A desperate search is underway after a boat belonging to surfwear and fashion boss Pierre Agnes washed up empty on a beach in south west France.

The 54-year-old Frenchman took his boat out at around 7:30 am on Tuesday (30 January), but the vessel later washed up at Hossegor, a famed surfing spot about 20 miles north of Biarritz, said local officials.

Three helicopters and two rescue boats are searching for the chief executive while trackers on land scour the coast.

"An air-sea rescue is underway in coordination with the Atlantic Maritime Prefect, who is responsible for sea rescue operations," said the prefecture of the Landes district.

Rough seas are reported in the area by forecasters, although the wind is relatively light and visibility is clear.

Anges heads Boardriders, which is based in California, in the US. The group includes Quiksilver, an iconic Australian surfwear brand as well as other such brands as DC Shoes and Roxy clothing.

The Frencman, who joined the company nearly 30 years ago, has long been based at Quiksilver's European headquarters in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, just south of Biarritz.

In January, Boardriders announced that it was preparing to buy its Australian rival Billabong, creating a group that would combine 630 stores in 28 countries.