Hercules Hits Europe

Belharra Reef, on France's southwest coast in Basque country, was where some of the world's top big wave surfers gathered this week to catch the monster waves that winter storm Hercules brought to Europe. French windsurfer Antoine Albeau—the fastest windsurfer on Earth according to SurferToday.com—didn't have to travel too far to catch this beast, sans sail.

Hercules Swell First Wave—Belharra Reef, France

This photo purports to capture the first wave brought to Belharra by Hercules. 

Grant Baker—Belharra Reef, France

The South African charger Grant "Twiggy" Baker. Baker currently leads the Big Wave World Tour rankings.

Hercules Arrives—Terceira, Azores

Images of nature's fury competed with those of the actual surfers during this record-breaking storm.

Hercules Swell—Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Massive swell hit the Canary Islands before reaching the mainland.

The Fists of Hercules—Sagres, Portugal

This perfect shot is a visual metaphor for Hercules pounding the European coast. 

Hercules Hits Morocco

Africa wasn't exempt either.

Jamie Mitchell—Belharra Reef, France

Aussie paddleboard champ Jamie Mitchell shows what he can do with his arms. He paddled into this 60-odd-foot giant—reported the be the largest of the day—without the help of a jet ski. It might have even been a paddle-in record, had he not wiped out halfway down the face, that is. His consolation prize is leaderboard status for Billabong XXL's "Wipeout of the Year" award and a commemorative t-shirt.

Jamie Mitchell—Belharra Reef, France

The wave looks terrifying from any angle.

Kurt Rist—Mullaghmore Head, Ireland

France didn't have a monopoly on the action. Hercules scored a direct hit on Ireland's Mullaghmore Head.

Hercules Hits Nazaré, Portugal

The star of big wave surfing in 2013 was the small Portuguese fishing town of Nazaré, where twice big wave records were thought to have been broken (the jury's still out) and one big-name surfer nearly drowned. Hundred-foot waves or no, the Portuguese navy deemed conditions too unsafe for surfing this time around.

Ollie O'Flaherty—Mullaghmore Head, Ireland

Irish surfer Ollie O'Flaherty was ready when Hercules came to town. It flooded much of the coast, but left O'Flaherty with this XXL contender.

Three Surfers, One Wave—Belharra Reef, France

Red Bull published a photo of what appears to be the same wave, naming the surfer on the left as Grant "Twiggy" Baker. If this is in fact the same wave, the South African's omission from the Billabong photo would make sense, given that the company "fired" him earlier this year for lackluster performance. He seems to be doing just fine here.