When we think of Ireland, surfing isn’t usually the first thing we think of. However, some brave soles are exploring the dangerous, cold and exposed waters to find some of the best surf breaks in the world are located just off the west coast of The Emerald Isle! Jet skis, paddles and helmets are equipment not usually associated with riding a wave, but on the west coast of Ireland the waves are so huge, they become necessities!
These giant wave hot spots where once a well-kept secret, surfed only by a select few boundary pushing locals, but with the help of new and more powerful technology and more accurate forecasting, these monstrous swells have been shoved into the world surfing spotlight! Ollie O’Flaherty and Andrew Cotton are considered the pioneers of taming the waves off the coast of Mullaghmore Head in County Sligo. Their recent exploits have gained them worldwide recognition after being shortlisted at the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards in California, the home of big wave surfing!
Of course, surfing waves that can reach up to 50ft in height comes with some very life threatening dangers! “I’ve definitely had one or two pretty big scares…last October I got wiped out and was stuck at the bottom of one wave and I got picked up, hit and dragged over the reef three times” Said Ollie, but he insists that “the thrill outweighs the consequence for me.”
Part of the lure for these pioneers is the very fact that they are among the first people to surf these locations, and it is the fear or excitement of the unknown that is the motivation for searching out other break locations! Despite having travelled the world in search of the Holy Grail of waves, Ollie said “To be brutally honest the best waves I’ve ever seen or surfed have been in Ireland, by a long way. It might not be good all the time but when it is good, it’s better than anywhere else in the world,”
In this video you can really see the sheer scale of the waves these brave blokes are surfing – in shallow water with reefs just a matter of feet below the surface of the water! It was also a contender for the Bilabong XXL wave award in 2011!
With new spots being found all the time and surfers exploring ever deeper waters with some guys venturing out over 8 miles from the coast to find the allusive breaks, big wave surfing in Ireland is going to attract a lot more attention from the world’s top surfers over the coming years as they come and experience the huge uninterrupted waves the Atlantic pummels the Irish coast with.