Landmark Irish wave threatened by harbor development

Photo Mickey Smith

Ride of your life potential! Ollie finding the right line at Crab Island. Lets not allow these barrels to get clamshelled shut by backwash.

For thousands of years the waves breaking on the limestone slabs of Crab Island and Doolin point have been peeling off and spitting tubes. It is only since the early 1970s that they’ve been ridden by surfers. Since then they have become, along with the Bundoran reefs, the most surfed spots in the country.

They have been on the “must surf” list of any travelling surfers coming to Ireland, from Kevin Naughton’s arrival in the 70s to the McNulty brothers virgin surf on their ancestral turf in the 80s, to Anthony Walsh’s extended stay last winter.

The scenery in the area is spectacular, with the massive cliffs of Moher looming to the south and the geographical uniqueness of the limestone karst region of the Burren to the north. Add in the Aran island chain only a few miles to the northwest and it all comes together to make this spot the iconic postcard surfspot of Ireland.

While being overshadowed in the media lately due to the discovery of heavy spots such as Aileen’s and Riley’s, Crab Island is still a more important surf spot to most of the surfers of Ireland. This is because of the frequency of which it breaks and the fact that it is within the capabilities of all competent surfers. It is the spot most likely to deliver the ‘ride of a lifetime’ for 90% of Irish surfers.

Unfortunately that may not remain the case…
There is a ferry operation running from a small pier in the lagoon behind Crab Island to the nearby Aran islands. This runs during the summer months when the lagoon is not getting churned by big winter swells. These ferries now require a larger pier in deeper water in order to meet an EU regulation on commercial passenger ferries. However the design that Clare Co. Council has decided on is likely to damage both waves of Crab Island and Doolin point from backwash. It will also introduce a safety hazard by forcing surfers to now paddle across the ferry’s paths to get to the lineups. It is also likely to get damaged by winter storms due to its exposed location out the point. (The existing pier is located at the back of the lagoon). Reading the plans drawn up shows that the effect on the surf spots has not been taken into consideration at all by the council. They have, to date, not given any response to repeated and sustained requests from local surfers for a meeting on the issue.

Local surfers in the area are trying to convince the council that a ‘win-win’ situation can easily be arrived at. A design where the ferries have a pier that meets their requirements and does not damage the waves with backwash. Simply moving the pier back towards the existing one by about 50m and dredging a little deeper inside the pier should achieve this. It would also have the added effect of lessening the amount of damage done to the pier by the massive winter swells that pound this stretch of coast. Local surfers need to convince the council of how well regarded these surf spots are, both by Irish and international surfers. As part of that we would like you to sign the petition listed below. It will only take 10 seconds. The West Coast Surf Club in Ireland will present this petition as part of a submission to Clare Co. Council before the closing date of objections on 5 August. Please, have your voice heard. Let’s keep this wave so that its peeling tubes are there for you when you visit Ireland.
Link this petition to any facebook\myspace\blogs you may have and mail to your surfing friends.


(Anyone wishing to, can view the current plans on
We would also encourage people to send in their own formal objections to this. This can be done for free (no charge for submissions as it’s not a private planning application) by posting a letter to “Planning Section, Clare County Council, New Road, Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland”,  quoting “Planning application details ref: 108006 (Clare County Council)”. You must also include your name and address.)

Impression showing the island, the existing pier and the new pier. The part in green is concrete revetments, white is the pier itself and blue is an area to be dredged(not really dredging, but blasting limestone rock) to a depth of 2.6m below low water mark.

Photo Gary McCall

Aerial photo of the breaks on a small swell at high tide. Crab Island is in the foreground and Doolin point on the right of picture. The existing pier can be seen tucked in at the back of the lagoon. The new pier would start at the top of the point and extend out into the channel almost half way to crab island.

Photo Mickey Smith

Alex smacks a lip on a clean bowl at doolin point wave.

Photo Mickey Smith

3 souls paddling across the channel towards a summertime session at Crab

Photo Mickey Smith

View from the cliffs of Moher down at Doolin. A hollow peak is unloading at Crab Island while a mellower wall is starting to wrap into the Doolin point wave on the inside.

Photo Mickey Smith

Insert yourself here.

Photo Mickey Smith

The jump-in spot for paddling across to Crab or out to Doolin point (out of picture to the left). This jump in spot would be covered by the new pier forcing surfers to paddle out from the shore side of the pier and across the path of berthing ferries.

Photo Mickey Smith

DoolinPoint. A set starting to break and wind down the point.

Photo Mickey Smith

Late drop at Crab Island

Photo Paudie Scanlon

Summertime barrels at Crab Island

Photo Tom Moynihan

Ferry idling in the channel waiting to berth at the existing pier.


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