GALLERY: Bombing in the Basque Country and Beyond

Jason Lock

by on

Updated 18d ago

The Basque Country’s crazy pointbreak at Roka Puta finally woke up, as most of the rest of western Europe was blasted by the first XL swell of the season last week. Plus, there was enough swell around for Mundaka to dazzle, as the Old Continent’s most idolised lefthander often does in NNW swells. “We’ve been waiting for a swell like this,” said Adur Amatriain, an 18-year-old talented Basque surfer.

For Adur, Roka Puta is more than just scoring at the local — it’s in his blood. “My father was the first person who ever surfed at this pointbreak,” he said. (Adur’s father Ibor is one of the standout pioneers of big-wave surfing in Europe.) “So now, I feel like I have to take his place at Roka Puta.”

Adur Amatriain continuing his father’s legacy.

Adur Amatriain continuing his father’s legacy.

© 2022 - Gorka Gurdi

As the tide ebbed to low around 9:30am last Monday, a tight-knit crew made their way into the lineup — including Adur’s brother Iker, Aritz Aranburu, Ruben Vittoria, Xabi Lopez and Indar Unanue. “Had a couple wipeouts at the start,” said Adur. “I got one sick barrel which made everyone on the road and beach scream. Definitely made this day even more special.”

Ruben Vitoria on The Basque’s other big wave that breaks further out than Roka Puta.

Ruben Vitoria on The Basque’s other big wave that breaks further out than Roka Puta.

© 2022 - Victor Gonzalez

After a while though, the crowd thickened and the waves tightened. Time for a change of plans. “We paddled to the next big wave in the area further out than Roka Puta,” said Lopez, another young Basque gun. “Indar and Ruben got the bombs of the day and I got seriously pounded by a big set on the head.”

“That session, we were thinking about taking it easy,” said Unanue. “You’re waiting between 30 and 50 minutes for sets. I got a couple medium-sized waves, then Xabi came over with a ski and picked us up. But as we were driving back, I saw a set coming and jumped off the back for one more wave. I paddled into the first of the set. But there were some huge bumps on it, due to the southeast wind that started coming up, and I fell and got dragged around for a long time. Had to pull the vest, took three or four waves on the head and headed straight to the rocks. Got out safely, hugged my girlfriend on the beach. Just a scare.”

Aritz Aranburu has probably seen this vision more than anyone else on the planet.

Aritz Aranburu has probably seen this vision more than anyone else on the planet.

© 2022 - Gorka Gurdi

“Felt a bit under-gunned out there,” said Vitoria. “I had an 8’6” and put myself right under the lip and it kinda paid off.”

The next day, the swell dropped considerably. Roka Puta’s 12-hour rampage was over. But when one big wave dies, other more manageable spots start to power up from the residual swell still in the water. Mundaka may not have been all-time on Tuesday — and there’s sand currently in the end section of the wave — but it doesn’t have to be crazy-good to have fun out there.

Top L: Joseba Castresana; Top R: Pablo Garay; Bottom L: as well as one of the best rivermouth waves in Europe, Mundaka’s also a working harbour town; Bottom R: Natxo Gonzalez and Jon Irigoien know few back-streets to bee-line to the harbour hop-off.

Top L: Joseba Castresana; Top R: Pablo Garay; Bottom L: as well as one of the best rivermouth waves in Europe, Mundaka’s also a working harbour town; Bottom R: Natxo Gonzalez and Jon Irigoien know few back-streets to bee-line to the harbour hop-off.

© 2022 - Gorka Gurdi

Iker Acero — brother to surfing’s favourite nomad Kepa — was raised on Mundaka.

Iker Acero — brother to surfing’s favourite nomad Kepa — was raised on Mundaka.

© 2022 - Gorka Gurdi

“The best left in Europe didn’t disappoint,” said photographer Gorka Gurdi. “Some tubes out there were incredible. Then as the tide came up, it got better.”

“Yeah, there were some fun ones out there,” added Aritz. “Lots of people, but that’s how it is at three-to-four foot.”

Not everyone (hardly anyone) wants XL Nazare. Same swell, around the corner.

Not everyone (hardly anyone) wants XL Nazare. Same swell, around the corner.

© 2022 - To Mane

Some 400 kilometres west, Portugal-based photographer To Mane was on a mission with pals Salvador Couto and Elohe Ali Alvarez. The plan was to escape the pounding surf of Portugal’s west coast and find sheltered more manageable conditions. “We drove north from home,” said Mane. “I’ve hurt my back, so was happy to be on photo duty, especially along such a jagged coastline. Along northern Spain, there’s a bunch of spots that offer shelter and you can find a few diamonds in the rough. The locals were super welcoming — thanks to them.”

L: Galicia. R: Nicola Peña Zapata.

L: Galicia. R: Nicola Peña Zapata.

© 2022 - To Mane

Elohe Ali Alvarez ditched the west coast of Portugal for Spain.

Elohe Ali Alvarez ditched the west coast of Portugal for Spain.

© 2022 - To Mane

“It was sick to have those guys up here,” says Spanish ripper and friend of Elohe, Crispi Iglesias. “I’ve actually been living in France the past few years and moved back home up here recently, so to get a swell like this so soon was really special. As the tide went out, it got hollower.”

Top L: Kiko Campos; Top R: Salvador Couto. Bottom L: Elohe Ali Alvarez, Bottom R: Crispi Iglesias.

Top L: Kiko Campos; Top R: Salvador Couto. Bottom L: Elohe Ali Alvarez, Bottom R: Crispi Iglesias.

© 2022 - To Mane

UK-based MSW forecaster Jamie Bateman said: “The same long-period XL, WNW/NW swell that stirred big waves breaks in Ireland and Portugal on Sunday and Monday also brought Northern Spain to life; deep water reefs and pointbreaks were going off as the swell peaked late-to-mid-morning.

“A weather front, associated with the same swell-producing storm, did not present the wind complications along the north facing shores of the Iberian Peninsula. In fact, it was most welcomed, switching the wind offshore and keeping it that way all day. Couple that with blue skies and warm, late autumn temperatures, conditions were optimum just about everywhere.

Iker Amatriain at Roka Puta.

Iker Amatriain at Roka Puta.

© 2022 - Gorka Gurdi

“The swell halved by Tuesday but it was still solid, providing 2-3 foot overhead to double overhead surf at exposed locations, that ever encroaching weather front meant stronger, offshore, SW wind but anywhere tucked away behind those stunning coastal hills was still producing the goods.”

Indar Unanue and Xabi Lopez talking where to go next, probably.

Indar Unanue and Xabi Lopez talking where to go next, probably.

© 2022 - Gorka Gurdi

Natxo and Ander Mendiguren exploring the streets.

Natxo and Ander Mendiguren exploring the streets.

© 2022 - Gorka Gurdi

Natxo Fernandez having a good time.

Natxo Fernandez having a good time.

© 2022 - Gorka Gurdi

The line up at Roka Puta: you can pull up straight off the the main road and take a look.

The line up at Roka Puta: you can pull up straight off the the main road and take a look.

© 2022 - Gorka Gurdi

Cover shot Ruben Vitoria by Victor Gonzalez