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60ft WAVES RIDDEN OFF FRENCH COAST

08:47 20th April 2003 by
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Just in case anyone missed this in today’s Sunday Times…

FREAK WEATHER MAKES EUROPE 60FT-WAVE SURFER’S PARADISE
By Maurice Chittenden, The Sunday Times, 20 April 2003

BIG-WAVE surfing, the sport that has been the almost exclusive preserve of
Hawaii, California and Bondi Beach, was yesterday forced to take a new kid on
board: Europe.
Freak weather conditions have seen some of the biggest waves in memory lashing
the Atlantic coastline this spring. A 20ft-high wave was surfed in Guernsey
last month. But the “daddy” of them all was a wave the height of a
six- storey building, ridden off the French coast by two surfers who had tracked
satellite weather pictures of the swirling front of an intense low pressure
system across the ocean from Newfoundland.

The storm sent a 25ft swell racing ahead of it at 35mph towards the coast of
Europe. Its waves peaked in height as they hit a reef off the coast in the French
Basque country.

The Americans are not amused. The French feat was greeted with boos yesterday
at an international awards ceremony for surfers in Anaheim, California. Photographs
of the wave were studied for three hours by judges who measured it at 64ft high.
It was just 2ft short of the season’s record, a 66-footer successfully ridden
at a famed spot for ferocious waves, nicknamed “Jaws”, off Maui in
Hawaii.

The ceremony was held as an offshoot of the Billabong Odyssey, a three-year-old
hunt sponsored by a surfwear company to capture a 100ft-high wave for a $500,000
(£318,000) prize.

The Americans are scornful of the waves surfed last month at Belharra Reef,
two miles off the French resort of St Jean de Luz. The audacity of France at
seeking to take the surfing crown from America at a time when the Iraq conflict
was brewing has upset sensitivities on the beach.

“The French have a lot of good things, but military backbone and big waves
aren’t included,” said one of the postings on an internet message board
set up by Surfer magazine.

Eddie Rothman is a Hawaiian surfing icon whose 18-year-old son Makua won $66,000
yesterday for riding the winning wave off Maui. “The French wave is beautiful
but there’s no trough on it,” Rothman said. “It’s mushy. I’d take
my nine-year-old son out to tow into that wave. I’m 55 and I want to ride that
wave. But no way would you get me out at Jaws.”

The French are unmoved at suggestions that their wave was less dangerous. Fred
Basse, one of the French surfers, said: “Riding this wave, it was like
going down a huge ski slope. But with an avalanche behind you.”

So can surfers in Cornwall this summer expect such high waves? “Not quite,”
said Dave Reed, a director of the British Surfing Association, which estimates
that 250,000 Britons will go surfing this year. “The highest wave ridden
in the UK is about 16ft. The Atlantic shelf around the coast protects us from
a massive swell.”

Additional reporting: Matt Meyerson in Anaheim

Make up your own mind – here’s the pic of the wave that has been doing the rounds. It does indeed look like it’s a ‘crumbler’ rather than a full-on barrel like Jaws. But still, no denying that it’s %$&*ing huge!!!
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