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task for us.” Garrett knew exactly what he wanted: his MBoard should be “sleek, sexy, fast”. Atop the cliff in Nazaré he explains, a board in his hand, in which places the board must be particularly rigid and strong, and where it can be rather soft and flexible – namely, in the front at the nose, which is the first to be struck by the waves. With a laugh he balances the board on his arms, proudly displaying loving details like the three fins, typeset with the AMG logo. How fast he really is down there on the brutal Atlantic waves, he can’t exactly say: “Somewhere between 30 and 70 km/h?” “Extreme waves in particular have a very high speed,” says Teddy Woll, Head of Aerodynamics at Mercedes- Benz. “I’d say about 55 km/h and, of course, the air resistance is also an important factor.” When Garrett tried the board for the first time off the coast of Nazaré, he reached a speed of 62.4 km/h. Encouraged by the sensational characteristics of the board, Garrett suggested further developments, most notably one that is closely associated with his adopted country of Portugal: a surfboard made of Portuguese cork, which is known for its high efficiency, resiliency, and durability, and has even been used in aeronautics. For the construction of the board, the Mercedes-Benz designers spoke to the world’s largest cork producer, Corticeira Amorim, which boasts decades of experience with the extremely durable material. Together with the renowned Portuguese boardmaker Polen Surfboards, a board was developed out of CoreCork material according to Garrett’s ideal concept: durable yet flexible enough to withstand the severe beating of the waves. Garrett is pleased with his “corkboard.” In the meantime, another MBoard has actually come along that consists of a foam material that makes longitudinal reinforcement of the board unnecessary. Garrett looks down at the roaring Atlantic. He says that for him the hunt for Big Mama isn’t about the next world record. On the contrary, it’s something meditative that he is searching for when riding on and through the waves: “The sea is my church and my playground. If you remain focused and calm, you’re greeted out there by a small, absolutely quiet, self-contained world.” And any attempt to catch the next adrenaline rush is prepared with military precision. “It’s all very carefully planned,” says Garrett. “It’s very well-planned insanity. The only safe plan would be to not go at all.” If in the morning at the lighthouse he sees that tall waves are expected later in the day, the preparations start. He then drives with his wife Nicole over to the warehouses at the port, meets his crew, prepares the three Jet Skis, slips into his surf gear, and drives over to the northern beach. With walkie-talkie in hand, Nicole draws his attention to promising waves. One of the Jet Skis, circling him, then tows him up onto the wave. “I’m surrounded by a team like a Formula 1 racing driver,” says McNamara. The city government organized the group of assistants because someone like Garrett is the best publicity for local tourism. In the event that the bigwave riding legend has the feeling in the morning that no appealing waves are to be expected that day, there’s a different routine: “That’s the time to keep your body fit, to determine the next goals, and to strive to achieve them,” says Garrett. “When there aren’t any waves, that’s the best opportunity to find out what you have to do, what’s important to you, and how you achieve it.” On such days yoga, working out, and physiotherapy are on the agenda along with a lunchtime visit to his regular haunt, A Celeste, where the family of proprietors already has a Garrett-inspired set meal on the menu: salad with sesame, chickpea soup, and fried sea bass with garlic potatoes, usually grilled octopus too. The locals like him, even more so since he and his Cuban wife and manager Nicole have recently arrived with a new secret weapon in their luggage as well: the little baby Barrel – the perfect name for the son of a professional surfer. “Barrel” is not just a vat or a cask but also refers to the tubular, almost sacred arch of water that forms when a wave breaks and encloses the surfer completely. It is evening in Nazaré. Big Mama has not shown up today. But Garrett McNamara doesn’t give up hope. He sits in front of his computer and posts on his Facebook profile another weather map with menacingly severe storms colored dark red that are supposed to roll onto the Portuguese coast the next day. “Looks like fun,” he comments and is looking forward to tomorrow. Then, early in the morning, he will go up to the lighthouse again and keep watch for Big Mama. “The sea is my church, my playground. A small, absolutely quiet, self-contained world” 93


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