Belharra, the story of an unforgettable session

“Belharra is going to be big. » “Set of the decade. » For five days, rumors have been bubbling and spreading. This huge wave that breaks 3 km from Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a rare and whimsical phenomenon. A pleasure that is expected every winter and sometimes not despite showing the tip of the lip. The wise Peyo Lizarazu (then 38), who discovered this treasure in November 2002, is not excited by aerial maps. “Some announce five days in advance that she will be the most beautiful Belharra in ten years, sighs. You never know if the waves are going to be there until you are in the sea.

It’s only thirty-six hours until His Majesty’s awakening that Peyo dives into his bubble. “It’s really special. confirm. We’re getting into dangerous stuff and we need to focus. » However, it cannot help but analyze the data from the buoys originally installed in the Bay of Biscay. From twenty feet, or six or seven meters, the matter is generally serious.

“These are generally a bit hectic nights”

Max Larretche (then 53 years old) and his loyal partner set up a very meticulous organization. You need to check professional opportunities, review jets, rent and arrange boats for photographers, and check security… Everything needs to be taken care of the day before. Sleep cannot be commanded. “These are generally a bit hectic nights, Peyo admits. We can’t help but wonder if the waves will be there, if the weather will be nice, which way the wind will blow…”

The sun rises, an opportunity for Peyo to enter the water. (R. Perrocheau/Team)

Early in the morning on Sunday, December 22nd, the Belharra wave was well and truly out of its torpor. The first text drops at 6:33. Peyo has been at war for half an hour. In the heights of Ciboure, a hearty breakfast and a stretch before going to his brother Bixente. Belharra I and Belharra II jets are parked here. He climbs to the top floor of a magnificent Basque building and meditates in the privacy of his old office, the sight of which plunges him into Belharra, already in action. The sky is deep blue. The sun rises. A giant white line on the horizon confirms the predictions.

“For the first time, feelings overwhelmed his mind, Peyo says. Max and I manage to stay more or less calm after that because we know what it is and where we’re going. »

Head for the Bay of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Peyo changes in the parking lot and puts on his 6mm thick red wetsuit, then puts the jet ski in the water. If the words are quite rare, the intensity of the look says a lot about this flawless participation. “Confidence must be complete to challenge extremes. He is among us.”he assures.

Bixente Lizarazu's house offers a breathtaking view of the Belharra wave.  (R. Perrocheau/Team)

Bixente Lizarazu’s house offers a breathtaking view of the Belharra wave. (R. Perrocheau/Team)

Shortly before 10 o’clock in the morning, two gladiators run towards the arena. Max is on the move. Peyo clings behind. The sea is heating up in the Gulf. Fortunately, at the outlet of the canal, the three large dykes that protect the bay stand up like a shield. “They are seven to eight meters tall, Peyo explains. But they seem very small to you. Because you see mountains of water rising behind you. There is a feeling of entering a new dimension. »

Once there, it’s a visual shocker. From left to right, Belharra’s landscape blends with Rhune, Trois-Curonnes, Deux-Jumeaux cliffs in Hendaye and Mount Jaizkibel in San Sebastián. In the background, the first rays of the sun illuminate the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees. “Beauty that gives reason”empty Peyo.

“The surf here is huge, the size of several football fields”

The strong swell created by the northern depressions is hitting this flock, called Belharra (green grass in Basque), violently. Unlike Teahupoo in Tahiti or Jaws in Hawaii, other legendary big waves, the breaking zone here is huge, the size of several football fields. Max slips behind a stage separated by a large white foam. Because the wave is unpredictable, the danger is even more present. It can form and break anywhere and at a very irregular rate. “We stay behind and wait, Peyo says. We try to be well placed, although it is always complicated. »

Looking at the wave, right, about fifteen boats, jets or Zodiacs watch out. surfers from “big” He wouldn’t miss it for the world like Benjamin Sanchis and Michel Larronde. Saint-Jean-de-Luz firefighters control the grain. In the distance, the Corniche road, black with people. Several thousand people came to admire her, Belharra, Beauty and the Beast.

The weather is ideal. It’s hovering around fifteen degrees and the sky is pretty clear. After twenty minutes in water of no more than 10°C, Peyo can’t wait to fight. “Me, I’m always very motivated to start, admits. Max, on the other hand, is trying to keep me temporarily. »

10:20 a.m.: bomb arrives. Letting him go is out of the question. Their eyes meet. It proves the rest. Max runs behind this wall of water. Belharra stands up in a gasp. Almost silent. Several tons of water swell and form a monumental wave. A long white peak produces a disproportionate foam. An avalanche is flying. The metamorphosis is almost unreal. Time seems to have stopped.

Belharra wave is here.  It is pleasing to the eyes of Peyo Lizarazu who took the opportunity to surf it.  (R. Perrocheau/Team)

Belharra wave is here. It is pleasing to the eyes of Peyo Lizarazu who took the opportunity to surf it. (R. Perrocheau/Team)

Peyo tugs before releasing the rope in a dizzy void. Descends a ten-meter steep slope from a height of 1.70 m in the wind with his right leg forward and swinging. Like the feeling of falling “moving mountain”. “You feel your hips and arms working”says the former rugby player from Begles.

At 40 km/h everything goes very fast. A surfer must quickly find the necessary parts on his 13 kg board. An error in judgment can have disastrous consequences. His ride is perfect. Disappears under a hurricane of thick and extreme spray. The session will last about four hours. A real blessing. An early Christmas.

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