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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Storm Rider

Woman surfer nearly drowns as St Jude's gale creates off Portugal some of the biggest waves to ever be conquered by boards

  • Father-of-two Andrew Cotton, 34, took on the monster waves at Praia do Norte, near Nazare at 8am yesterday
  • Beach known among surfers for huge waves because it picks up full brunt of violent Atlantic storm swells
  • Maya Gabeira, from Brazil, nearly drowned and had to be resuscitated on the beach after falling on a wave

Surfers could have ridden one of the biggest waves in history yesterday as waves of up to 100ft created by St Jude's storm battered the European coast.
Father-of-two Andrew Cotton, 34, of Croyde, North Devon - who is a part-time professional surfer, plumber and lifeguard - took on the monster waves off the coast of Portugal at Praia do Norte, near the sleepy fishing village of Nazare at around 8am yesterday morning.
Married Mr Cotton, whose wife Katie and two children Honey, six, and Ace, one, are currently braving the storm at home on the Devon coast, was towed into the waves by his US surfing partner Garrett McNamara.
Big waves
Daredevil surfer Carlos Burle rides down what is believed to be one of the biggest waves ever conquered at Nazare, Portugal. The exact size of the wave Burle rode is yet to be determined, but it is believed to be close to challenging McNamara's feat from earlier this year. The incredible moment was captured from the hillside overlooking the bay by Portugese photographer To Mane.
Andrew Cotton
English surfer Andrew Cotton rides an 80ft wave at the Praia do Norte, north beach, at the fishing village of Nazare in Portugal
Andrew Cotton
The married father-of-two took on the monster waves caused by Atlantic Storm St Jude
The duo work together in big waves by towing one another into the swells using a jet-ski, because waves of that size move so quickly it is impossible to paddle into the wave using just arm power.
However, one female surfer, Maya Gabeira from Brazil, nearly drowned and had to be resuscitated on the beach when she fell on a wave and her jet-ski partner could not get to her in time. 
She was rescued unconscious and taken to hospital, where she was reportedly doing well despite suffering a broken ankle.

Brazillian surfer Carlos Burle was also in the water taking on the waves and may also have ridden a record-breaking wave during the same session, but the exact height of the waves is impossible to tell and and quite subjective depending on the angle from which they are viewed.
It is not the first time Mr Cotton has been involved in a surfing world record - two years ago he was driving the jet-ski when he towed Mr McNamara into a giant wave at the same spot in 2011.
The beach is well-known in surfing circles as a mecca for huge waves because it picks up the full brunt of the violent Atlantic storm swells.

Help: Surfers apply CPR to fellow surfer Maya Gabeira, from Brazil, who nearly drowned after falling trying to ride a big wave at the Praia do Norte
Help: Surfers apply CPR to fellow surfer Maya Gabeira, from Brazil, who nearly drowned after falling trying to ride a big wave at the Praia do Norte
Mr Cotton had been avidly monitoring weather data and eagerly anticipating the waves created by St Jude's hitting Portugal, but was disappointed because the biggest waves created by the storm actually hit overnight before sunrise.
He said he could hear the waves pounding the shoreline overnight from inside the beach house he is staying in, saying the monster swells were even making the walls shake.
Yesterday morning Mr Cotton and his team were in the water before light at 6am, along with scores of other surfers all trying to ride the biggest wave.
Mr Cotton said: 'The storm that hit England last night started the waves hitting here last night. The house was shaking last night. We're staying in a house on the beach and I've stayed here before when it's been big and the odd set made the walls shake, but last night the whole thing was just shaking all night.'
Andrew Cotton
Crowds watch on as brave British surfer Andrew Cotton glides into an 80ft monster wave
Andrew Cotton
Andrew Cotton on dry land in Portugal hours after taking on the monster waves
But despite the ominous rumbling, Mr Cotton said he slept remarkably well and was in the water raring to go before light.
He caught two waves before the potential record-breaker, which he believes was at around 8am, after he'd been in the sea for about two hours.
Mr Cotton described the moment he was towed-in to the monster: 'Garrett heard on the radio that the third wave looked good so he just popped me in there in the perfect position. It was really bumpy, I spent most of the time just trying to stay on my feet, it's like you can't go fast enough, it's not like normal surfing.'
Mr Cotton said it is hard for him to judge exactly how big a wave that size is, particularly as he is riding it.
He said: 'Everyone wants to put figures on it, there were definitely 80ft waves there today, some even bigger, it was ridiculous, everyone got huge waves today, it was frightening out there.
Carlos Burle
Brazilian surfer Carlos Burle surfs a wave at North Beach during a giant swell that hit the Portuguese coast at North Beach, Nazare, Portugal. The Brazilian may have beaten Havaiian Garrett Mcnamara's record for the biggest wave ever surfed at 30 meters that was broken last January also at North Beach, Nazare.
wipe out
An unidentified surfer wipes out at a giant wave at Praia do Norte during a swell that hit the Portuguese coast, at Nazare, Portugal
'It's a really dangerous place because it's not a point break or a headland, it's a beach, so there's no way round and if you fall you're left swimming in 60ft white water.'
Mr Cotton did fall on the wave after the potential record-breaker because the wind had become really strong and was making the surface of the water difficult to ride.
He said: 'It started to get choppy, I wasn't gliding I was literally bouncing from chop to chop and I ended up catching and edge and just slammed down. I was under for quite a while.'
Mr Cotton is planning on staying in Portugal for the rest of the week as there are further big swells predicted for Wednesday. 'Hopefully there's more to come but with surfing you could wait ten years for it to get this big again, I just have to make sure I'm ready when it comes.'

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