Some of the Europe’s best big wave surfers are hurriedly making their way to Ireland to compete in the third annual Billabong Tow-In Session at Mullaghmore in county Sligo. Event organisers today gave the amber light for the one-day event on the strength of a giant swell forecast to reach Mullaghmore this coming Monday.
A waiting period for the event commenced in November last year and finishes on March 1 this year. Organisers only need one day of giant waves to stage the event. The huge North Atlantic swell now headed Ireland’s way looks like providing surf big enough to stage the event but, most importantly, the forecast giant waves will be accompanied by light and favourable winds.
Last year’s event was cancelled because waves in excess of 20 feet in height, with favorable winds, didn’t arrive during the four month waiting period. But contest director Paul O’Kane said on the current forecasting models it looked like there would be clean and perfect 20 foot waves at Mullaghmore on Monday.
“For a big wave surfing contest such as this that’s about the minimum size we need to run the event,” he said. “But because the ocean conditions will be so clean and perfect on Monday that’s why we have decided to go to amber alert… This will give all the Irish competitors and those coming from overseas enough time to get here and be well organized with their equipment.
“On Saturday evening I will make a final call if we are going to green light the event and go ahead with it on Monday, but at this stage the weather charts and swell forecast looks very promising.”
For safety reasons the event is restricted to invitees only. Because lives are at stake only those surfers with recognized big wave experience are invited to compete. Competitors are also expected to be well versed and qualified in the all necessary rescue and water safety procedures.
Mullaghmore, along with Aileen’s at the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, is fast gaining a reputation as one of the most fearsome and challenging big wave locations in the world. The international field this year will also include competitors from Ireland, Hawaii, USA, Great Britain, France, Spain, Germany, Tahiti and South Africa.
Irish surfers competing in the event include Richie Fitzgerald and Peter Craig (Donegal), Dave Lavelle and Mikee Hamilton (Sligo), Peter Conroy and Ollie O’Flaherty (Clare) Hugh Galloway (Galway) and Al Mennie (Antrim). The event is sanctioned by the Irish Surf Rescue Club and the Irish Surfing Association.