Andrew Cotton is one of Britain’s free surfers. Over the last few years he’s been at the forefront of the tow-in surf revolution – whipping himself into mutant slabs over at Aileens in Ireland with partner Al Mennie. His antics were featured in the indie movie ‘Driven’, and have resulted in an invitation to the Interternational big wave championships.
But this Croyde boy has been missing from the line-up for months due to a spat of injuries and a knee op. Following my land-bound period after a recent face-to-surfboard incident, I wanted to find out how a pro surfer copes being banished from his natural habitat. I caught up with Cotty (via email, as the whole Oz to England time difference is a bitch, plus [not to rub salt into wounds] I’m still busy scoring swell here in Byron) to find out…
First off, how’s the knee?
Yeah, it’s all good. It’s knocking on six months now and I’m hoping to get back in the sea very soon. It feels strong and I’m hoping to come back stronger and more focused on my surfing.
It’s been a pretty tough 12 months for you injury-wise, tweaking things here and there – is that because you’re pushing your surfing more and upping the risk, or simply bad luck?
Both really; two of my major injuries last year were done at home, surfing 2-3ft waves. But that’s just how it goes sometimes. The last few big swells before my op I was pushing myself hard, taking a few more risks and going deep as possible. It was partly the fact that I thought I had nothing to lose with my operation date looming and also because over the past year big-wave and tow surfing in Ireland has come on in leaps and bounds – we’re no longer the only guys out there doing it, and we’re all pushing each other in the right direction. Plus it’s safer when you’re not alone: you can take the risks because there’s more back-up if shit goes down.
I was out of the water for a month and it drove me crazy. How’s the surf withdrawal for you?
I has had its highs and lows. I have moments where I lose focus, but I’ve mainly been pretty good. I’ve got a few new goals with my surfing, and it has also given me time to think about what else I want to do to bring in the pennies in the future and start making plans for that.
Seems you still have spreads coming out though… Was that tactical planning on your part, knowing the op was due?
Last year I went all out and put so much time and effort into photo trips and swells that it was wearing me down. At the time I felt I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, whether that was catching the best waves or getting the exposure that I thought I’d get, but it’s paying me back slowly. It feels like that time and money wasn’t wasted, and to be honest it has motivated my recovery. If I can do all those things and surf those waves without an ACL ligament and wearing a knee brace I can’t wait to get back out there with a new knee. It’s gonna be a good winter for me, I can just feel it!
Your sponsors have stuck by you though, which must be good to know.
I hope so! So far so good. I’m pretty pro-active and I’ve never taken them for granted, and it’s not like I’m never going to surf again. I’m hungry for it and definitely have a lot more that I want to accomplish.
What kind of fitness routine are you working on to get yourself back in top surfing condition?
I’ve been doing a lot of road biking, and I’ve been surprised how much I’ve enjoyed it. That’s combined with a gym routine and swimming sessions, so I’ve been keeping pretty fit while out the water. My physio is adamant that I’ll come back way fitter, because I wouldn’t ordinarily have been able to fit in this sort of demanding routine around surfing and travelling.
How’s the out of water time going to affect your tow surfing? I noticed on Twitter that you’re still buying kit, so it’s still a go then?
It won’t effect it at all. I plan to tow as soon as possible, but I also want to focus more on my big-wave paddle surfing this year. Al has already had a couple of huge sessions at Mullaghmore and I’m frothing to get out there with him.
Do you have any survival tips for other surfers facing time out due to injury?
Use the time wisely – it’s not always a negative thing spending time out the water. It can be tough missing surf and hearing all the tales of “wow!”, but it will always be there. I can’t wait to surf again, and I think that spending time out of the water has just boosted my motivation to get back out there – I can’t freaking wait!
So apart from the old knee, what’s your worst surf-related injury and wipeout?
Injuring my pelvis back in October/November last year at Mullaghmore. It was possibly the biggest swell of the winter, and it was the first time I’ve ever really been shaken up by a wipeout. Not a fun experience, but always an experience worth having.
You can follow Cotty’s antics on his blog or via his twitter account @andrew_cotton