am living my nightmare,’ she said. ‘It is as though life is making a joke out of it. I am facing my fears of big waves just being married to him – it is like we were meant to be.

‘Being around somebody who is so driven and determined is inspirational. Surfing is a part of Andrew, he is just not himself if he is too far from his surf board.’
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