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It is seven o’clock in the morning in Nazaré, and at this time of day you can’t really tell from looking at it that this small Portuguese coastal town is currently the hottest spot for surfing adrenaline junkies. It won’t be light yet for a little while. Most residents are still asleep; only an old woman with a tiny lap dog is walking on the boardwalk of the city beach. And Garrett Mc- Namara, of course. Every morning at sunrise the man from Hawaii gets into his G-Class or, as during our visit, the new Mercedes-AMG C63 Estate and drives up high on the cliffs that separate the two beaches Praia do Norte and Praia do Sul from one another. From up there at the lighthouse he looks searchingly out over the sea like a meteorologist. And every morning Garrett McNamara waits for “Big Mama,” the biggest wave of all time. Will she come today? McNamara is a big-wave surfer – a record holder in this sport, in fact. In 2013, the now 47-year-old was able to ride a 30-meter-high monster off Nazaré, the biggest wave that any man has ever subjugated with a surfboard. Garrett spends the winter months from November to February here on the Portuguese Atlantic coast. “Portugal is the California of Europe,” he enthuses, “mysterious, challenging, simply amazing.” The unique feature of Nazaré is the 5000-meter deep underwater canyon that lies just off the coast and causes the fear-inducing waves and currents for which Garrett is on the lookout every morning. “Here it’s as if you were to take all the exciting surf spots like Jaws, Puerto Escondido, and Waimea and put them together.” When he surfs a wave off Nazaré, says “GMac,” then it’s as if he were sitting in an amazingly fast car. Chased by a massive avalanche. A boy from The Bay State is not necessarily destined from birth to be a professional surfer. But Garrett, who was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1967, followed his younger brother Liam to Hawaii at the age of eleven after the boys had been on the road for a few years with their adventurous hippie mother and had their first encounter in Berkeley, California with the Pacific Ocean and its waves. In Hawaii, Garrett then became addicted to the giant waves of Waimea from the very first day. “I immediately fell in love with surfing,” he recalls. “All I could think of from that point on was: When can I surf the next time, and where? And where do I get the best board?” As a 17-year-old, he took part for the first time in the prestigious Hawaiian Triple Crown Series, and from then on everything went very quickly. Supported by hip Japanese sponsors the McNamara brothers became professionals and made a name for themselves in countless competitions over the course of the next ten years. At the beginning of the 1990s, entirely new options arose through “tow-in surfing” in which surfers hanging onto a rope were towed with a Jet Ski high onto the wave. From then on, it was finally possible to ride those monster waves that a surfer could never have reached by paddling with bare hands. Garrett McNamara was now also one of the first to brave the highest waves in the world, with great success: In the 2002 Tow Surfing World Cup in Maui – at a surf break called “Jaws” – at the wise old age of 35, he won $70,000, the most prize money ever to be awarded in a surfing competition. Since then Garrett has always been looking for the next kick: for example, in southern Alaska, where he rode a six-meter-high wave that had been set off by a giant ice block breaking off a calving glacier. And starting last year, Garrett has also made a leap forward technologically. Engineers at Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-AMG have fashioned a special surfboard for the obsessive bigwave hunter that is tailor made for his record quest: the MBoard. Given that Mercedes-Benz already supported the successful extreme athlete with vehicles on land, the idea was hit upon to also develop a high-tech surfboard for McNamara. A “Silver Arrow of the Seas,” so to speak. The ambition of the design and engineering experts at Mercedes-Benz was piqued. They designed a particularly streamlined high-tech surfboard for the world record holder. One like McNamara had always been looking for. “A fast surfboard not only makes the surfer king of the waves but also spares you a great deal of pain,” says Garrett. “With a fast board you can clear the wave before the water mass of the breaking wave catches up with you and is able to cause serious injury with its tremendous force.” During the handover of the MBoard prototype, Garrett stood in the Mercedes-Benz design department in Sindelfingen wide-eyed and nervous like a little boy. “I felt very honored when Mercedes — which is to say, the best car manufacturer in the world — approached me and said, ‘Garrett, we want to be with you out on the water, we want to build you the perfect board for the waves of Nazaré, and we want you to survive them.’” But first the carmakers had a ton of questions for the wave rider. What speeds do you reach? What is the most important dynamic moment when surfing? What happens to you and the board when you’re hit by the waves? The questions about all the aqua- and aerodynamic aspects are too numerous to even mention here. “A board is a pure body,” explains Steffen Köhl, Head of Advanced Design at Mercedes-Benz, “half flying, half gliding – a very special At 47, Garrett McNamara belongs to the elders of big-wave surfers. But the world record holder will not give up before it comes — the biggest wave of all time. 88


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