Hang Ten. It’s big wave season!
“Surfing leads you through life, especially when you’re young and with hope in your heart.”
Ireland is home to some of the biggest and best waves in the world. From November to February is the most exciting time of year. It’s big wave season.
With some of the most famous waves in the world breaking just off the Atlantic shoreline, Ireland attracts the exclusive and brave tribe of extreme surfers, this time of year. Iconic waves like the Peak in Bundoran, County Donegal and the Aileen in the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare entice the world’s surfers to our wild coastline. The surfing is spectacular, the risks high and the adrenalin even higher. The wave, Aileen has been described as the nearest thing to a ‘perfect wave’ but she is not for the fainthearted! Described by filmmaker Peter Clyne as “The mammoth waves that Aileen produces are dwarfed only by the majestic, unspoilt Cliffs of Moher”. Aileen’s Wave is somewhat of a mystical surf spot and you have to be extremely lucky to catch this perfect wave – it appears only a few times a year when the conditions are just right. It can reach up to 12 metres and attracts the world’s top surfers, hopeful for the thrill of a lifetime. Clare is not the only coastline promising the ride of your life. The waves at Mullaghmore are not for the fainthearted, reaching a staggering 15 metres when the conditions are right and making them one some of the biggest waves to hit the Irish coastline. With consistent good waves all year round, this incredible reef break off the cliffs at Mullaghmore is amongst the best big-wave surf spots in the world. Last February, Conor Maguire (Bundoran, Ireland) towed into an emerald wall of waves in Mullaghmore Sligo, becoming barrelled and escaping the foam ball monster. This feat makes him a contender for the prestigious Billabong Ride of Year Award. You can experience the thrill of it all here:
Surfing the waves in Ireland is now a mainstream sport but also a fast growing pastime and always an amazing tourist attraction. All along the Wild Atlantic Way and even on the east coast around Brittas Bay, surfing schools are providing hire of equipment, advice and instructions to a growing number of surfers. For a minimum outlay of money, this fantastic sport can be accessed by people of all ages and expertise. Surfing is no longer an elitist pursuit, nor the vocation of tanned hippy types. Surfing is for all. Lahinch in County Clare has been welcoming surfers for decades and is one of the country’s most popular spots for learners and newbies to begin their life of catching waves. A welcoming town, full of summer fun and lots to do for families and surfers alike, Lahinch has built a tourist industry around surfing. Donegal also boasts fantastic waves. In Bundoran and Rossnowlagh, the surfing waves are only rivalled by the amazing views and unspoilt golden beaches. The Irish Tourist board says ‘Bundoran has been nicknamed the ‘surf capital of Ireland’ in recent years and it’s not difficult to see why. With an abundant choice of beaches, varying swells, varying sizes and with waves coming from every direction, Bundoran is a surfers dream. Watersports fans descend on this tiny seaside town all year round to catch some of the best that the west coast has to offer. Once you’ve tired yourself in the surf, enjoy the town’s pubs and live music venues.’ Sligo boasts amazing surfing too, not just at Mullaghmore, but at both at Strandhill and at Easkey. Strandhill is just ten minutes from Sligo City, famed for its food, music and welcome. Strandhill is one of the coolest surfing villages in Ireland. If you need to check out the waves or the weather, log on to Strandhill’s Surf School and check out their funky live surfcam .
The Atlantic Coast provides the most spectacular places for surfers to enjoy their sport but there are waves for surfing on the east coast too! Brittas Bay in County Wicklow is proving an increasingly popular spot for Dublin bound surfers. Hoards of boards on roofs are racing out every Friday evening to catch a wave and blow off the week’s hard work. Meath is also a growing surf spot for the commuter belt folk who need a surfing fix in between their sojourns to the Atlantic waves.
Surfing is wonderful exercise, but it does seem to call to something more in the expert practitioner. Something more spiritual, more zen which is experienced in the patience of paddling out to deep water, of facing each wave and mastering (or not mastering) and riding out the surf. Fun, spiritual or madness. The waves are not going anywhere and the surfers will keep on coming.
“Surfing soothes me, it’s always been a kind of Zen experience for me. The ocean is so magnificent, peaceful, and awesome. The rest of the world disappears for me when I’m on a wave.”