big wave surfing
Big wave surfing involves immense adrenaline levels and epic skyscraper waves. Hear from local surf legends Al Mennie and Easkey Britton as they talk to us all about riding those big waves.
Big wave surfing involves a surfer paddling into, or being towed into, waves measuring at least 20ft (6m) tall on surfboards known as ‘guns’. Tow-in surfing is a brand of big wave surfing where the surfer is towed into the waves using a jet ski, in order to achieve the high speeds necessary.
Jet skis not only enable surfers to tow into waves that would be too fast to paddle into, but they also allow access to waves in remote locations unreachable on surfboards alone.
Surfing these larger waves is dangerous and requires specialist training, not only for the surfer but also their tow team. Jet skis are an essential piece of rescue equipment as they are used to safely extract the surfer after they have ridden a wave of if they ‘wipeout’. A wipeout is surfing slang for falling off your board.
Big wave surfing in Ireland
Exposed to the storm swells breaking in from the North Atlantic, Mullaghmore Head, Co.Sligo is one of the most renowned big wave surf spots in the world. When conditions are right, the waves there have reached as high as 60ft (18m) as in 2007, when Conor Maguire surfed what was labelled ‘Ireland’s biggest wave’.
Another infamous break is ‘Aileens’ located at the base of the Cliffs of Moher, Co.Clare. This daunting break encapsulates the raw power of the ocean crashing into the rocks and cliffs of the Irish coastline.
There are several people who have pioneered this particular discipline in Ireland, with some of the first featured in a film called Waveriders. Surfers such as Richie Fitzgerald, Easley Britton, Al Mennie, John McCarthy, Neil Britton and Peter Conroy have not only pushed the boundaries of big wave surfing here, but have also led the way in honing and improving surf safety in local waters, forming the Irish Tow Surf Rescue Club.
This video shows interviews with two of Irelands most renowned big wave surfers, Al Mennie and Easkey Britton. Listen to their stories as they explain why they became interested in the sport, what it feels like surfing huge waves and the safety precautions they take with their team.