When it comes to monstrous surf, Europe doesn’t get much respect among surfers who ride big waves for a living. But that could soon change thanks to Benjamin Sanchis‘ recent taming of a bona fide monster beyond the Basque Country south of Hossegor, France. The ride (see video), at a break called Belharra, has made Sanchis a leading contender in several categories of the prestigious Billabong XXL Global Big-Wave Awards, including biggest wave. (The year-long competition ends on the first day of spring.)
Europe has repeatedly been shut out of the annual competition because waves at top destinations, although very large, appear soft compared to the crushing giants at more famous spots such as Maverick’s off Northern California and Jaws off Maui. Stiff competition also comes from the Southern Hemisphere, with Tahiti and Tasmania dishing out some angry beasts during their winter months.
Yet with the North Pacific in a relatively quiet pattern this year, Sanchis and his European companions have taken center stage in the big-wave arena thanks to the massive storms pounding the region this winter. Earlier this week they were catching incredible waves off of Ireland as huge swells began marching down the North Atlantic.
“Meanwhile the North Pacific is still just asleep at the wheel,” says XXL contest director Bill Sharp. “While Europe’s come alive there’s only been one big swell off California, and another off Hawaii.” According to Sharp, the swell that slammed Ireland and the Basque Country produced wave faces that measured as high as 60 feet.