TODAY   |  November 12, 2011

Surfer on 90-foot wave: Like riding a moving mountain

A video camera was recording when a Massachusetts native found himself surfing the face of a wave off the coast of Portugal estimated at 90 feet in height. TODAY’s Amy Robach speaks with Garrett McNamara about his wild ride.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

AMY ROBACH, co-host: Surfers are a special breed, many always looking for that perfect wave. Well, one American took that challenge to the extreme. That is a 90-foot wall of water, and riding is Garrett McNamara there in that photo. It's believed to be the largest wave ever surfed. It happened off the coast of Portugal , and it earned this Massachusetts native a spot in the record books. Garrett McNamara joins us live now from Portugal . Garrett , congratulations, we should mention, and good morning.

Mr. GARRETT McNAMARA (Surfed the World's Tallest Wave): Good morning. Thank you very much . It's an honor to be on your show.

ROBACH: So take -- well, likewise, we feel the same way. Take me back to earlier this week. You were out in the water and you were there helping some -- to tow some friends out. You weren't even necessarily there to surf. But you decided to surf in. When the wave started to crest, did you have any idea it was going to be what it was, and when I say that, I mean 90 feet tall?

Mr. McNAMARA: I didn't. I had no idea it was that big. And if I did, who knows, I might've got so scared I might have fallen.

ROBACH: I mean, I'm scared looking at you right there. Did you realize what the conditions were in the water when you went out?

Mr. McNAMARA: It was a lot bigger the day before and we didn't expect anything like that on this day. We didn't realize it.

ROBACH: And what's so impressive is you didn't fall. You rode that wave for quite a while. I have to ask, what did it feel like to be on something that large, that powerful? What was it like?

Mr. McNAMARA: It was like riding a moving mountain, maybe like snowboarding down some icy moguls, and then the mountain just never ending. And then when I finally got to the bottom, it was like trying to ride under an avalanche without letting it kill -- land on you. And then it kind of landed on me right at the end, so it really -- that really woke me up and made me realize what was going on.

ROBACH: Were you scared at all or were you just feeling the power of it?

Mr. McNAMARA: I was just feeling the power. I was just really enjoying the moment.

ROBACH: Oh. Praia do Norte , where you are, is one of the top destinations for surfers. We can see why. You say it's the eighth wonder of the world because it is so magnificent. But I'm looking at that and it doesn't seem so safe to do what you did. Would you do it again and would you recommend it to others?

Mr. McNAMARA: I would only recommend it to very few extreme watermen, my friend, a few of my friends, and I will definitely do it again.

ROBACH: I mean, you were raised in Massachusetts . Anything in your life prepare you for this moment?

Mr. McNAMARA: You know, I've been doing Surfers Healing and taking autistic children surfing, and it really kind of recharges my batteries. We -- it's a foundation for autistic children and we've got these new jet-powered surfboards that we're going to be using, the WaveJet , to take the autistic children surfing. And that's what really prepares me spiritually, I guess. It gives me -- just recharges my batteries, taking the autistic children surfing and sharing our passion with them.

ROBACH: Well, that's fantastic. And congratulations on your world record . Garrett McNamara , thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. McNAMARA: Thank you.

ROBACH: And we're back right after this.