(This article first appeared in print in SE93, May 2012)
Ireland is an island to the north west of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth. To its east is the larger island of Great Britain, from which it is separated by the Irish Sea.
So much has been published about surfing in Ireland in the last few years, to add to the pile seems irrelevant. The result has been an explosion of Emerald Isle awareness as its ridiculous amount of untapped potential, is slowly but surely getting tapped.
Local surfers and, yes we have to admit bodyboarders, armed with balls of steel, intimate local knowledge, sponsors, commitment, time, energy and filmers have been generating some of the most compelling, consistent and groundbreaking surfing footage available anywhere.
The rest of the world, their eyeballs plugged in by optic fibres into their computers, have been lapping up Ireland’s surf porn, ogling at 20 foot widow makers at Aileens, heaving slabs at Rileys, powerful rollers at Prowlers and monster mashers at Mully.
And yet, it’s undeniable that sometimes pictures do lie. The truth about surfing in Ireland is, well, anything you want it to be. If you’ve spent a rain sodden two weeks scouring the icy, windy coastline of County Cork at the wrong time, surfing in Ireland might be a series of bracing beachies, followed by long spliffs, warm welcomes and long, beery nights.
Turn up a week later, and you could find yourself spinning and fishing along three feet rollers, with the sun shining weakly and the seagulls’ cries just about drowning your laughter.
Alternatively, if you come with a quiver of big wave guns, testicles the size of avocados and happen to know just one local who has been testing himself in the empty reefbreaks for years, it’s possible, with time and petrol, to find empty Hawaiian style power and perfection.
Up on the west coast, where generations of Irishmen, plus marauding Englishmen escaping the barely inclined, tapering beachbreaks of Cornwall, have been throwing themselves along tidal reefbreaks and shifting rip bowls for years.
A surfing trip to Ireland can be perfect, frustrating, boring, heart stopping and life changing, sometimes all in one day, or even, in one surf. In Ireland you can count on quality, just as much as you can count on rain, a warm welcome, lovely Guinness and wind.
And it is the wind that will determine your surfing experience in Ireland. The same storms that generate the swell, also generate the wind, with the Irish coast jutting out into the North Atlantic and copping a generous over supply of both.
"Ireland can be perfect, frustrating, boring, heart stopping and life changing, sometimes all in one day, or even, in one surf"
If this part of the world had a steady flow of consistent trade winds it would be, without doubt, the premier surfing destination in the world. But it doesn’t.
It has swirling gales and howling onshores, which to the outsider are about as unpredictable as they are morale-crushing. Patience and positivity is required, something Irish surfers tend to have in abundance.
But of course there are windows of opportunity, where the tide, wind, swell, reefs and sand all come together to produce world class waves, be it two foot pointbreaks or 20 foot slabs. It is in these windows, that surfing in Ireland becomes something special and unique.
The truth about surfing in Ireland is, as they say, out there. It’s just up to you where you find it.