What is left to be told about a break that everybody – at least in the surfing world - already knows?
Maybe we just start with the town. A research (mainly on Wikipedia) of the meaning of the name “Mundaka” reveals some interesting theories. It looks like the Vikings – them again – had arrived here sometime around the year 900. Speculations go that they originally named the place “mund” (Danish for Mouth” “haka” (Danish for promontory, cape). There you go: mund haka. Get it?
Another theory claims that it were Scots (them again) that named the place “in their Latin language” “munda aqua”. This theory is based on a legend written down in the Chronicle of Biscay written by Lope García de Salazar in the 15th century. According to this guy a Scottish princess who had been banished from here homeland arrived here with her ship. This princess would have a son who would come to be called Jaun Zuria and would become, according to the legend, the first Lordship of Vizcaya.
Apart from these legends the early history of the town stays unclear. The first written mention of Mundaka dates from 1070, when it was referred to as "Mondaka". Aside from Mundaka´s local role in lordship and religion it obviously stayed mainly a port at a beautiful river mouth through the centuries.
And this is what it still represents, apart from that left: a nice historic town with a healthy local culture and a small port serving a few fishermen and recreational seafarers. It sits at the mouth of the beautiful Urdabai estuary that cuts for several kilometres into the coastal mountains. Luckily the estuary had become a biosphere reserve early enough and is home to an abundant fauna and flora. The water of the river is extraordinary clean in contrast to some other river mouths of the area.
And it creates very well formed sand bars that form that legendary left and attract surfers from all around the world. Now, as it is the nature of sandbars, they have the habit of changing their form and extension. For example, the winter of 2013 / 2014, which was blessed with a large number of extraordinary powerful swells, coincided with long periods of southerly winds. What sounds pretty good – epic swells met offshore winds – tore quite a bit on the substance of the sandbars and left them in a pretty damaged state. No more death or glory tubes, which led to the fame of this wave, were the consequence and consequently the international tube hunters avoided the place during the following autumn.
But like so often, things are relative. What was bad news for the barrel hunters was good news for the average Joe surfer. The wave was no longer that spitting tube monster that the pros were looking for. Instead it became “just” an endless performance left with the odd tube during low tide that gave the locals and visiting “normal” guys plenty of joy. Sure, the line-up was still crowded, but the lack of glory seeking pros made things more relaxing for everybody.
The quality of the sandbars and the wave have changed and will change depending on the sand flow from the river and – sadly - human encroachments on the natural balance of this fragile aquatic system. But the average quality of the wave has been exceptional for decades and hopefully will in the years to come. Due to this the town has hosted surfers from all over the world for decades now and has been influenced by these visitors. The result is a very special mood created by a strong local culture and open mindedness. It is a very pleasant mood.
One has to be there to experience the full magic of this place and Mundaka definitely owns a top seeding on the “must do” list especially of goofy footers. The following galleries just can give you a faint idea but you might want to check them anyhow. We have been impressed quite a bit of the place and therefor felt the urge to show quite a bit of photos.
They are grouped into sequences presented like photo stories on the aspects of the machine like perfection of the wave, elderly people who blow minds, average Joe rides and a mixture of single shots. Enjoy!