2 Penneth with the silver-bearded Mundaka ruler Alfonso Fernández
We’re 10 brothers, all in love with the sea. First Santiago, then Asis, an innovative and competitive big wave surfer, then me. Jaime was the opposite, not at all competitive, more of a hardcore surfer. Txema and Natxo, who grew up with 8-foot boards under their feet. And then there’s the next generation, my sons, Kosme and Bosko. I saw Kosme out at Meñakoz, 15 years old and he says to me, “Qué Cabrón! Look who’s charging!" Bosko draws really clean lines, he’s 12 years old and still a featherweight, in the winter he freezes his arse off… but they’re two really hyperactive kids. It’s a family thing, there’s no feeling that compares to when you paddle out on a perfect day, and you’re only six guys out in the line-up and everyone is either a brother or a son of yours. It doesn’t get any better. Bound by blood. The thing I find most satisfying, motivating, exciting in life is passing down to my sons what they feel passionate about, the amazing feeling of surfing.
Mundaka grabs you by the guts. The wave is mental, it’s hard to keep up with it when it’s perfect. The lip throws so hard, the barrel spits, and then it throws again, spits again, over and over. I have barrels recorded on video up to 18 seconds long… and a whole other bunch engrained in my memory. Since I was a kid I’ve never cared about what else is out there in the world. Mundaka is the wave that gets me amped. Not Hawaii, not Australia nor anywhere else. This is where I’m from and where I’m staying, I’ll never need anything else. It’s a love for one wave. “How many barrels did you get?" Jaime asks me after missing a session. “Eight" I reply. “Hmm, I didn’t miss anything…" he reassures himself. That’s the way Mundaka is, even if it hasn’t been as good as it used to be the last few years.
Tow-in has opened up new avenues and they’ve achieved some amazing new feats but I liked it better before. I’m not interested in jetskis. Paddle surfing is where it’s at. It’s the essence of surfing. Paddling into big waves is essential to a surfer’s knowledge of the ocean. Not the act of catching big waves but getting a feel for the power and size of the ocean. It changes the way you look at the sea. When the surf is two-metres plus, water movement, speed… everything changes. That’s when you realise you entirely depend on your own ability, and how insignificant you are out in the line-up.
We’ve forgotten what the essence and feeling of being a surfer is. People don’t greet you as they used to. It used to mean instant friendship, brought together by the sea. That was before, it doesn’t seem to happen anymore. Today the beaches are so busy things no longer work that way. When you’ve got fifty guys out you don’t know anyone, and you’re not looking to know anyone. It’s easier to make friends with fewer people, and I think we’ve lost something there.
They call it progress but Internet has made it too easy. It’s made us lose touch with the sea. One click and you have it all in front of you. It doesn’t matter whether you live at the beach or 10km inland, the Internet can tell you everything, and people no longer check the surf like they used to. The feeling of anticipation has diminished. It’s important to live it, feel it, and hear the power of the sea with the wind in your face. Then you can make a decision with the salt on your lips, not in front of your computer screen.