Big wave surfer Andrew Cotton back on his feet after brutal Nazare wipeout

Andrew Cotton broke his back in a brutal wipeout at Nazare.
Andrew Cotton broke his back in a brutal wipeout at Nazare.

“It was a fine line between one of the best waves of my life, and one of the worst,” said big wave surfer Andrew Cotton, who broke his back in the brutal Nazare wipeout.

North Devon’s big wave surfer Andrew Cotton is already looking forward to getting back into the water after breaking his back in a brutal wipe-out last week.

The 38-year-old from Braunton, known as Cotty, suffered a compression fracture in his vertebrae when he was swallowed by a giant wave in Nazaré.

But speaking to the Gazette from Portugal, the former plumber said he couldn’t wait to get back into the water and was already starting to around.

He said: “I surf waves like that all the time; it was a fine line between one of the best waves of my life, and one of the worst.

“Unfortunately, this was one of the worst. But that is just part and parcel of what I do.

“You make those split second decisions and I decided to throw a little deeper and position myself to be in the barrel.

“I then realised it wasn’t going to barrel; I was too high to go down and I couldn’t go up any more and I knew I was going to get hit.

“I jumped off my board, which is something I very rarely do.

“The intial impact was quite light; I felt like I was weightless and didn’t realise I was being pushed out in front of the wave.

“Then it was the biggest impact I have ever had. As soon as I hit it rattled me so hard I knew I’d done something to my back.”

Cotty was pulled from the water by rescuers, and lifeguards on the beach had to cut off his wetsuit and strap him to a spinal board.

“I knew in my mind it was my lower back but I could still feel my fingers and toes so I focused on that,” said Cotty.

“Breaking your back could go any way, and I think I got away with it very lightly.”

Cotty is still in Portugal, but will be flying back to Manchester for specialist spinal treatment.

He said he was managing to walk for 10 minutes at a time, but he was ‘hurting all over’.

“I hope I can be back in the water in six-to-12 weeks, but it could be longer or shorter; hopefully I will know more when I get home,” he added.

Cotty is famed for his big wave surfing - in 2013 he made headlines when he surfed an 80ft ride at the same spot in Praia do Norte.


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