And how this noted big-waver came to save a Portuguese fishing village…
It is rare when the civilian world jumps into the surf pool and makes a ripple that we don’t snicker at.
Surf, like combat and birthing a child, can only be understood when sleeves are rolled up and fingers are buried into the rind.
It has to be lived through years of torture punctuated by minor successes to be understood.
But then, and rarely, there’s a story that reveals a surfer, a wave, or both, like never before.
This Smithsonian article from 2018 (the mag was gifted by a retired uncle whose new hobby was permanently borrowing ‘free’ magazines from old barber shops and dentist offices), brings light to the darker corners of the Garrett McNamara and Nazaré square.
Garrett, who is fifty-two, is often overlooked by surf media. Could be the Mercedes drip or the Anderson Cooper jet ski drive-by.
But this article endears him to the reader.
Highlights include Garrett’s upbringing with his mother who was searching for answers in communes and cults. Mammy took Garrett to Central America where her then-partner Luis kicked her in the head till she was bloody and unconscious with five-year-old Garrett as a witness.
Another details Garrett being left with a peasant farmer in Guatemala who adopted him for some time.
It describes their time in California when Garrett’s mammy, now following the Christ Family christian cult which was led by a man who called himself ‘Jesus Christ Lightning Amen,’ took all their possessions, put them in a pile and lit them on fire.
They were left with bedsheets that became their robes with rope for a belt.
Garrett describes the incident as “one of the worst humiliations of my life.”
He tried to hide in an alley but school friends saw him.
The dark history of Nazaré (named after the place of Jesus’ birth, Nazareth) will similarly excite.
It tells how the town withered into near-extinction after once being a prosperous fishing village.
Fishermen who set out never returned.
Thrown into the cliffs by giant waves while trying to bring their catches to land.
It also tells how the widows of the lost fisherman now line the streets, quiet and sullen, in black dresses.
And, how Dino Casimiro, a local who knew the town was in despair, sent an email to Garrett to explore the wave in hopes that it would bring tourism and life back to the sequestered village.