Andrew Cotton, from North Devon as well as being an unassuming family man is also making waves across Europe and the globe for his fearless approach towards Portugal’s infamous big wave spot Nazaré. SurfGirl has a chat with Cotty to find out how the heck he does it.
Above: Cotty taking on Nazare, Portugal. Photo: Sharpy
1. Cotty, are you having the best adventure of your life and how has your life changed from when you were a plumber in North Devon?
Of course, I’m completely living my dream and every season my big wave adventures seem to get bigger and bolder but I wouldn’t say that’s changed much from when I was a plumber. I’ve always had a passion for big waves and adventure it was just that I had to pick my moments when I was working full time. In general I have more flexibility now, and the support of sponsors such as Sharp’s Brewery, which allows me to focus on my big wave goals around the world.
2. How fit do you need to be to tackle big surf, how much training do you do?
Of course you have to be fit but the lucky thing is you have to be pretty fit just to surf, let alone taking on bigger waves which may be out of your comfort zone. I surf as much as possible then mix up my cardio routine with running and cycling then maybe a strength and conditioning session every week. I find yoga and meditation are really helpful to keep me in a positive frame of mind and so try fit in sessions on a regular basis (at least weekly, but preferably more.)
3. How do you prepare for it psychologically? How do you deal with fear?
Fear is a very healthy emotion, I have it all the time but I just won’t let it stop me from doing something. Good deep belly breathing, before, during and after surfing big waves helps calm the nerves, keeps me focused and prepares the body. I guess that it’s having the confidence in yourself that you have done all you possibly can to prepare for the moment. As mentioned in the previous question, yoga and mediation help to maintain a positive frame of mind. Of course when you take it to the next level there are other people involved, so you have to have full trust in the people you surf with. I’m lucky to be able to surf with some of the world’s best so this helps keep the fear at bay.
4. Where do you mainly surf during the big wave season and why there?
Usually Nazare, it’s usually the most consistent big wave spot in Europe. It’s warm and very challenging in many aspects which really helps you improve your skills not just as a surfer but an all round Waterman. I’ve developed a real affection for the place and the people too and it’s a brilliant destination for surfers and non-surfers who are keen to see the epicness of the waves given the brilliant vantage point there overlooking the surf.
Above: Cotty in action at Nazare, Portugal. Photo: Courtesy Nazare Council
5. What’s the biggest wave you’ve ridden and where was it?
I’ve probably ridden and seen the biggest waves at Nazare but I couldn’t pin point which wave exactly. Wave heights can be so subjective it’s always hard to say.
6. How important is learning to tow surfers into waves and how long did it take you to learn that?
Being able to drive a ski safely in big waves is critical, it’s a big part of what we do and helps keep us safe whether paddling or towing in big surf. Being able to whip another surfer well is important if you want to surf, train and be safety for the best guys. It took me many years to be at the level I am now. I’ve been in some pretty full on situations on a ski and luckily I’ve been able to learn from those. It’s not something you can prepare for in any other way apart from actually doing it. I guess that’s why there are so few excellent ski drivers.
7. Why do you think few women ride big waves?
I couldn’t tell you why there are so few woman who surf big waves but the ones I’ve seen are amazing. Take Maya Gabeira for example. There are not many people who could come back after an experience like the one she went through and surf big waves again. And she has some pretty insane skills on the ski too.
It’s true that it’s been pretty male dominated, but there are hundreds of women who rip hard and who are doing amazing things on big waves. Maybe we just aren’t seeing them represented enough in the media. I hope that changes. This sport is a great leveler. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, if I can rely on you 100% then I’d love to surf with you. It’s great to surf with different people as they each bring something different to the sport, deepening the adventure and the overall experience.
8. Describe your life in 5 words.
Family. Surfing. Adventure. Friends. Fun
Cotty has teamed up with Sharp’s Brewery for a second year running to give a lucky few the chance to win a trip of a lifetime and accompany him on a big wave surf adventure, ‘There’s an Adventure Brewing’ competition.
Come the autumn, when tide, wind and swell come together, Andrew and six winners, with a guest each, will be whisked away on a two-night, all expenses-paid trip will offer a no holds barred look into the life of a fearless big wave surfer, as Cotty and his team prepare to take on the elements.
This autumn Cotty will take on the biggest waves in Europe, you can be part of the experience. To win the chance to watch one of the world’s best big wave surfers take on the world’s biggest waves just enter your details at www.sharpsbrewery.co.uk/adventure