NEWPORT BEACH, CA With less than three weeks left to go in the 2003 Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards presented by Surfline, the race for the biggest wave of the year has been blown wide open by a massive swell slamming the coast of a region just beginning to be recognized as a high-surf Mecca — Southern France.Images of the giant waves being ridden by a crew of local surfers can now be viewed on the www.BillabongXXL.com website. The session took place Monday afternoon, March 10, at the Belharra reef off St. Jean de Luz near the France/Spain border and features numerous rides on waves with faces at or exceeding the 60-foot mark. This week’s “French revolution” now takes its place among the biggest days ever surfed anywhere.The day was also historic in that big-wave spots in the Bay of Biscay have been largely unsurfable this winter following the sinking of the petroleum tanker Prestige in November and the tragic oiling of much of the Spanish and French coastlines.Judges won’t narrow down the finalists until the contest season concludes on March 31, but the Belharra beasts are clearly in the mix. Unofficially, several waves ridden at the well-known Jaws reef in Maui, Hawaii on November 26 had been getting the popular vote, with rides by Noah Johnson, Shane Dorian, Makua Rothman and others being regarded as in contention for the winter’s biggest wave. But the latest flurry of Atlantic action now finds less-familiar names like Fred Basse, Sebastian St. Jean and Peyo Lizarazu being added to the list. All are well-known regionally as pioneers of European tow-surfing and invitees to this year’s Billabong XXL event.Other rides worthy of consideration to date include those by Darryl “Flea” Virostko and Mike Parsons at Maverick’s in Northern California, and one by Peter Mel at Mexico’s Todos Santos Island.