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CALM INTERVIEW: Andrew Cotton

Andrew Cotton, or Cotty as he’s known to his mates, is a big wave surfer based in Devon.  Last year he hit the headlines after taking on a record-breaking…erm…break.  CALMzine caught up with him to talk about the thrill of the ride. Interview by Marcus Chapman

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Photo credit: Mark Wengler

Before Christmas you rode what could be one of the biggest ever waves surfed, tell us a little about the day and what that wave in Nazare, Portugal is like to surf, I’ve heard it’s so dangerous because of it’s brutal power?  The day was a pretty strange one, we only had a small window to surf as the conditions were due to change and the swell was dropping. It was a lot bigger than I imagined and obviously the session didn’t start well with Maya [Gabriel, pro surfer] nearly drowning, which shook everyone up. We ended up getting a few waves before the Sea Captain deemed it too dangerous and ordered us to come in. Nazare is a pretty scary place to surf; not just the power but also the shifty nature of the beach makes every wave a lottery. It’s definitely a challenging spot to surf in many ways. How do you deal with the inevitable fear and doubt that must flash through your mind before paddling out on a huge day? Do you have any weird rituals or ways of dealing with it? No I don’t have any rituals but I do really want it! I use some good breathing techniques to calm me down and keep focused. Fear is healthy and its good to have but at the same time you can’t let it get in the way of what you want to do. What are the best things about the sport of surfing for you? I like the solitude, to focus my thoughts on how I’m going to surf the waves and positions I want to be in, rather than the day-to-day jobs and responsibilities I have. It’s a real escape for me.

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Photo Credit: Mark Wengler

Yes, it really is key for me to maintain a happy and balanced lifestyle.  I’m not sure where or what I’d be doing without it as it seems my life has always revolved around it from such a young age. How fit do you have to be to ride monster waves and what sort of training do you do? I heard you can hold your breath for over five minutes – is that true? Obviously it helps to be fit but its more about wanting it.  It’s all about the power of your mind as all your natural instincts wouldn’t put you where you have to be to catch these waves. Yes, holding your breath for ages boosts confidence as well as personal fitness but you personally really need to want it too. I like to swim, do yoga, cross train and obviously surf as much as possible – but I want it more than anything else. Surfing sometimes can have a reputation for being a bit macho with scary locals like in Point Break! Would you say it’s still a macho male dominated sport or is surfing becoming more open minded and welcoming? Haha! You could say that but I don’t think it could be further from the truth.  Of course there are egos, as in any sport, but I’d say if you go to any beach on any given day you’d see a wide range of men and woman of all ages enjoying the ocean without a Bodhi in sight! What’s the scariest surfing situation you’ve ever been in? I’ve had a few situations that have got my blood pumping for sure but nothing serious to be honest, I’ve been really lucky like that.

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Photo Credit: Mark Wengler

Probably my local beach in Croyde.  It’s where I leant to surf and probably where I’ll finish my surfing days. Chasing your passions is obviously amazing but being the man of the house do you still feel the pressure of putting food on the table – how do you juggle that? It’s really hard and I have been extremely lucky to have an understanding wife. Sometimes family commitment and money means you can’t be at every swell wherever it may be, but that makes it all the more important to make the right calls on the biggest swells and appreciate every minute I’m there. When you’re surfing a dangerous spot do you think about your family a lot? Are they very supportive or does it cause conflict? Of course I think of my family, it just makes me surf smart.  You don’t have to take silly risks to be a big wave surfer. It’s all about the next wave you want to catch not your last one. What’s your best advice to someone who wants to learn surfing, where and when may be best to go? Check on the Internet for your nearest surf school and get a introduction lesson. Definitely the safest and easiest way to get involved. You have a new web series that’s just launched called ‘Behind The Lines’, tell us a little about that – sounds exciting.  It’s a six part series on EpicTV documenting my missions to track down and surf the biggest, most dangerous waves we can find.  It follows the elite crews who commit and devote their lives to surfing the biggest waves they can find. It’s great to have this opportunity and to be involved in something like this and it’s gonna be a lot of fun making it. Check out a teaser trailers for Behind The Lines on Epic TV: What’s your five-year plan for your big wave surfing? Firstly to enjoy it and make the most of every opportunity that comes my way. To be a role model for my children and others, to be the first ever Brit to win the prestigious XXL award, compete in the big wave world tour and obviously to keep surfing bigger waves. Thanks to Sponsors: Tiki Wetsuits, Lifedge, Bayfitness, Dryrobe, Island Tribe Sunscreen and Mercedes Vito Sport. And a big thank you to Mikey at Show & Tell Media and Marcus Chapman.  You can check out the rest of CALMzine HERE featuring Lemonheads frontman Evan Dando and a load of awesome stuff from the usual suspects, Mister Mumbles, The Rant, Chris Sav and our resident Agony Uncle Dear Josh…it’s a blinder…

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