There’s always a first time at every surf spot. The first time you arrive and look at the wave, the first time you paddle out, the first time you catch a wave at that spot. I remember my first time in Mundaka was in 2000. A contest year when Dorian, Occy and a bunch of ‘CT surfers blasted along the famous sun-kissed walls. We woke up in Hossegor on the Saturday morning, and in the early light we could see that the swell wasn’t the predicted giant swell. It looked like it definitely wasn’t a Mundaka swell, so we went for some coffee in town, figuring the contest would be back at Anglet. Then the call came through – the contest was on. We skipped the coffee and started the two-hour drive to Mundaka. I was committed to covering the event for an American website and had promised them it would be tight, and on time.
By my calculations we passed Anglet just as the first semi was paddling out into the solid four foot plus Mundaka line-up. Yep, we had made the absolute rookie mistake of trying to second-guess the ASP once again, and we were going to be so late. As we raced through to Spain, the highest scoring heat of the contest was going down.
I phoned through. CJ was blasting the long, roping lefts apart as we approached the border, with three massive scoring waves, but as we pulled up at the first toll, about a hundred clicks short of the contest venue, Occy stroked into the wave of the contest, a long barrel with numerous savage off the top combinations (apparently) for which he scored a perfect ten. With a nine nine as his second scoring wave, he was the man, and CJ was left chasing with a score that would have won most heats on most days.
As we sped past San Sebastian and hurriedly commented to each other about what a stunning place it was, Shane Dorian and Danny Wills were paddling out for their semi.
I was still getting my breath back when somebody handed me an ice-cold beer.
After a sluggish, impatient start Danny went on to break his favourite board just as we approached Zarautz. He frenziedly tried to fight back, getting his best wave on his backup board, but it wasn’t enough against Shane, who had found his rhythm amongst the perfection. We hit traffic on the outskirts of Mundaka as the final was paddling out. We crawled along. As we got our first glimpse of a perfect line-up reeling away I saw a vast plume of spray, still a couple of kilometres away, and assumed Occy was surfing. I got dropped off at the contest site, and my partner-in-crime went off on the hellish mission of trying to find parking. He made the major sacrifice in order to allow me maximum viewing time and for that I will be eternally grateful. The first wave I saw of the contest was Dorian pulling into a backhand pit for an absurd amount of time, to come out cleanly to the roars of the spectators.
The horn sounded, and the contest was over. Dorian punched the air in victory, the crowd cheered. His mum wept proudly as he climbed the rocks, champion.
I was still getting my breath back when somebody handed me an ice-cold beer. Needless to say after that journey, it tasted pretty f-ing good. The crowd surged all around the podium to get closer. Golden autumn sunlight filtered down through the leaves of huge ancient trees in the town square, waves crashed on the sandbar, and I drank it all in. It was a poignant prize giving, with the mayor of Mundaka placing a Basque scarf around the necks of the finalists. Occy was given a Basque flag, which he waved madly to a stoked crowd. Then an odd-looking man came onto the stage and did a curious little dance for the winners, a local custom.
It was my first time in Mundaka, and for some reason it seemed like that little man was actually dancing for me.