By Tony Butt
When the first surfers turned up at Mundaka around the late 1960s and set their eyes upon those perfect lefthanders, they had no reason to think the waves wouldn’t be there forever. Almost half a century later, we now know that Mundaka is a very special wave, perhaps unique in the world; not just because of its perfection, power or length, but because of the miraculous circumstances that made it the way it is. Sure, there are waves just as long and hollow as Mundaka, but the vast majority break on immovable rock or coral platforms. Mundaka, on the other hand, relies on a rivermouth sandbar.
In the early days, the overriding concern was how the surfers themselves could make the best of the wave. How could they improve board design and riding techniques to get in and out of those freight-train barrels as easily as possible? They had no idea that the principal concern would eventually turn from dominating the wave to protecting it.
This article isn’t just about Mundaka, although Mundaka is the central theme running through it. It is also about estuarine systems, chaos, Nature and us.
Above: The Mundaka sandbar behaving itself, winter 2014-15. Spain. Photo: Javi Muñoz