Everything in Europe is in constant flux. The weather changes on a dime, the wind switches when it wants to, and the surf quickly follows suit. European beach breaks are notoriously tricky.
In a recent interview, Lowers champ Jordy Smith likened the Tour's swing through Europe "to throwing up a giant bag of Smarties and seeing where they land. Absolutely anything can happen...But the surfers who do the best are those able to adapt and change the quickest."
With so many variables, Europe can be a dangerous place for the Top 34 to chase last-minute points. The shifting sandbars are famous for breaking surfers' spirits and boards.
A Closer Look at the Breaks:
Quiksilver Pro, France
Hossegor is located along a 230km of coastline called the Côte d'Argent. An offshore canyon called le gouf magnifies swell onto shallow sandbars, creating thumping, sand-bottom tubes. La Graviere and Les Culs Nus tend to be the go-to banks for barrels. Even when it's small, Hossegor packs plenty of punch.
The Bay of Biscay experiences some of the biggest tide swings in Europe. Choosing a sandbar for a full day of competition isn't easy. A handful of heats are bound to be on the wrong side of the tide window. Big surf can also be an issue. Rips, and relative lack of channels, can turn any heat into a full cardio workout (Jet ski assist has been utilized in the past). On giant swells, the sets will wash through the lineup.
This year the main contest site has been set up at Les Culs Nus, a nude beach a mile to the north of the famous tubes of La Graviere. Right now the sand bar is offering a fast, hollow right on low to mid tides. The contest is mobile and the banks can change with each passing swell, but look for the early rounds to go off in solid, high-performance surf.
Meo Rip Curl Pro, Peniche, Portugal
Supertubos speaks for itself. This stretch of sand produces one of the heaviest tubes in Europe. Supertubos also benefits from an offshore canyon effect. The unique bathymetry turns unruly Atlantic swells into bone crushing barrels, breaking close to shore. Unlike Hossegor, the bars at Supertubos are much more predictable. The A-Frame peak consistently creates a long, fast left, and a shorter, more makeable right.
Although Supertubos picks up a lot of swell, wind can often pose a threat. Mornings usually offer the cleanest conditions, with onshore flow developing in the afternoon. Offshore winds are from the north, and can be detected by a foul smell from a nearby fish factory. Devil winds are from the south. Low tide can also cause the break to close out.
More often than not, there are windows of perfection at each of these locations. But during a full day of competition, it's not uncommon to see the full spectrum of conditions. One minute, guys will be dropping nines in standup tubes. The next, they'll be scrapping for sixes in onshore slop. Barrels, airs, and turns all have scoring potential.
At this point in the year, the numbers matter -- Requalification and World Titles are on everyone's minds. A few solid results in Europe can offer select surfers the ratings boost and/or cushion they're after.
But Europe can also be a disaster. Despite some of the best food and wine in the world, the Euro leg can leave competitors with a sour taste in their mouths. Getting caught inside at double-overhead Hossegor is enough to make surfers lose their cool. Look for the Top 34 to show up with a lot of boards, a lot of neoprene, and a lot of patience.
Watch the Quiksilver Pro live at worldsurfleague.com starting at 8:00 am CEST, or get your sleep and watch the webcast replay starting at !!:00 am PDT.