THE HOT SEAT – Garrett McNamara

First off, tell us who else was out there that day in Tahiti…
All the boys were out there. Parsons and Gerlach got a lot of good waves but I didn’t see them in the barrel very often. I saw them running from the barrel. But they were surfing smart because if you make a mistake there you can die. Makua and Laird were probably going the deepest, but I like to get deep too.

The barrel you had there was pretty huge. Is it hard to tell when you’re in the tube when they’re that big?
Not when you’re deep. I was deep in the barrel. I could see the eye. At one point I couldn’t see out at all because it was bending, and when I came out I slammed into the closeout section. Most guys don’t that deep.

So did you have any hesitation on that thing at all?
No, I was just having fun, having a good time. We saw that thing on our way out and we did a U-turn mid face just to get it. I was just glad nobody was on it yet.

What were people saying to you after?
Well, there were about 50 guys in the channel. Danny Fuller was one of ’em. Before I let go of the rope they were saying I was too deep. The whole place was basically saying, ‘Oh, he’s history.’ So I faded…I went deeper.

Wait a sec…you heard them saying that while you were riding?
(Laughs) No, they told me after. So I got to the bottom and stalled. Then I pulled in and they were going, ‘What’s he thinking this is 6-foot pipe or something?’ And I was just having the time of my life pulling into the sick barrel.

Were you worried at all?
Well, I was there when that local kid Reece died, I tried to revive him, so I know all about the dangers of the place. I put my helmet on figuring it pushed the odds to 70/30 in my favor if I ate it on a huge one. Some people say you gotta be prepared to pay the ultimate price for the ultimate rush, but I think that’s a bunch of bull shit. You just gotta prepare. Know what you’re going to do and do it well…then live.

Do you consider your Jaws barrel a bigger feat?
Yeah. That barrel was the highlight of my life–after my kids being born.

Did you realize how close the lip was to taking your head off?
I knew I barely squeaked, but I didn’t realize how close it was until I saw it on video. I thought I faded before pulling into it but when I looked at the video I realized I was actually racing down the line when I pulled in. If Teahupoo is a meat grinder, Jaws is one of those torture devices that will just rip your limbs off. God was definitely looking out for me on that one.

Now Garrett, some people say you’re not the most humble guy around. How do you respond?
Yeah, I know. (Laughs) Well the thing is confidence in yourself is something you gotta have in situations like that, and sometimes that can rub people the wrong way. I try not to talk, y’know, but sometimes it’s hard when you get a waves like those. But I give plenty of respect to everyone who gives me respect. Guys like Dane Kealoha, who drove me into that wave at Jaws and Ikaika Kalama, they know how much I love and respect them, and I’ve never gone around saying I’m the best guy at this or that.

So you’re humble when it really counts?
Always. I’m always humble in front friends, the ocean, and with God. When I stuck my arms up after that Jaws barrel that wasn’t a claim. I was just thanking God. –Chris Mauro