Post merdian Riley’s mood swing. All photos: Mickey Smith.
I just had five days away from Fuerte, went to this rad music fest in France, needed to forget about the shoulder for a minute and just dance. We watched a few of my best mates headline, was cool being backstage with the boys, I still can’t actually believe that Mickey, Nat and Ben Howard are stars! We’re all from the same area you know, it’s a trip seeing them play in front of 70,000 people. Who’d have thought they’d be headlining the main stage at Glastonbury this summer? Mad.
HOW’S THE BROKEN WING HEALING?
My shoulder’s coming along nicely, not long to go now until I’m back on it, I’m putting the work in at the gym as it’s the only way to get this right. My lungs are nice and big too. Apart from the gym I’m longboarding and SUPing plenty, keeping the flow in the sea, diving a few times a week. I enjoy switching off from the world on land, listening to my breathing, it’s so relaxing sitting on the bottom, watching the cool fish around you is a trip. It gives me confidence to know I can sit on the bottom for a few minutes without too much discomfort.
A point worth making is to train to make your waves, I remember Greg Long saying this. I used to train for wipeouts, I’d be thinking about bad stuff while I was exercising, what a waste of time. You attract what you spend your energy thinking about, it’s just how the cosmos works. So my mantra now is to have fun when you’re training.
Searching for St Brendan.
SWIM SWIM SWIM?
I don’t swim in the pool ever, I hate it, so when I’m in Ireland I don’t swim or dive, If I’m swimming here in the Canaries I’ll do 40 mins to an hour-ish, breathing every two strokes then working up to 10 or 12, nothing robotic though, pretty freestyle for me.
WHAT ARE YOUR SECRETS FOR TACKLING ANGRY PIECES OF IRISH WATER IN THE FREEZIN’ COLD?
Well it goes without saying to take your flasks of hot lemon and ginger with you. Diet is a huge factor, Fergal and Mickey are vegans, their diet is way different than mine. But a good diet is key to last the winter, and they are on it, big time. Fergal has already started to fill all his freezers with soup for the winter, as the veg he grows won’t be around in the winter. He lives off his land 100%, he’s all about eating what’s in season, and doesn’t eat anything that isn’t grown in Ireland, and if he travels he eats what’s local. I admire his style but I’m not quite there yet. I travel a lot more than Ferg, and am not that strict.
DO YOU SPEND MUCH TIME WATCHING SURFING ON THE WEB?
I’m old school to the core, Insta what? If you’re really present and living in the moment enjoying your life, there’s no need to fill it with too much crap on the net, I’m not a self-promoting machine, and believe in letting your surfing do the talking. Sometimes the masses on the net seem like they’re in their own ego bubble, consumed by the fact that it’s their job to pump their name out there. But each to their own, if being online a few hours a day helps pay the bills then by all means do what you have to, I never have so far, so I’ll just keep putting my energy into my surfing. I believe if the guys put as much time into their surfing as they do the net, they would still be sponsored. I’m just going off my own experiences mind.
AILEEN’S HAD SOME MAD SESSIONS THIS WINTER…
The session that stands out most this winter was that swell at the end of Feb, it was solid 12ft cliffs with some 15ft sets and plenty of crew around, Alex Gray and Antony Walsh were there with their team. I was in the zone that day, best I’ve ever surfed under there, I caught every shape and sized wave Aliens could throw at me, some bombs off the boil, some inside double ups, closeouts which held up, I snapped two boards in the process, swam around into the bay twice, pretty much completed an iron man, to finish the day dislocating my shoulder was a shame, but the greatest lesson one could ask for.
That was the wave I did it on (above), I’d just been cleaned up by four 12fters which left me a mess, but I couldn’t resist one last bomb. I borrowed my mate Hugo’s board and saw this glassy beauty coming in, I only just slipped under that lip as you can see in the first few shots, I had no energy at all paddling in, just threw myself over the ledge in reflex more than power, looks like I towed it or something in the shots, but that’s how I’ve always wanted to ride the wave.
I made it out the barrel clean until my board snapped under my feet going mac 10, it sent me summersaulting into the flats and hitting the water which felt like concrete, my shoulder ripped out and the wave sucked me over the falls onto dry reef. If I never get into a flow like that again under those cliffs I’d be stoked with that day, it’s like all the time put in out there paid off, I wasn’t thinking, just feeling, an outer body experience.
WAS THERE A TURNING POINT FOR YOU CAREER WISE OR LIKE ONE SESSION/ONE WAVE WHEN YOU FELT LIKE THINGS CHANGED?
The first time Rileys was surfed. I’d never towed before that, I only had a 6’8 Resin8 epoxy beast of a thing to my name, Rileys was like nothing I’d ever seen, the colours and thickness of that wave were unreal, it really was like the drawings I’d do when I was little, it all got real pretty fast when I was first up on the rope. Fergal was at a comp in Scotland at the time, so it was just Paul Morgan, Pierre Luis Costes and one of his Aussie mates. Tom Doidge was driving with Mickey in the channel shooting, funny little crew looking back.
We were the only crew around up for it, next thing you know I’m trying to crawl up to my feet in time for this 8ft Chopes-style beast. I’d just scrambled up and was way behind the peak, I just went for gold, thinking ‘I’m going down hard this time’. Since then I haven’t ridden a wave there any deeper and made it, I’ve tried countless times, breaking myself in the process. After a swell I got on a flight back to Cornwall with my mate Patch Wilson and we were buzzing, what followed after was more coverage than I could believe. The UK mags were freaking out about all these new waves, nobody from the UK had attacked those kind of waves, Rip Curl called me and were amped to get me on the team. I was spinning out about the whole thing, finally I could focus all my energy on what I love the most. It was a dream come true, no more washing dishes, digging holes, roofing.
IS IRELAND JUST LIKE FATHER TED?
Father Ted’s classic man, hope you’re not dissing it! Course it’s not quite that gnarly, but if you go into a pub, or even just cruise around you’ll see old whisky nosed legends, old boys get around on their tractors. Irish people in general are really warm, they invite you to stay, cook nice dins for you, it’s their culture. A lot of them are very set in their ways with religion, very Christian. But I have no problem with that. They like to moan mind! They always find something to moan about with their government, but let’s face it, they don’t have it easy, I say hats off to anybody living full time there, it’s a harsh life at times, but worth it for those special moments.
WHAT’S YOUR FOCUS FOR THE COMING SEASONS?
My focus and plan is to paddle a 20ft wave at Mully, it’s a lifelong goal, and so many elements go into something like that, it may not happen in this lifetime, but I’m going to try my hardest to see it through.