Garrett McNamara has been steadily etching out a cool nook in the surfing world. First broken open by Laird Hamilton, a career as a big wave surfer is a relatively new concept. Ross Clarke-Jones and Cheynne Horan traveled for years during the 90's and challenged giant surf to the delight of surf fans but with very little financial sustainability.
Hamilton knew to go outside the surfing industry to find some real cash. He courted automobile and credit card companies and pushed both equipment and performance to the edge of reason. Hardened purists were skeptical on his intentions, but if surfing for life is the goal, Hamilton's conviction and dedication to that ideal are admirable. McNamara has seized on the Laird model by moving beyond traditional surf branding by marketing himself as some kind of daredevil with helicopters tow-ins and iceberg wake rides.
Instead of chasing around contest points in Brazil or slugging it out in mid-sized waves with a slew of teenagers, the 40 something year-old regular foot now makes his surf travel to only the biggest and most spectacular situations that will not just stoke hard core surf fanatics but will enrapture the world beyond the coast.
He knows it: surfers don't have the numbers or the cash flow to make the risks and efforts pay off in the long run. But if you've ever hung with Garrett, you'd know that he is at first a Haleiwa homeboy with a gnarly brother and a couple kids. He loves to surf and he wants to do it for the rest of his life. It's that simple. Now he has broken the glass ceiling of surf stardom into the desktops of executives and iPads of soccer moms. Catching a full-on, fully documented 78 foot behemoth of a wave took Garrett McNamara from a preferred table at Haleiwa Joe's all the way to a state of internet omnipresence. He has worked hard and deserves it, but can he capitalize on it? We all know that one wave can make it happen. Remember Greg Noll? Remember Cory Lopez? I do too.