A famous European surfing beach has mysteriously lost its waves, to the consternation of locals and dismay of surfers, who fear that a “wonder of the world” has vanished forever.
Surfers flock in their thousands to Mundaka, on Spain’s north Atlantic coast, to master its enormous tube-like roller – a giant often reaching more than 20 feet. Now anyone arriving to catch the “Basque wave” will find themselves riding no more than a ripple.
It is, for aficionados of the sport, as if a Formula One racing track had disappeared into thin air. The wave suddenly went missing in the spring, provoking bewilderment in the town, and fears that it will soon wave goodbye to its tourist industry.
The Basque government has dispatched scientists and academics to find a solution. The wave’s disappearance is a huge blow to surfing’s World Championship Tour, which must now find a way of bringing the wave back before Mundaka hosts a competition that attracts 10,000 surfers.
The town is divided over the cause of the conundrum. Some blame the local authorities sanctioning dredging along the coast to make easier access for shipping, and shifting sand banks near the mouth of the local estuary. Others believe the forces of nature are responsible, such as the Boxing Day tsunami in Asia.
Two decades ago an Australian, Craig Sage, now 47, “discovered” the Mundaka wave, which rushed in from far out at sea, giving a magnificent run. He pioneered the trade that put Europe on the international surfing map, and runs a local surf shop. “Mundaka is the symbol of surfing in Europe,” he said.
“If we lose it, it will be like losing part of our soul. Mundaka should be marked as a wonder of the world. There are only 12 or so surfing spots like it. That is why we cannot sit back and do nothing.”
The town’s bars have already noticed a slump, as surfers abandon the beauty of the Spanish Basque coast in favour of areas closer to Biarritz in France.
The region’s Surfing Foundation, a school for the sport, is also braced for disaster. Last week it called for action against dredging. A government commission has promised to publish a report in September “recommending action to be taken to restore the natural system, and so, the wave”.
“So far there has been a positive evolution in conditions that looks set to regenerate the wave,” it added.
But, seen from the shore, the little waves breaking in the estuary do not look promising.
Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005