Hercules Brings Big Waves, Big Surfing To Europe

In case you were too busy thawing yourself out with your oven this week, you may not have noticed that winter storm Hercules smashed into Europe, flooding coastlines from Ireland to Portugal.

But where there are huge waves there is also incredible surfing. Several of the world's top big wave riders flocked to Europe—those that don't already live there, that is—ahead of Hercules in the hopes of catching some of its swell.[slideshow:849]

While the seas were too stormy to ride in places, in big wave hot spots like Mullaghmore Head, Ireland and Beharra Reef, France, 60-foot faces and heavy slabs made the trip worthwhile.

Some of the biggest rides of the year happened this week, many of which will be strong contenders in this year's Billabong XXL awards. Perrennial big wave heroes like Shane Dorian and Grant "Twiggy" Baker paddled into some monster waves in France, while local talent, including Ollie O'Flaherty of Ireland, had the chance to shine on the world stage.

There was even one near-record-breaking ride by Aussie surfer Jamie Mitchell, who paddled into a wave at Belharra Reef that had the potential to best the current paddle-in world record of 61 feet. Alas, there will be no official measurement because, well, see the video below....