Nestled on the fringes of Galicia in Northern Spain lies Pancha Island, a one hectare chunk of rock, garnished with an iconic lighthouse and tethered to the mainland by a concrete bridge. What you may not know is that just off the shoreline, a brutal, XXL wave will bare teeth when conditions align. And just the other week, an inaugural tow-only event threw down in the wilds of Ribadeao.
Illa Pancha is a locale you're probably unfamiliar with, which is kind of bizarre because the wave is no secret. It has been gawked at, surfed and attempted to be surfed for years but never brought to light, likely due to the plethora of other, better known spots blowing up on a similar swell. And why, you ask, was this a tow only event? Because it's damn near impossible to paddle.
Eric Ribere has been surfing here for quite some time. Recognising the potential for one of the most challenging surf events in Europe, he conjured the idea of a big wave event that would feature a cast of local hellmen and their respective tow partners. The logistics of organising such an event in one of the more remote parts of the Old Country are pretty staggering – and then lump in the fact you've got to anticipate our global community is likely unaware of just how difficult this wave it so surf, and to provide rescue for.
As the day wound down, it was Lucas Chumbo and Ian Consensa who took the win. We checked in with Eric to talk more about the event and why it is that this slice of Spain remains relatively unknown.
Tell us a bit about the event, this was the first time it was run, right?
Yeah, this was the first edition and it was a really tough call. Most of the people that I had spoken to were seeing a really small forecast. And that's kinda true but Illa Pancha actually likes that. A few were hesitant because they've never surfed here before, but then they saw the wave and had changed their mind.
It was a slow start slow high tide in the morning and we ended up with barrels in the final. My dream will be to have the second season between October and March, maybe run it on a 60ft day...
So, who was competing?
Most of the guys who surf Nazare often like Lucas Chumbo and Ian Consensa, They won the event (tow team) with Pedro Scooby and Everaldo Pato in second. Semi-finalists were the Basque team of Natxo Gonzalez and Adrian Fernandez, and Carlos Burle with Joao Chumbo.
What’s the wave like to surf?
The wave stands up on the same spot and doubles up right after that. On the size we saw this year, we had a very tricky barrel to ride because a few didn't offer that double up. So we actually saw some surfers do some turns in the pocket on the occasion they couldn’t find the barrel.
Who organised it?
Local guy Òscar Garcia in association with myself and my company aftersurf.
This wave isn’t really well known to the rest of the surfing world, why do you think that is?
I’ve been surfing big waves for many years and when I went out to surf here, I couldn’t believe how good it was and so close to the beach.
I really think that the surf community will start to look at this spot more and more, it's only a a matter of time until we have a giant day. After that, the images will talk for themselves.
Right now, what we have is already creating a lot attention and many surfers around the globe have already contacted me to come to season II.
If you could compare it to any other wave, what would it be?
Mullaghmore, Ireland is the one that really feels like Illa Pancha. But comparing waves....it's tough.