1. Riding giants
I never set out to be a big wave surfer. I'd wanted to be a contest surfer but simply wasn't good enough. Everything changed with my first trip to Hawaii. I was completely out of my depth, scared and probably a bit too gung-ho. But I had nothing to lose and got a taste for big waves.
In the depths of winter, violent storms in the Atlantic Ocean generate waves as high as five storey buildings, and a growing number of surfers try to tame them. Sometimes they are just a slip away from serious injury or even death.
Europe is the new big wave frontier. Waves bigger than anyone thought possible are now being ridden right on my doorstep. It's cold and the conditions can be unpredictable, but being from Britain I'm used to that.
2. WATCH: Big wave kit
At a certain point, waves become too big to paddle into. This is when tow-surfing begins. Find out what big wave surfers have in their arsenal to tackle waves of up to 100ft.
Andrew Cotton chats about his boards, jet skis and safety kit.
In 2012, I towed Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara into the record books when he rode a 78ft wave at Nazaré in Portugal. That's been officially recorded as the largest wave ever ridden but we'll keep pushing.
3. Cotty's world
To be a big wave surfer, it's important to have the right mindset.
You need passion and hunger in order to achieve your goals, and your motives have to be real if you're going to survive. There's no room for egos – most big wave surfers are very down to earth, grounded individuals.
This is ultimately a team sport and we rely on each other, especially in dangerous situations. Meticulous planning, achievable goals and honesty are all essential. None of us want to die.
Everyone has their own limitations, whether it's 2ft or 20ft. A big wave for me right now is around 50ft, but there are no guidelines in this sport – which is why I love it. Dropping into a huge wave is like a dream.
A huge canvas opens up before you, allowing you to draw some amazing lines and go anywhere you like. It's a strange feeling - familiar, but nothing like normal surfing. The downside is the wipe outs. It feels like a car crash - there are no other words to describe it.
Pushing the limits
I'd love to be the first surfer to successfully ride a 100ft wave, but that's not why I do this. For me it's about riding the biggest waves I can in a progressive way, pulling into huge barrels, surfing every wave like it's my last and pushing the limits of what's possible.
Big wave surfing has evolved so rapidly in such a short space of time, there's no telling what and where we'll be surfing in the future.
4. Ocean power
5. WATCH: Survival tips
Don't forget to breathe. Andrew Cotton shares his top three tips for big wave survival.
6. CLICK: Big wave locations
Click or tap on the image to learn about other big wave locations around the world.
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