Andrew Cotton – Big Wave Surfer
Andrew is a Plymouth born married father of 2 who grew up on the North Devon Coast where he started surfing at the age of seven. Ever since then, catching waves and being in and around the ocean has been his life. When he left school he worked in a local surfboard factory until the age of twenty-five. He then re-trained as a plumber, but along the way began to realise that his real passion lay in big wave surfing. Initially Andrew focussed on helping to pioneer big wave sports in Ireland, and more recently he turned his attention to Nazare, Portugal. Numerous Billabong XXL entries followed and he came to wider attention in 2012 when he towed American surfer Garrett McNamara into what the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed as the biggest wave ever surfed. Since then Andrew has a number of indisputably big waves under his belt, one or two of which have caused debate in the press as to whether they are even bigger than Garret’s record. With the national and global media coverage that followed, it might be said that he has been helping to push the boundaries as to what was thought possible and put Great Britain firmly on the surfing map. But it definitely hasn’t come easy, particularly as home in North Devon is not exactly famed for its big waves. So it’s meant making a lot of sacrifices to get to where he is today, working hard all summer in order to chase down waves all over Europe in the winter as well as spending as much time as possible with his wife Katie and their two children.
Can you remember when you first went on a board and tried surfing? Yes. Easter holidays at Saunton Sands when I was about 7. Hired a suit and board, freezing cold, raining and windy. Loved every second!
Surfing is often considered a spiritual as well as a physical pursuit, does it feel that way to you? Yes. I think surfers have a natural connection with the ocean and at times feel I’m physically performing my best when I connect and get in a really good flow with the ocean. So I guess that is spiritual in a way.
What made you want to surf the ‘big wave’ what is it that appeals? It was never a conscious decision I suppose it just evolved. I truly enjoyed surfing way more the bigger it got.
When you have surfed that ultimate big wave, which to many people is the ultimate achievement in surfing. What ambitions do you have beyond? I’ve got loads of goals and ambitions as well as that ultimate wave. Obviously the biggest wave is the dream but my surfing is constantly evolving and I’m always looking to improve. My small wave surfing always needs to be worked on so maybe I’d focus on that!
Where and when was the best wave you ever rode? I still haven’t ridden my dream wave yet, hopefully that is still to come.
What is the appeal of surfing, how would you explain what surfing means to you to someone who knew nothing about surfing? It might sound cliche but I suppose it’s a full on lifestyle maybe even a life commitment. Everything evolves around the wind, tide and long range forecast which can make planning things really hard. But it has always been like that my whole life.
How good is the surfing in Devon? Devon has great wave with a good variety in most conditions, on the whole it’s pretty consistent and if your keen you can probably surf most days in some form or another.
What other interests do you have apart from surfing? Swimming, cycling, training and hanging with the family.
Your friend Skelly is quoted as saying nothing scares you, is that true? No that’s not true , I get scared all the time. But challenging fear is healthy and something we should do more from time to time .