Belharra: the French reef break awakens

November 4, 2020 | Surfing
Belharra: a powerful reef break that rarely shines it all its glory | Still: Camille Le Saux

On October 29, 2020, Belharra awakened. The legendary Basque country wave roared to life, and the local crew rode it like never before.

Belharra is a very special wave. The highly sensitive French monster needs special conditions to shine in all its glory.

The offshore reef break produces big and clean wave faces 1.8 miles (three kilometers) off the coast of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, in the southwest of France.

Although never so steep and heavy as Nazaré, Jaws or Teahupoo, it certainly is one of the biggest waves on the planet.

This time, courtesy of Hurricane Epsilon, the powerful swells were funneled and channeled in the right direction, creating an epic day of extreme surfing.

The best moment to take a boat and head to Belharra is always when the tide is at its lowest point.

So, at 7 am, you could already spot athletes, jet skis, photographers, and videographers rushing to the nearest harbor.

Belharra: a foil surfing session at the infamous French reef break | Still: Camille Le Saux

One Last Ride Before Lockdown

After watching what had taken place at Nazaré and Mullaghmore Head, the locals knew that Belharra would have set itself free once again.

French prime minister Emmanuel Macron had just announced that the country would enter another lockdown in 24 hours.

So, it was now or never.

Benjamin Sanchis, Joan Duru, Miky Picon, Justin Becret, Mathieu Crepel, Pierre Rollet, Stéphane Iralour, Gautier Garanx and the Mangiarotti brothers were some of the riders who enjoyed this rare opportunity.

Tarik Dahlal, a 40-year-old amateur surfer, was one of the highlights of the day, after taking off and riding a beautiful 30-foot (10 meters) wave.

Peyo Lizarazu and Mathieu Aguirre took their chance on a foil surfboard; Paul Duvignau and Antonin de Soultrait tried their using their arm power to paddle into the beast.

Belharra's last gift before darker times will certainly last in the memory of those who were able to make it and surf it.

In the end, everyone was thrilled to have had their rare Belharra day.