Atter a slow start to big winter surf this year, there was a lot of hype surrounding the XXL swell that lit up the whole of Europe’s coastlines last weekend, with Surfline’s LOLA charts even showing purple going into pink! For the SW France, charts first estimated the peak of the swell at 8 metres before adjusting down to 5, still pretty solid. And Saturday night we got pretty amped when I checked the Met Office’s Gascogne buoy to get some real time readings. The web page read ‘NO RECENT REPORTS’. Did that mean the buoy’s anchor had been ripped off the ocean floor?

The problem was finding somewhere that would hold it. With west winds blowing out conditions up north, we headed down to Spain hoping The Dark Eye might do something. It’s barely broken this year so no one really knew what to expect. Sunday morning saw a few empty sick ones early on before the swell doubled in size and sets started closing out the whole estuary making it unsurfable.

On the way home we decided to stop by Playa Gris, Europe's only entry to the 2006 Billabong XXL Awards. Sure enough, the Pukas big wave chargers Ibon Amatriain and tow partner Asier Muniain had just got out into the line-up and started whipping each other into a few bombs. Ibon who’s been invited to the Eddie this year and was at the Opening Ceremony in Hawaii last week came back especially.

You wouldn’t want to get caught inside at Playa Gris. The shorey is mental, breaking on massive rock slabs. One brave surfer who tried to paddle out got washed back up onto the rocks the split-second he hit the water.

With the swell expected to stay in the 3-metre range for the next 10 days there's likely to be a lot more big wave shredding round these parts. Now, seriously dudes, has anyone seen my 9’6?