It’s been nearly five weeks since we returned from Ireland and boy has it flown by. I was planning to write this blog the minute we returned, however, working full time and having the surge of bank holidays meant more surf trips and not much time in between! What can we say about Ireland other than wow… We were warned before going that the crossing is renowned for being a pretty bumpy ride. We prepared ourselves for a sleepless night. This wasn’t the case, we were treated to a perfectly flat crossing.
We took the over night crossing leaving from Wales at 2:30am…never again! We saved some dollar but that did not make up for the slog of a drive to get there and the lack of sleep. Although with flat seas and a relatively empty boat, we were able to catch some z’s in one of the lounges. It was a bit like being in an hostel with around 8 people catching some rest on the bench seats. Actually quite peaceful!
We landed at around 6am in Rosslare, the bottom south east corner of Ireland, and began the 5 hour drive up to Sligo near the north west corner. We immediately noticed how rural and green Ireland was. Our route avoided any big towns and we managed the entire journey without any traffic, in fact barely seeing more than 10 cars at a time. The scenery was truly stunning; even from what we could see from the main roads. Once we got closer to Sligo and the Wild Atlantic Way the scenery started to become more dramatic and we were left infused with excitement for the coming few days.
We drove for what seemed an age down some narrow country roads, finally arriving at the competition base of The Beach Bar in Aughris Head. This is an incredible place – a campsite less than 100 feet from a beach break, which you can camp directly in front of. All nestled in a bay overlooked by a small table top and large hills. Bliss. The bar itself was going through a refurb so some amenities weren’t ready, such as showers and the bar kitchen, but the staff were very accommodating and despite no working kitchen managed to feed the 30+ competitors (a top notch thai green curry) and a few fellow competitors offered up use of their showers in the B+B.
The beauty of this place was matched by the quality of the waves – within a 30 minute radius there were countless breaks, from reefs to beach breaks and everything in between. On the first evening. a solid three hours was spent riding 3-4 foot peelers right in front of the campsite – getting in some longboard style SUP. The following day, Ben, a fellow camper and competitor, and I went to the event break to try and suss it out before the competition the day after. We were greeted by 6-10 foot of powerful Atlantic swell. We managed to pick a few off and took a few beatings too. It was good to work out the break and options for the competition day. I managed to pick an awesome wave, probably the biggest and best I had in my life up to this weekend. I was too excited and scared to do much and just made sure I stayed on the board. Ben was sat just on the inside and had a clear view, he later described the wave as cover shoot worthy. Even with a less than ideal forecast, the weekend was shaping up to give better waves and conditions!
The Irish Sup Surf Classic
The competition is in it’s fifth year and is going from strength to strength. It is run by Paul Bryne from Irish Sup Surf. You can read more about it in The SUPboarder mag. This year saw the biggest female line up in any British and Irish comp and an international crowd. All the ladies were killing it but the overall winner was Sarah Gannon earning herself a pretty dope Sunova paddle – they look killer! I was competing in the ‘First Timers’ category and the Sub 10ft. My reason for entering was to see what competitions are like and where I need to develop. I was knocked out in the first round of the Sub 10ft coming third in my heat but was only short by one point. I think part of this was down to riding a longboard style SUP. and of course. I was up against some awesome riders including British number 2 Ollie Laddiman, a Brazilian rider Marcio Dias and a few of the local rippers including the head judge Dave Owens and Francois Colussi from Pure magic (check out their page for some awesome content).
The riding level in the whole competition was impressive, particularly the finals. The sub 10ft and 10ft+ categories were won by Marcio with father and son Steve and Ollie Laddiman closely behind. Steve Laddiman came 2nd in one category and Ollie the other, I imagine this made for some good banter and ribbing on the way home! I was able to secure a place in the final of the ‘First timers’ taking 3rd, losing out to Rob Sawyer and Moak Mestel.
The conditions on the first day were incredible, sunshine(!), light offshore wind and 6ft+ sets coming in, offering lefts and rights. It was still some of the most powerful swell I have experienced – it floors the power in Cornwall. The second day was a lot more challenging with large sets, 10ft or bigger, which were closing out pretty quick and a stronger cross shore wind. It’s safe to say that this Kent surfer was little bit out of his depth and slightly scared! That said I was stoked to pick off one of the larger waves and then tried to score some points on the inside reform. I decided I need to get my confidence up in bigger swell and have set myself some training targets, including getting a shorter board for more radical maneuvers.
What sets the competition apart from others is the friendly environment and the fact that the other competitors are involved in the judging and scoring. It gives every one an opportunity to see how a competition works. It is a fantastic set up and all credit to the organisers and sponsors for making it so.
After the competition, we couldn’t leave without doing some exploring, so following some advice from some of the local riders, we checked out Easkey but the wind and my energy levels meant we didn’t get out to ride but rather watched others take on this world renowned surf spot. I will be back to give it a go!
We also went to check out more of the Wild Atlantic Way and took a trip to the cliffs of Moher for some incredible views. The entire weekend was a win from quality waves, cracking weather (apparently this is rare in Ireland) and meeting some awesome people. Ireland you were a treat and we will be back soon!
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The podcast that saw us through this trip was…
No Such Thing As A Fish
This hilarious and ‘educational’ podcast is presented by a panel of researchers from the TV show QI, who each week take it in turns to present an ‘interesting’ fact of the week. With same crazy and quirky topics, you find out some cool facts. It’s really easy to listen to with banter and quips that kept us both entertained on the long drive. Louise’s fave presenter is Anna Ptaszynski who is flying the flag for nerdy and truly funny women.