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STAYING SAFE AT THE FRENCH BIG WAVE SPOT BELHARRA


Jamie Mitchell after seeing photos of his drop back on the boat safe and sound with Shane Dorian, Fran├žois Liets and photog Timo.

Fred Basse told me Jamie took a whole 5 minutes to recover from his wipeout. When you know how hard these guys train it makes you realise how real the danger of drowning really is.

Yeah, Jamie is one of the most accomplished watermen (he’s won the Molokai paddle race 11 times) and his level of endurance is right up there. Just like Shane Dorian. But both admitted never being faced by such gigantic mountains of whitewater. I think Belharra took them both a little by surprise. It’s really important to highlight how much preparation goes into surfing waves like that. Everyone including Peyo Lizarazu, Sancho and Iralour puts in intensive training specifically for those kinds of conditions.


Far outnumbered by the number of paddle surfers in the lineup, the jetski drivers had a busy time of it.

Was anyone out there that shouldn’t have been?
It’s not my place to tell them but there were definitely too many paddle surfers in the lineup for the number of jetskis out there. As at other big wave spots, surfers will need to come to an agreement about safety regulations because those surfers who don’t take necessary care end up putting everyone else at risk.

What are things to improve on for the next strong swell?
It would be great if everyone was wired up to walkie-talkie system, with a spotter on a boat. It’d help for everyone to be more coordinated. Everyone would be able to know if the surfer had made the wave or not and react faster. Some of the safety equipment also needs fine-tuning, such as the life-vests. Iralour lost his vest on one of his wipeouts. Adding a harness with handles to the life-vests would be a really good idea as it’s extremely difficult to get an unconscious body back on a ski in a short amount of time.

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