We called this one out a few days ago; a couple days of XL swell was all set to rifle into Europe, shelling waves all over the Old Continent's western flank. And while the liquid fervour of Nazare didn't really reach boiling point, Hossegor in France erupted for a short-lived session and we may have perhaps seen the best ever wave ridden at Mundaka.
That Basque Country marvel can be hailed as Europe's crown jewel, offering perhaps the defining moments of this run of swell. You see, yesterday [Wednesday Feb 24] conditions lined up perfectly early morning for Mundaka, before the wind ate away at it. During those golden few hours, Natxo Gonzalez stroked into this absolute bomb. A wave that Kepa Acero, who has surfed the greatest rivermouth wave in the world more than anyone, said was 'technically the best waver ever ridden out there'.
"Oh man, that was the set of the day," Natxo tells MSW. "The swell though, it was the best swell I've ever seen in the Basque Country, so clean. It was 30 wave sets, then flat, then a set, then flat, I've never seen it like this.
"But with those conditions, we thought it would barrel all the way, but it didn't. We got a couple of insane ones, then this set came around mid-tide at the end of the session. It was my last wave. I was waiting on the peak with a friend and everyone was whistling, my friend said 'go Natxo', laughing, because it was too big. Sometimes when the set is too big, it doesn't even barrel.
"I was just like, laughing, before I caught it. I was paddling, air drop and then said to myself, 'fuck, this is a bomb!' I had two options, go straight because it's a closeout or go into the barrel as late as I could. I took the second option and somehow made it work. It was one of the craziest waves I ever got in Mundaka. My friends couldn't believe it. Kepa Acero told me it was the best wave, technically, anyone has ever surfed at Mundaka. I was like, almost crying! He's been there all his life. An epic swell. Unbelievable."
Aritz Aranburu made the trip over – Hossegor to Mundaka is about a 2 hour drive, and as you can see in the vid below, continued to put rail through water for an unforgettable session.
Before that though, Aritz had been putting time in at France's favourite beachbreak. Those heaving cylinders have been working over time with days upon days of chunky, almost unmakeable waves. The local crew's on it though and right here, we have Miky Picon, Joan Duru and Aritz from a session on Tuesday. My oh my.
But you have to be tenacious to score in conditions like this. "Honestly, it was shitty for three hours," Miky told MSW. "And then it just turned on after one set and got pumping for an hour. Then the tide got too low. It was crazy and this is why beachbreaks are magical, you just never know what you're going to get."
Meanwhile, on Monday, over in Nazare, Portugal's hyper wave stirred. The swell had a kink of north in it, which that that deep water canyon likes, but the actual swell size made for a smaller day than what you're used to seeing. But make no mistake, 50ft Nazare is still an impressive sight – and a technical marvel. Nic Von Rupp hucked into one of the taller waves of the day but of course Maya Gabeira was out there too, Cotty, Justine Dupont -- all for more of a warm up session than one that will go down in record books.
"Monday was cleaner," said Von Rupp about Nazare. "Tuesday it was a little too west. On Wednesday, there were some bombs for sure."
"The swell was generated by an area of storm-force winds associated with a mid-Atlantic low that crossed north of the Azores last Monday 22, and moved in a north-easterly direction towards the Faroe Islands," said MSW forecaster Tony Butt. "The bulk of the swell hit Ireland accompanied by strong local winds, and a smaller but still solid tangential swell propagated into Biscay, Portugal and beyond, where local conditions were very good. The swell arrived clean and lined-up, uncontaminated by previous swells; and ended up slightly bigger than many people were expecting.
"In southwest France, the first of the swell arrived overnight Tuesday-Wednesday with periods initially around 20 secs. Wave heights ramped up during the day, hitting ten feet by afternoon, and continued into Thursday, very gradually ramping down. Winds were light cross-shores from the south, with light onshores for a while in the afternoon.
"At Mundaka, the swell pumped, hitting six feet or more on Wednesday morning with periods around 18 secs and fresh offshore winds from the south. On Thursday, conditions were very similar with the swell very slightly weaker.
"Down at Nazaré, despite the westerly direction, it was still very big, exceeding 15 feet on Wednesday, with moderate gusting fresh winds from a southerly quarter. The swell persisted through Thursday but conditions were hampered by moderate to fresh Nortada winds in the afternoon."