Al Mennie surfing off the West Coast of Ireland
Exploring the ups and downs of Europe's final frontier.
With what will go down as one of Europe's stormiest winters in decades, the west coast of Ireland was unquestionably one of the best places to be stationed if you were looking to score giant surf the last couple months.
The Emerald Isle's famed big wave spot Mullaghmore Head witnessed a handful of all-time paddle and tow-in sessions and, as a surf destination that now regularly attracts a world-class crew of big wave chargers from around the world when it's on, Ireland once again lived up to its ever-growing reputation as one of the planet's heaviest cold-water surf destinations .
Al Mennie preps his big wave gun on his way to tackling Ireland's Hawaiian style outer reefbreaks.
So it's no surprise that in March Irish big wave thrill-seeker Al Mennie travelled to the West Coast of Ireland in search of big surf. However, as anyone who's ever been to the Emerald Isle will know, forecasting conditions is everything but straight-forward. With the same North Atlantic storms that generate the swells usually simultaneously slamming the island, clean surf windows are gone in a flash. In fact, in Ireland they say it's not uncommon to experience all four seasons of the year in one day, the weather as extreme as its below-sea-level reefbreaks and heaving slabs.
What some may not know is surfing in Ireland doesn't have to be death-defying if you don't want it to be. With its cut-up coastline offering all kinds of shelter, there are plenty of untapped mellower options for the average shred cat. You just need to find a way to get away from the howling onshore winds. Come equipped with plenty of time and petrol, and Ireland can be hard to beat as a fun holiday surf destination.
Nobody goes to Ireland without growing a good beard first. The elements are so harsh at Europe's final frontier every single piece of protection helps.
Better still, while it's certainly grown in popularity over the past decade, the extreme nature of Ireland's climate has meant lineups remain relatively uncrowded, especially if you know where to look. Yes, coldwater has its advantages! And even if the shred doesn't exactly come together as you'd so anticipated, a surf trip there will always leave you feeling alive and reinvigorated.
With lots of driving and plenty of sketchy country roads and farm tracks to negotiate on your way, Al Mennie knows a good set of wheels goes a long way in Ireland.