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World’s foremost big wave surfer drops in at Mercedes me Melbourne

It’s one of the world’s most iconic images – a massive wall of water with a tiny speck sliding down its face. The speck is actually a surfer, and with a building in the foreground of the shot providing some perspective, it’s clear that this is one monster ride.

The surfer is Garrett McNamara, and the eight-year world record holder was the special guest at the Mercedes me Melbourne event, Mercedes me X Sport, in September 2018 where he recounted his famous and occasionally life-threatening career as the world’s foremost big wave surfer.

The 51-year-old American held the official Guinness World Record from 2011 until early 2018 for a 78-foot (23.7 metres) monster he tamed at Nazare in Portugal.

Yet the photograph on the big screen, as McNamara chats animatedly to event MC Mark Beretta, is something much bigger. Although never ratified as an official world record, the wave in the photo – surfed at Nazare in 2013 – was estimated at 100 feet tall (30.5 metres), or around the height of a seven-storey building.

McNamara described surfing the 100-footer not as frightening, but “super frustrating” because he wasn’t aiming for a record that day, but hunting a “barrel”, where the wave curls over and the surfer rides inside the tube.

“I’m going faster than I’ve ever gone, I’m straining on the (foot) straps, my foot came out so I put it back in, I’m looking for the barrel and there’s no barrel, so I wanted to kick out,” he said.

McNamara exudes confidence in both his ability and his equipment, which includes a cutting-edge big wave surfboard custom-made for him by Mercedes-Benz – dubbed ‘the Silver Arrow of the sea’ – as well as a super-tough buoyancy wetsuit and an inflatable vest. But it wasn’t always the case.

As a 15-year-old, he “ate it” on a wave at Hawaii’s renowned big wave mecca, Sunset, and swore he would never again surf waves over 10 feet tall.

“Then when I was 16, this big Peruvian guy who was like my dad at the time, he was my mentor, he looked after us, he literally grabbed me by the neck and said ‘we’re going out at Sunset’,” McNamara told the capacity crowd at Mercedes me Melbourne.

“He gave me the perfect board and all this advice, where to paddle and take off, and I ‘popped’ every single wave that came in. From that day forward, I was hooked and big waves were my life, and I wanted bigger and bigger and bigger.”

He turned professional and began surfing the world tour circuit to earn an income; but at 22, the lip of a wave landed on his back and snapped his spine. He remembers the grisly sensation of his foot kicking the back of his head and knew he was in trouble. Another surfer carried him from the water and he ended up in hospital in a life-threatening condition. When he came to, he was told that he would never surf big waves again.

Fortunately, his body still had some growing to do, and over the next few years his spine mended perfectly and he was “ready to go again”.

NcNamara heard a whisper from a friend about a massive wave in Portugal that was similar to one of his favourite Hawaiian breaks, known as Jaws, but without the crowds of tow-in surfers.

“The great thing was that I had zero expectations (about Nazare), I get there the first day and walk up to the cliff and I see the biggest waves I’ve ever seen, right there, and this is the holy grail,” he said.

“It’s like a lightbulb (moment), I’d been searching for the 100-foot wave for about 10 years and there it was, right in front of me.”

Over the succeeding years, McNamara’s feats have made Nazare world-famous. Although there have been times when he has felt his life was in danger, he says he doesn’t feel fear.

“Fear is a choice. Fear is something that is manufactured in the mind when you’re thinking about the past or the future,” he said.

“When I’m surfing I’m so comfortable and having so much fun and really choosing to enjoy whatever’s going on, so fear doesn’t enter my mind.

“I have more fear when I’m driving on the road and a kangaroo’s about to jump out at me!”

Mercedes me Melbourne

By day, Mercedes me operates as a café, with outstanding food and beverage from partner, ST ALi, digital touchpoints, one-of-a-kind vehicle displays, brand specialists, and an innovative ‘Meet the Maker’ concept. By night, the space hosts special events in areas like design, innovation, sport, art and community leadership.

Words Steve Colquhoun

Keep up-to-date with future events and all that is happening at Mercedes me at mercedes.me/melbourne, or follow on social media @mercedesmestore.melbourne

From left to right – Jessica Watson and Jade Hameister

Young explorers inspire at Mercedes me ‘Adventure’ week

Two of Australia’s greatest modern explorers shared the stage at Mercedes me Melbourne as part of a week-long celebration of the spirit of adventure.

The event, ‘Stronger Than Time’, linked the launch of the latest iteration of the rugged G-Wagon and its almost 40-year history to the type of modern exploration exemplified by South-African/Swiss explorer and Mercedes-Benz Friend of the Brand Mike Horn, who is currently utilising a pair of G 500s during his current Pole2Pole expedition.

But after a video introduction from Horn, it was two incredible young women who stole the show, keeping an audience of more than 100 attendees entertained and inspired with stories and reflections on their respective achievements.

Jessica Watson OAM, who at the age of 16 sailed non-stop and unassisted around the world, recounted some of her darkest moments as waves pounded and overturned her tiny yacht. At times, as the boat rolled through 360 degrees, she had to climb the walls and stand on the cabin roof.

“There was a storm in the Atlantic and I had prepared for ‘knockdowns’, there was one particular wave after a couple of knockdowns where (the yacht) was thrown upside-down into the trough of the next wave. That was pretty scary, it has taken me a few years to work through that one,” she admitted.

“The big thing you’re wondering (after each knockdown) is if the mast will still be standing, I couldn’t comprehend that the hull wouldn’t be damaged from that impact. I knew she (the yacht) was tough after that.”

Jessica also told of her mortification when her pre-departure test voyage came to an abrupt halt when her craft was struck by a 63,000-tonne cargo ship, bringing widespread media and public criticism, and increased scrutiny, of her planned voyage.

“You know that saying, that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Well, it did!” Jessica told the audience of the infamous collision.

Jade Hameister, who at 17 is already a veteran of three record-breaking unassisted polar expeditions, recounted some of the privations of her trips, including being unable to shower for 43 consecutive days.

She also revealed that when she decided at age 13 that she wanted to ski to the South Pole, neither she nor any of her family knew how to ski.

“For me it was about the adventure and seeing those places, so I needed to learn to ski to see those places,” she said.

After learning to ski and undergoing significant strength and endurance training, Jade was ready for her expedition when she learned that she would not be able to ski to the South Pole until she was at least 16. Undeterred, she pivoted to target the North Pole, and followed it up with a trek across the Greenland icecap before finally conquering the South Pole after her 16th birthday to achieve a Polar Hat-Trick.

Both young women have been the frequent target for ill-educated and sexist commentary, and said that while the comments were hurtful, the criticism only served to strengthen their resolve.

“They were out there and they were vocal, but you surround yourself with positivity,” Jessica said. “No one had the guts to come and say it in person. We actually wanted people to come and tell us what we were doing wrong and how we could do it better. No-one did.

“We had hundreds of positive comments, but it can be that one negative that gets to you. But that can also be the thing that drives you on.”

Jade was famously trolled following a TedX talk in which she spoke about young women as powerful role models. “Make me a sandwich,” became the catch-cry of anonymous commenters.

“My initial reaction was to laugh,” Jade said. What she did when she reached the South Pole was far more meaningful. She took a photograph of herself with a ham-and-cheese sandwich, and via social media invited her critics to spend 37 days travelling the 600km across snow and ice to come and eat it. The Instagram post and video went viral and she became an overnight spokeswoman for feminism, something she has learned to accept.

“The adventure industry is very male dominated, and I have to put aside what I hear from the males in the industry,” she said. “I’m not about to let all that self-doubt get to me.”

Jessica said during her voyage she had been “devastated” to encounter plastic waste floating in some of the world’s most remote oceans. She said this was a key reason to encourage everyone to travel and see more of the world. “If you never experience it, how do you get people to fall in love with it and care for it?” she said.

Jade also had her own moment of realisation at the start of her North Pole adventure with flight delays caused by an ice runway that kept breaking up, something that had never happened before. “That was very confronting,” she said.

We are facing an extinction event of our own making,” she warned. “Especially as a young person it’s all about knowledge – for my peers and my friends I think it’s all about sharing stories and photos from these places, because they might not have had those experiences.

“The decisions are up to today’s leaders and the generation before us to give us that fighting chance to save our species. The planet will survive, it’s the species that needs saving.”

Jade Hameister’s first book, My Polar Dream (Pan McMillan), goes on sale on 11 September, 2018.

Mercedes me Melbourne

By day, Mercedes me operates as a café, with outstanding food and beverage from partner, ST ALi, digital touchpoints, one-of-a-kind vehicle displays, brand specialists, and an innovative ‘Meet the Maker’ concept. By night, the space hosts special events in areas like design, innovation, sport, art and community leadership. To stay up to speed with future events and all that is happening at Mercedes me, sign up to the database, mercedes.me/melbourne, or follow social media @mercedesmestore.melbourne

Words Steve Colquhoun

New world record for ultra-distance cyclist

For most people, the Easter long weekend is filled with rest, reflection and family time. But for Melbourne ultra-distance cyclist Dr Mitch Anderson, this year it was all about 24 hours of gut-busting exertion. And the reward of setting a new world record.

During 24 consecutive hours in the saddle, Anderson hammered out a staggering 894.35km – the equivalent of riding from Melbourne to Sydney in a single day. In his case, though, it amounted to 275 laps of a 3.25km road loop at a proving ground near Anglesea, in Victoria.

Circulating at an average of 37.2 km/h with only a Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain containing officials and support staff for nutrition, he surpassed the previous world record distance by just 4km. Success was not certain until the tense final minutes of the challenge.

The official organisation governing such attempts, the UltraMarathon Cycling Association, has since ratified the record and it is expected to be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records soon, in spite of a false start that cost Anderson about 90 seconds and put him on the back foot from the very beginning.

“At the time it was pretty annoying because we knew it was going to be close at the end,” Anderson said. “I only ended up with five or six minutes up my sleeve – the thought of going through 24 hours of purgatory and missing out by one or two kilometres for the silly mistake at the start would have been heartbreaking.”

Anderson is already the world record holder for the 12-hour outdoor cycling mark, which he broke in 2017, and has been an age group winner at the world’s most gruelling triathlon, the Hawaiian Ironman held annually in Kona, Hawaii.

Speaking at a party held at the Mercedes me store in Melbourne’s CBD to launch a film detailing the 24-hour record attempt, Anderson said the magnitude of the challenge dwarfed all of his previous achievements.

“Winning the 25-29 age group (at the Hawaiian Ironman) was the little leagues compared to this,” he told the audience.

“Kona’s hard, but this rated 10 times higher on the Richter (scale) than doing Kona. Perform the same skill for 24 hours, and think about cycling for 24 hours, and get your nutrition right, and get your breathing right. It’s a cerebral game as well as a physical game.

“I had to put in place a mental application that let me almost put my brain into sleep mode, and my body into awake mode. There’s an automatic effort that goes into riding a bike, you don’t need to think about it, just the intensity. But it’s superimposing the mental stress on the physical stress and coping with that. It’s not just the physical feat, it’s coping with both those elements.”

In this trance-like state, Anderson was able to withstand extreme discomfort for extended periods – for the entire 24 hours he was off the bike for a total of about eight minutes, including the false start drama and a handful of toilet breaks. He admitted afterwards that there were many hours of the ride from which he has no memory.

“It was such a dissociative state that it was like my brain was on Mars while my legs were pedalling. It was quite a bizarre feeling,” he told the audience at Mercedes me.

As well as the physical exertion, he also had to deal with severe nausea that struck around the 10-hour mark, plus chafing and numbness of his “undercarriage” causing damage that took weeks to heal. He used numbing creams during the ride – which also made toilet stops more difficult – and swapped between his two Giant/Shimano-supplied bikes regularly, trying in vain to find a better saddle position. “I wasn’t expecting that much discomfort in the downstairs region,” he said frankly.

“I honestly thought I wasn’t going to make it after 10 hours because I started vomiting, and it got a lot colder than expected. It was about eight degrees, and I hadn’t thought through the physiology of my gut at that stage.

“I was feeling prepared enough and good enough in that first six-to-eight hours that 930km was going to be a realistic target, and then suddenly (with the stomach issue) I thought ‘I don’t know if I can do this’. I didn’t know if I could even finish.

“(Before the ride) not finishing was never an option, I’d fall off the bike before I wasn’t going to finish with the amount of preparation I put in. But it became a real possibility.”

With the end in sight, there was one final hurdle to overcome, as the wind sprung up. “In the last two hours there was a headwind, and there’s a slight uphill into the headwind. It was only 12 metres per lap, but 12 metres of rise over 275 laps is about three and half thousand metres of climbing (over the 24 hours),” he said.

Anderson is resisting the urging of friends to look for another challenge such as the annual Indian-Pacific Wheel Race, which sees cyclists pedalling solo and unassisted from Perth to Sydney via Melbourne.

“The single day test of endurance is what floats my boat. It’s being able to push yourself over a discrete period, and say ‘here’s a mark’,” he said.

He told the Mercedes me audience he has now retired from ultra-distance cycling challenges. “Would I do it again? Not a chance. Would I go longer? Not a chance.”

Less dramatic than Anderson’s achievement but still noteworthy was an unexpected milestone achieved by the Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain supporting Anderson. Starting with a full tank of fuel, the 2.0-litre turbo diesel-powered wagon finished the 24-hour drive with the onboard computer showing an indicative 621km of range still available. That adds up to an impressive theoretical range of greater than 1500km on a single tank of fuel.

“It’s a fair indication of the sort of economy that it is possible to achieve from a family-size wagon, even when driving at higher speeds than was required of the All-Terrain during Dr Anderson’s world record bid,” says Mercedes-Benz Australia-Pacific spokesman Jerry Stamoulis.

“Whether it’s at 60, 80 or 100km/h, the choice of a fuel-efficient vehicle combined with a consistent driving style can deliver outstanding fuel efficiency and considerable savings over the life of the car.”

Proceeds from ticket sales to the launch of the film of Anderson’s attempt on the 24-hour outdoor cycling world record will be donated to the Craig Percival Memorial Trust.

Words Steve Colquhoun

Adventurer Mike Horn

Mike Horn's polar opposites

From tackling New Zealand’s fiercest mountain ranges to one of Australia’s most unforgiving deserts, it’s all in a day’s work for explorer Mike Horn, who visited both countries during 2017 as part of his epic Pole 2 Pole expedition. This sees him travelling to both Antarctica and the Arctic and he is now on his homeward leg, aiming to cross the Arctic Circle late this year and finish at his starting point, Monaco, in mid-2018.

Here are some of the spectacular highlights from his time in the wilderness of Queenstown in New Zealand, and leading a group of journalists through the unforgiving Simpson Desert in Australia.

The latest Mercedes-Benz Magazine has the full story about Horn’s incredible undertakings and sense of adventure.

New Zealand 



Mike Horn's first Australasian adventure was tackling the snowy peaks of Queenstown. 



The intrepid adventurer is accustomed to solo travel in the most extreme parts of the world, including Antarctica. 



On the land, Mike Horn travels in a G-Wagon – a vehicle that he says "buys you freedom". 



While his gruelling adventures are mentally and physically demanding, Mike Horn also gets to witness some of the world's most spectacular and isolated landscapes. 

Australia 




The Simpson Desert was Mike Horn's playground in Australia – he was joined by a bunch of thrill-seeking journalists. 



Mike Horn's V8-powered G-Class made light work of a range of conditions and terrain, including Outback bulldust. 



South African-born, Swiss-based Mike Horn relishes his life of professional adventure – for him, there's simply no other path. 



Mike Horn contemplates the next legs of his journey as he heads back towards the Northern Hemisphere. 

A true great: rugby’s Sean Fitzpatrick

In the world of rugby, Sean Fitzpatrick is as big as it gets. The legendary former All Blacks captain (from 1992 to 1997) led his team to victories against the best teams in the world and is rightfully recognised as one of the all-time greats of the game.

Based in the UK, Fitzpatrick will be back on home turf for the British Lions’ tour of New Zealand in June. Earlier this year he was part of the Laureus Sport for Good Tour 2017, supported by Mercedes-Benz. This is an initiative of the Laureus Foundation, which supports children’s sporting charities around the world. 

We caught up with him ahead of his trip down south...

What is your involvement with the British Lions tour in 2017?
I am a pundit for Sky UK covering all the games and I’m also an AIG Ambassador. 

What was the highlight of your rugby career?
Captaining the All Blacks in 1996 to our first ever series win in South Africa.

What aspect of the Mercedes-Benz brand do you most admire?
The brand has an iconic status – everyone dreams of owning a Mercedes one day. Oh, and didn't they invent the car?! 

How does being a UK-based New Zealander give you a different perspective on business and leadership?
We like hard work and being up against the odds. Not being a Brit you have to really prove yourself, which is a good motivating factor.

What changes or shifts do you most frequently see having the most impact on individuals or organisations’ improved performance?
Making people realise that to be the best you can, you have to prepare better than the opposition and with that come sacrifice.

What are your New Zealand must-dos, when you are back home? 
Spend time with my close friends and family, and eat plenty of Bluff oysters. 

What three things do you never travel without? 
Kiwi passport, iPad and my family, if possible.

Interview by Lucy Siebert  

MercedesTrophy – an unforgettable golfing experience

A white flag with the black Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star catches New Zealander Stewart Browne's eye every time he glances up from the desk in his home office.

It's a constant reminder of what the retired electrical consultant and keen golfer describes as one of the most memorable weeks of his life.

Browne and two colleagues represented New Zealand in the MercedesTrophy World Final in Stuttgart last October and the flag, signed by top German golfer Martin Kaymer, is a cherished memento of the week-long trip. 

"It takes pride of place. I can almost touch it from where I sit," Browne said from his home at Tauranga, a harbour city on the Bay of Plenty, south-east of Auckland on NZ's North Island. 

"It's a great reminder of the trip and excellence of everything involved with it. I can't speak too highly of the absolute professionalism. Everything was done right and on time with typical German precision."

Excellence – on and off the course

Mercedes-Benz is heavily involved in golf all around the world and each year it hosts the world final in Stuttgart. Ninety six men and women amateur golfers were the lucky qualifiers from more than 60,000 golfers from 60 countries who competed in a regional round and then 36-holes national finals to earn the right to represent their nation in three-player teams for three rounds of Stableford competition in Germany.

"The highlight for me was the visit to the Mercedes-Benz factory, with 35,000 workers producing 300 cars a day. To see the magnitude of the whole operation was breathtaking. And the museum with the first Mercedes car and the fascinating history of the company. They also produced the first motorbike with wooden wheels," Browne said.

In addition to golf and Mercedes-Benz related activities, there were social events, such as a night at a local beer festival and a welcome party.

"Meeting people from other countries and different walks of life made it an unforgettable experience," remarked Browne.

While there was plenty of activities beyond the course to keep competitors busy, the golf, of course, was the focus.

Browne, a 20-handicapper, described the chase to accumulate the stableford points in each day's competition as "a challenging but pleasant experience", with France the eventual winner, Australia was a creditable seventh and New Zealand finishing midfield.

Keep calm and compete

Australian representative Tim Fletcher, who plays off 14 at Barwon Heads golf club on Victoria's Bellarine Peninsula, recalls how the tension of amateur players trying to master the difficult sport led to amusing moments in the national final at Sanctuary Cove on Queensland's Gold Coast.

"I went up a couple of days earlier and met a doctor from Noosa who was also in the final and we played a practice round together," he said.

The retired chairman of Fletchers Real Estate company said the medico became a nervous wreck after compiling a stunning 40 points in the opening round. It led to a brief and bizarre role reversal.

"He was so nervous before the second round that he couldn't even hit a ball on the practice range. So I told him to lie down and stretch out. He was in a sweat and I was telling him to take deep breaths," Fletcher said.

 "The irony is I came in with 41 points and pipped him to be one of the three guys to go to Germany. It happened only because I was pretty cool about it because I didn't think I was in contention."

Fletcher described the trip to Germany for the final as "an experience of a lifetime" that forged lasting friendships.

"It's extraordinary the memories. For me, getting there was my prize and whether I did well in Germany was beside the point," he said.

"It was an incredible experience, the companionship between the various countries, particularly the New Zealanders and South Africans. We made some great friends out of it and I'm actually catching up in a couple of weeks with David McKenzie, one of the other Australian contestants from Mt Eliza in Victoria.

"We were thrilled to represent Australia when you consider all the people who participated in the regional events," Fletcher added.

Find out more about Mercedes-Benz’s involvement in golf and the MercedesTrophy

Words Bruce Matthews