World of Sport

Pro surfers flock for enormous ‘black swell’ waves in Cornwall

A surfer takes on the Belharra giant waves off the coast of Urrugne, France

The last few days have seen professional surfers flock to the coastlines of Cornwall, France and Ireland in their droves.

The reason? Waves have appeared up to 18m high on the Atlantic coastlines of the three destinations with surfers able to test their courage and ability in truly remarkable conditions.

The extreme waves have been caused by a low pressure system dubbed "the black swell" and that has attracted famous big-wave riders and top pro surfers.

Big wave specialist Grant "Twiggy" Baker of South Africa has been joined by Portuguese, French and American surfers at the Belharra break off the coast of south-west France, while areas of Cornwall have recorded over 9m swells.

As for Ireland, the waves at Mullaghmore Head in County Sligo have reportedly been recorded at up to 12m.

The extreme conditions are understood to have been caused by an area of 15m waves in the north Atlantic.

Waves crash over the breakwater of Saint Evette harbour at Esquibien

"We've had bigger systems than this, but what we don't get is people wanting to ride them," said Ed Temperley, Magic Seaweed's editor.

"Now we are seeing more desire to ride them and the wind is coming from the south which means that places like Mullaghmore Head are rideable."

Andrew Cotton, one of the UK's leading big wave riders, said: "The waves were 20 to 30ft high and 20ft wide and they break really heavily.

"You have to be a really good surfer. Often there is nowhere to go but inside the barrel. The biggest fear is you fall and get slammed into rock."

Hundreds of onlookers have turned up at Mullaghmore to watch surfers ride the waves as gust of winds of more than 100mph battered the coastline, with social networks awash with photos and stories from the last few days.

Irish surfer Neil Brittan told the Guardian: "There were some hairy rides and there were a few where I went right down into the water.

"I can tell it was very dark down there yesterday. Down there was living repeatedly rabbit punched while diving in the deep."

Former British surfing champion Stuart Campbell said: "There has been a big upside to this storm for surfers.

"A lot of guys have been exploring different spots. People are posting photos of waves (online) that have never been surfed before."

With the conditions predicted to calm around Ireland over the next few days, Cornwall and France will again be a hub of activity as surfers look to capitalise on some truly extreme conditions.

A surfer takes on a wave off the coast of Cornwall