The British surfer who doesn’t want “the guy who broke his back” to be remembered

British surfer Andrew Cotton doesn’t want the guy who broke his back to be remembered, but it’s an incident that instantly grabs your attention.

In November 2017, the father-of-two made headlines after breaking his lower spine while riding a 55-foot wave in Nazare, Portugal.

But for Cotton – or Cotty as he’s known in the surfing world – it was never going to be an erasure that defined him. This becomes very evident in a conversation with the Dryrobe Ambassador who is living his dream of a professional surfer.

He is a deeply thoughtful man who once worked as a plumber before fully appreciating that his true passion lay in and around the ocean.

Although his broken back made headlines in 2017, he hopes to generate many more in the future.

Cotty was originally a plumber before he had the chance to become a professional surfer


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“In my mind there was no doubt [about quitting the sport]“It wasn’t traumatic enough for me,” he said, referring to his injury from 2017.

“Yes, it was extremely painful, but I never thought at any time that I was going to drown or die.

“For me, ending my big wave surfing trip on a failure – I don’t know if I’m the selfish one – I don’t want to be on a fade.

“I don’t want to be that guy who fell or the guy who broke his back.

“There have been times when you walk through and ask yourself ‘do I really want this? “

“But once you get back to the ocean, that answers a lot of questions.”

“You have to sort your stuff”

As a teenager, Cotty was so preoccupied with surfing that his teachers reported his obsession to his parents.

For some reason, there is something about the ocean and surfing that just appeals to the father of Devon.

But – as would be understandable to many people who dream of following their passions – doing it professionally is a whole different ball game.

Of course, Cotty had to deal with a job and ended up turning to plumbing. People need to make money after all.

“The plumbing chapter was actually really essential,” he said.

“It was never my idea. Rather, it was my parents who kicked me in the ass and said “you have to sort out your business”.

“‘You can’t just surf all the time.’

“It was to get a trade and a skill behind me so that I could do something and the dream, maybe, was that I could go to Australia – they would probably want skilled workers.

“The apprenticeship lasted three years, then I worked for a local guy in Braunton, then for a bigger company that installed solar panels and underfloor heating.

“It was that last job where I was making really big money and it was a job for life – one where you can get a mortgage and prepare for life.

“I worked with guys who loved plumbing and it was their passion.

“It made me realize that I was doing it just because I was expected to have a good job.

“I was like ‘I can’t do this.’ If that has to be it, then I’d rather be poor – I don’t know! I can’t do this for 60 years because it was driving me crazy.

“It motivated me to push my surfing and it wasn’t necessarily like ‘I’m going to be a professional surfer now.’ Rather, it was “what can I do that is my passion?” “”

Cotty rode some of the biggest waves around and broke her back in November 2017

Cotty brings up a topic that many of us can relate to: how do you know you’re on the right track, especially when choosing at such a young age?

“Growing up I found this period – you know when you leave school and go to the career office – you are 15!” he added.

“How can you make a decision on what to do then?”

“They say that you are going to choose what you are going to do and that you are going to do it for the rest of your life.

“I’m so glad I didn’t choose these things – and stick with them for the rest of my life because I felt I had to – because society expects it.”

“It’s the pressures and it’s the people who care about you who want you to succeed and be successful.”

“It’s never enough, I always want a little more”

After giving up plumbing, Cotty followed his passion – namely the ocean – to become a lifeguard with the RNLI while searching for waves closer to home.

But in 2010, he got a life-changing call from American professional surfer Garrett McNamara.

He was looking for a safety ski driver and since then Cotty has started working with him in Nazare. It was the start of a relationship that continues to this day and allowed Cotty to live out his dream of being a professional surfer.

“It doesn’t seem real, does it?” ” he said.

“You kind of feel guilty too, like a bit of a fraud. Anyone can understand that I feel like an impostor, I shouldn’t be doing this and I’m probably not doing good enough or deserving it. It’s weird.

“I still don’t feel like I belong to me, but there are times in the ocean, where everything connects, you surf well and you feel like ‘I want this’.”

At the heart of Cotty’s motivation is also a deep feeling that he always wants a little more, which takes his surfer career to new heights.

“It’s never enough, I always want that little bit more,” he explained.

“Surfing brings me so much happiness but I always want a little more you know?

“Whether it’s a little more because of my performance, or that I still think I can surf better, or that I could have gone further, I’m never completely satisfied with my surfing.

“I always think I can do better.”

He added, “With surfing you carry that feeling of the first wave, the first wave you catch, when I was probably seven or eight years old.

“You can still feel those sensations and that same endorphin with the waves I ride today.

“This is really what I’m chasing.”

The “100-foot wave”

Cotty currently stars in 100 Foot Wave on Sky and Now TV

Cotty is currently playing in 100 foot wave, a docu-series that follows the quest for Everest of surfing and focuses heavily on the journey and career of Garrett McNamara.

The series is currently airing on Sky and Now TV after initially airing on HBO in the United States.

“It’s all about the injury and coming back and my story fits in there perfectly, I guess,” Cotty said.

“He appears throughout the series.

“For me, it’s about what you can expect and the feedback I’ve had, it’s pretty motivating and it’s about what’s possible.

“If you really want to do something, you can do it. There will be setbacks but it’s probably surprising what you can overcome.

“Everything is possible.”

Andrew Cotton is an Ambassador for the Dryrobe brand, the producers of the world’s most advanced changing gown. To find out more visit

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