Before our Hurricane Fiona breathed its last waves in to the US' east coast, it generated a final swan song of swell that fanned out over the North Atlantic, only stopping because western Europe's and northern Africa's landmasses were in the way.
Those big hurricanes can mean making bigger decisions about where to go, who to go with and so much more, especially when what's coming in is a long-period, breezy affair. “Not good up here,” said Ireland charger, Noah Lane, as this swell landed on the Emerald Isle before the rest of Europe, there was too much wind and the story was the same for the UK and into France.
Trace your finger from France's surf haven in the south west, over to Mundaka though and in that small, crescent space, there was such a change of conditions! The wind was up at Mundaka, sure, but there were some moments of bliss amongst the carnage. The jewel in the Basque Country's surfing crown is a north-facing rivermouth bomb that's usually able to handle strong, cross-shore wind.
Now, cast your eye down towards southern Portugal and northern Morocco, those moments became more frequent. The smiles became larger. Sometimes, the answers to those big decisions of where to go are easy; go with what you know, even if that's right outside your front door. We tapped those who decided to chase Fiona's swell footprint and asked; what did you experience? What made you choose those spots? And how did it all play out?
We wanted to see how things are ahead of the rest of the winter, you really don't want to miss the first swell after the summer! No one does at their home spot. Conditions may not have been the best but a shallow sandbank always feels nice. Was a tough one, for sure, tricky conditions out there. The sand, it has not been good for a few years, and you really need the sand to be good for Mundaka. There was even some on the inside section, with those pretty dry sections -- usually we really enjoy those moments [laughs].
But, that's actually not good news, normally you want the sand in the first section, on the take off, not on the inside. So, I don't know what to think about it. It was fun to get a couple dry waves though, I don't know if that's a good sign for the winter. Was great to have some challenging waves, there were some that were impossible to take off, super fast and super sketchy but we made do with what was there. It's home.
Brek: After a long mushy summer with more flat spells than I ever remember, finally, a good looking hurricane was arriving for Portugal. Fiona was her name and chargers like Nic Von Rupp chased her all the way down south.
I couldn't bear the anxiety and had a couple of drinks too much the night before and overslept dreaming about her. Arrived a little late to this picturesque wedge near Sagres with local ripper Francisco Canelas and wonder kid João Maria Mendonça who told us there were some fun ones, but it went flat for an hour or so.
Most of the surfers and local bodyboarders flew home and called it a day, the tide was also supposed to be too high anyway. But Fiona didn't fool me, a huge interval and nice swell, that's too much to hide away all day. Alex Botelho turned up and was calling it a lay day too, but suddenly sets were coming from out of nowhere, beautiful shaped head high peaks with this unpredictable backwash making some waves double in size, upwards and forwards.
Alex changed into his wetsuit and I grabbed my housing and went for a swim. Fun sets kept filling in and suddenly everybody was on it, including Nic. Joao Maria pulled in to a couple of Fiona's sweet gifts. The local bodyboarders dominated as usual, but gave the respectable and patient visitors some golden leftovers. This mythic coastline aka, the end of the world, can sure deliver, at least when the storms are in a good mood. Once again the waves disappeared and the next morning, it was all gone.
Joao: Was really nice to surf on this coast, always rare to surf here, you need more size for it to filter around. The water was clear, green, wind was perfect. Beautiful. The conditions, it wasn't too big, medium-sized for here. But there were still some barrels along with a lot of time between sets due to that long period. I think at one point, we waited 20 mins between sets, so anyone turning up for a quick look might have just drove away.
I was in the water in the morning, then it kind of stopped for an hour and a half. We checked again the afternoon and it went off. I normally head this way when there's north wind and bigger waves. And it's only 40 mins from my home in Arrifana.
Hbekka Rais: We're right in the season now, which will usually last maybe through to the summer. But this last week there was a big low tide and when it's like that, it usually means the point will start working really well; the wave breaks closer to the sand and the first section can barrel and the second section can carry on barrelling – and in December, November, those are the months we're waiting for though. But this one, was super fun, good to get out there and see how it all is. I live right here, so had a look at the forecast and thought, I don't need to travel, home is where the magic is.
Naomi Tialavea: I came to Morocco because of the mystery of it all back home. Nobody seemed to be coming over there but a few pros I knew of. But I did the Aljezur contest in Portugal and the Gliding Barnacles event there too, and I'm on my way to scatter my mother's ashes in Madeira, it's where she's from. So everything seemed to align with me to be here at the right time that long period from Hurricane Fiona hit. But Morocco... its waves, its people, landscape, there is so much here for me to experience, I feel like I could stay for a while.
It was pretty perfect out there, feel as if you can surf it blind-folded after the first three waves [laughs]. It's such a perfect wave. I kept thinking about heading up here, to Imsouane. I'm staying in an apartment in Tamraghat, close to Anchors and everywhere. This place is so special, raw -- which is neat coming from California where everything is super saturated. People enjoy the ocean at home, but it's not the same as here. Not just the waves, Morocco really has an old world feeling about it, and it's so refreshing.
What it's like right now: Live cam Mundaka