Just in case anyone missed this in today's Sunday Times...

FREAK WEATHER MAKES EUROPE 60FT-WAVE SURFER'S PARADISE

By Maurice Chittenden, The Sunday Times, 20 April 2003

BIG-WAVE surfing, the sport that has been the almost exclusive preserve of

Hawaii, California and Bondi Beach, was yesterday forced to take a new kid on

board: Europe.

Freak weather conditions have seen some of the biggest waves in memory lashing

the Atlantic coastline this spring. A 20ft-high wave was surfed in Guernsey

last month. But the "daddy" of them all was a wave the height of a

six- storey building, ridden off the French coast by two surfers who had tracked

satellite weather pictures of the swirling front of an intense low pressure

system across the ocean from Newfoundland.

The storm sent a 25ft swell racing ahead of it at 35mph towards the coast of

Europe. Its waves peaked in height as they hit a reef off the coast in the French

Basque country.

The Americans are not amused. The French feat was greeted with boos yesterday

at an international awards ceremony for surfers in Anaheim, California. Photographs

of the wave were studied for three hours by judges who measured it at 64ft high.

It was just 2ft short of the season's record, a 66-footer successfully ridden

at a famed spot for ferocious waves, nicknamed "Jaws", off Maui in

Hawaii.

The ceremony was held as an offshoot of the Billabong Odyssey, a three-year-old

hunt sponsored by a surfwear company to capture a 100ft-high wave for a $500,000

(£318,000) prize.

The Americans are scornful of the waves surfed last month at Belharra Reef,

two miles off the French resort of St Jean de Luz. The audacity of France at

seeking to take the surfing crown from America at a time when the Iraq conflict

was brewing has upset sensitivities on the beach.

"The French have a lot of good things, but military backbone and big waves

aren't included," said one of the postings on an internet message board

set up by Surfer magazine.

Eddie Rothman is a Hawaiian surfing icon whose 18-year-old son Makua won $66,000

yesterday for riding the winning wave off Maui. "The French wave is beautiful

but there's no trough on it," Rothman said. "It's mushy. I'd take

my nine-year-old son out to tow into that wave. I'm 55 and I want to ride that

wave. But no way would you get me out at Jaws."

The French are unmoved at suggestions that their wave was less dangerous. Fred

Basse, one of the French surfers, said: "Riding this wave, it was like

going down a huge ski slope. But with an avalanche behind you."

So can surfers in Cornwall this summer expect such high waves? "Not quite,"

said Dave Reed, a director of the British Surfing Association, which estimates

that 250,000 Britons will go surfing this year. "The highest wave ridden

in the UK is about 16ft. The Atlantic shelf around the coast protects us from

a massive swell."

Additional reporting: Matt Meyerson in Anaheim