On Jan. 28, 2013, Garrett McNamara caught a wave off the coast of Nazare, Portugal, that became an instant media sensation. It was dubbed the "100-foot wave" by news outlets around the world, including ABC, CBS, Fox and CNN. This Wednesday, McNamara will appear on a "60 Minutes Sports" installment about the wave. But as of today, McNamara has withdrawn his entries from the Billabong XXL Awards, surfing's prestigious big-wave awards show.
"We decided to pull my waves from Nazare out of Billabong XXL because I do not ride for Billabong and I did not go out that day and surf for a world record or to win any XXL prize money," said McNamara via email. "I was out there because I live for big waves, it's what I love to do!! It is not necessary to have a Billabong panel measure it. There have already been quite a few educated professionals who have measured it anywhere between 60-110 feet!"
"Garrett, through his wife, confirmed over the weekend that he preferred to not participate in the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards this year and I understand and respect his decision," said Billabong XXL Awards director Bill Sharp. "Garrett is one of the only big wave riders to have won or been nominated in every XXL event category over the last decade, and regardless of his competitive status this year, he will no doubt continue to be extremely entertaining while bringing considerable mainstream attention to the sport."
Last week the XXL Awards website posted photos of McNamara's reputed 100-foot wave taken from a different vantage point. Critics argued it made the wave look considerably smaller, which led to another round of scrutiny online. The images have since been removed from the site. Ever since riding the wave McNamara has maintained that he is unsure of exactly how big it was.
It would seem that XXL Awards sponsors have played a big role in McNamara's decision.
"Also one of my main reasons for withdrawing is due to the sponsorship of the Billabong XXL by an alcohol company [Pacifico]. I feel very strongly that we, as athletes, should not endorse alcohol. We are sending the wrong message to the general public," added McNamara.
McNarama went so far as to release a statement via Epic TV's YouTube channel on Feb. 28 in which he described the wave.
"The drop was way longer [than his world record 78-foot wave he caught on Nov. 11, 2011], but it ended up just barely breaking ... I really don't know how big it is, but it felt bigger," he said.
McNamara was met with similar criticism after he broke the world record in 2011.
"We ignored it because Garrett, or somebody in his camp, claimed it … and that doesn't sit well with us because it breaks the surfer's code, which clearly states that we must let our surfing do the talking and appreciate whatever recognition may come of it. Be quiet, be humble. Claim a wave to be half the size it actually was," wrote Surfing magazine editor Taylor Paul in Nov. 2011.
In the past other big-wave surfers, namely Laird Hamilton, have declined to participate in the XXL Awards for similar reasons (as documented in Susan Casey's book "The Wave"). The 2012/13 Billabong XXL Awards will take place at the Grove in Anaheim on May 3. To see all of the entries go to BillabongXXL.com.