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Europe's Nameless Storm Sends XXL Goods to the Canaries

Nature doesn't do gender politics. Nor any other kind, thankfully.

So it might seem strange that a recent study by the University of Illinois found that greater loss of life was likely to result from hurricanes and tropical storms that are assigned female names -- the rationale being that they are taken less seriously.

Febraury 3, 2017. Tenerife's Alex Zirke is always in the mix when conditions get serious in the Canary Islands, earning himself the rep as one of Europe's top underground chargers. WSL / Sven Grossbacher/WSL Big Wave Awards

Lamentable -- this being the 21st century and all -- but the stats bear it out.

So when a mother of a North Atlantic depression, a veritable dartboard 932mb low, formed across almost the entire North Atlantic last week, with 100mph-plus winds howling a wicked fetch that screamed all the way from Newfoundland's Grand Banks to Spanish territorial waters, it should come as little surprise that European bureaucrats failed to reach a consensus on a name.

Zirke spends more time in water than some of the urchins that line the boulders at this place, running a surf school for tourists when it's small and charging like a madman when things get serious. Pausing to admire the beauty at La Misteriosa. Jaime Madrid pauses to admire the beauty at La Misteriosa. WSL / Ehedey Ginory

Paris-based public forecasting service Meteo France dubbed the storm Marcel, while the British public was calling her Doris (affectionately at first, before she blew trains off their tracks and wrought travel chaos). As it turned out, the UK's own Met Office didn't officially give the storm a name, due to a dip in windspeed by the time the storm made landfall proper.

February 3rd at La Misteriosa Manuel Lezcano is another huge standout when things get serious in the Canaries. WSL / Elias Rodriguez/WSL Big Wave Awards

Meanwhile, surfers Europe-wide -- from underground locals to aspiring Championship Tour pros, to to international big-wave legends -- were simply calling it "all-time."

Purple blobs on winter WAM models typically send continental swell chasers south, to where thick belts of swell energy can refract and regale in warm, sunny conditions, without the inclement winds and weather associated with the storm generating all the excitement.

Basque surfer Nagai Puntiverio behind the bowl. Nagai has been travelling the globe the past few years searching out waves of consequence. He found some at La Misteriosa. Basque surfer Nagai Puntiverio behind the bowl. Nagai has been traveling the globe the past few years searching out waves of consequence. He found some at La Misteriosa. WSL / Ehedey Ginory

Doris (or Marcel) was no exception. Pros like Qualifying Series standout Ramzi Boukhiam and 2017 Championship Tour rookie Leo Fioravanti headed to Ramzi's native Morocco in search of pointbreak perfection at Safi. Some of the Nazaré stalwarts headed to the Azores in search of mysto bombies, before hitting the North African coast themselves.

Manuel Lescano drops a bomb at La Misteriosa Manuel Lescano drops a bomb at La Misteriosa. WSL / Ehedey Ginory

Canary Islanders, on the other hand, stayed exactly where they were, and got greeted with some of the most perfect big-wave paddle conditions in recent memory.

"This swell was so big and clean, it was crazy," reported Canary Island photographer Ehedy Ginory. "It was probably the second-biggest swell we've had in recent years, after the one we had last October, but by far the cleanest. The big clean days are what everyone is waiting for these days. Everyone is paddling the big swells now, tow teams have pretty much become extinct here."

The Canaries' highest peak, Mt Teide, occasionally gets a dusting of snow despite its sub-tropic latitude. Tenerife local Jaime Madrid found a slope of his own at La Misteriosa. The Canaries' highest peak, Mt. Teide, occasionally gets a dusting of snow despite its sub-tropic latitude. Lewis Leadbetter found a slope of his own at La Misteriosa. WSL / Ehedey Ginory

Meanwhile, as the first major pulses of swell found their ways into every nook and cranny, the storm begun to momentarily lose impetus, only to be joined by another hurricane-force low, and redouble its efforts.

Forecasts being what they are these days, almost 20-20, the wise had stuck around for rounds two and three. Among them, they don't come much more savvy than former Eddie Aikau winner and certified hellman Ross Clarke-Jones, who chased Doris' spoils from Morocco to Ireland and then back down to Nazaré.

Sometimes, you just gotta give it up for mother nature. Alex Zirke, reverential in the face of Storm Doris' beauty. Sometimes, you just gotta give it up for mother nature. Jaime Madrid, reverential in the face of Storm Doris' beauty. WSL / unknown

Ireland's premium big-wave breaks were way too close to the maelstrom and blown to smithereens for the early rumblings last week, as was much of the continent, but as the swell came again early this week under more settled conditions, the infamous Mullaghmore turned on for a hardy crew of paddlers. So when Clarke-Jones had has his fill of endless rights in the desert, his attention turned to bombing lefts off the Emerald Isle, before rounding off his time in Europe nicely at the now infamous Praia do Norte, Nazaré.

So when the North Atlantic settled down and a much more normal service resumed, (today was 6-to-8-foot and perfect in Hossegor) storm-naming discrepancies seemed but a distant memory.

And as headline images and clips continue to flood in from all corners, the only debates left to be settled will be those performed under the auspices of the Billabong XXL Awards judging panel.

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