The Bay of Biscay is one of the world's most treacherous bodies of water. Enormous swells roll out of the North Atlantic and crash onto the bay's towering, rocky coastline. And at one point where a river and the ocean meet, the currents have sculpted a sandbank of almost mathematical perfection angles, curves, depth, seemingly precision-engineered to produce surfing conditions which attract people from around the world.
The legend of one of the world's longest left-handers attracts surfers to Mundaka, a pretty little town in the Basque Country, not far from the French border. Long before the surfing scene arrived, locals in the tiny fishing village were mesmerised by the regularity and beauty of cylindrical waves rolling through crystal waters.
Mundaka is not exactly easy to find. It sits on a headland jutting into the bay, and although only 30km from the industrial hub of Bilbao, it might as well be at the other end of the country. A lot of tourist maps don't even mention Mundaka and signposts to it only start about four kilometres away, giving the newcomer the impression that it's trying hard not to be discovered.
Once there, you will find a pleasant place where coloured boats bob up and down and locals gossip over local wine and small plates of stuffed olives and crunchy anchovies. The aroma of fresh fish frying in garlic drifts through the village and gets the appetite going.
Mundaka is one of 11 stops on the world championship surfing tour and it is the venue each October for the Billabong Pro. The town's population of 1800 can grow to as many as 10,000 in and around the town, a population that the place can barely contain.
There are no glitzy shops selling tacky souvenirs and restaurants and bars cater for locals and surfers who stay at pensions.
The opening of the Billabong Pro sees a truly traditional show with dances and music. The winner is treated to special attention from the members of the Mundaka Surf Taldea (the surf club) and is carried from the podium to the port on the shoulders of eight selected representatives. Of course he is thrown into the water.
Winners always accept their trophy wearing a wetsuit and a newly-won Txapela (a traditional large felt hat)! That is the price to pay to have your name carved in the white stone of the perpetual Billabong Pro trophy.
Australian surfer Craig Sage went to Mundaka 25 years ago and didn't really leave. He married a local, they had two children and he runs the local surf shop, as well as being director of the tournament competition.
The north of Spain, 40 minutes n-e of Bilbao
The Billabong Pro Mundaka will be held October 1-14, 2007.
Emirates has flights to Madrid.
- Perth, $2873
- Melbourne, $2920
- Brisbane, $2923
- Sydney, $2937
- Adelaide, $3539
- Darwin, $4262
Valid for travel between October 4 and November 11, 2007. Prices quoted correct at May 10, 2007
Mundaka Surf Shop
Ph: 1300 303 777