A beach in Biarritz, one of the most famous surf spots in France, was emptied of its surfers at once on Saturday... in chaos. At the time of the tidal peak, which reached strong coefficients that day, about thirty people found themselves trapped by the waves on the coast of the Basques, almost being thrown against the rocks.
The facts took place between 15 p.m. and 16 p.m., while the sea is particularly stormy. Faced with waves of nearly 1.20 meters according to rescuers, surfers suddenly feared being thrown on the rocks of the Côte des Basques. As one man, they tried to extricate themselves from the water, but the configuration of the place made the operation thorny.
We started to take them out by the steps in front of the post, says the rescuer Franck Billard, interviewed by France Bleu Pays Basque, who evokes one of the biggest rescues of his career. "Surfboards go in all directions. It's a bit of panic on board," he says.
"Everyone wanted to go out at the same time"
Three colleagues help him to lift athletes out of the water. "At first, it was manageable. We released a dozen like that. And then suddenly, we have thirty others who have come forward." The rescuers' jet-ski comes to their rescue, as well as a helicopter of the gendarmerie and two other jet-skis of the firefighters.
The first ten surfers were rescued at the Côte des Basques, 21 by the beach of the Old Port, behind the rock of the Virgin, and ten went out on their own at the Villa Belza. For Franck Billard, the danger was accentuated by the group effect. "Through a snowball effect, everyone wanted to go out at the same time."
The Basque Coast is facing a phenomenon of high tides in recent days, with coefficients above 110. This episode is expected to last until Sunday night. On Saturday afternoon, the coefficient rose to 113. "The Côte des Basques is a beach where, as soon as there are coefficients above 60, overall, you have to go out a little before the full top," explains in turn to France 3 Mathieu Dragon, the head of the beaches, who piloted one of the jet-skis that participated in the rescue. "Because afterwards, the waves break on the rocks and the accesses. So it's very complicated to go out for an audience that is not very knowledgeable."