Ireland, particularly the West Coast has been on the agenda for a long time. initially thoughts of Brandon Bay etc for the sailing, Lately however the focus has changed to SUP and so the Sligo area and Donegal began to dominate the interest.
A chance link brought to our attention the reinstatement of the Irishsup Surf Classic for 2014 and a few quick messages to Irishsup head man Paul Byrne saw us subsequently committed.
There wasn’t a lot of time to organise everything, but a letter to school ensured that we could make a little more of the trip than a quick splash and dash so we booked the ferry for 2am on the friday morning to ensure we had a full day to acclimastise to the delights of the west coast and the first proper atlantic swell that we had seen in a long time.
The forecast was large – 16ft @13sec which was destined to set the reefs of Sligo and beyond alight. a post dawn, post all night travel snoop along the coast confirmed this fact with breaks such as Easkey looking beyond sweet.
our tactical decision was to try to ignore the reeling right hand reef breaks all along the coast and instead head over to the designated competition area at Aughris Head.
This location had been chosen for several reasons; the size of the swell; the forecast wind for the Saturday (the bay is sheltered in westerly winds) and most importantly that the competition was open to al,l including first timers, a monster swell might have amused some of us but not all!
So once the travellag had worn off a little and the coffee had started to seep in we donned the rubber and began working out this foreign break.
The tide dropped quickly through the day which meant that the bay changed character as the water moved out. high was a mellower wave towards the middle of the bay that produced a right that ran, we missed that and got stuck into the mismatch of mid tide rights and lefts,all the while battling with an unfamiliar strong off shore wind. low was the domain of a decent sized left which would collapse with a brutal finality.
Competition day dawned with a cold wind blowing cross off and the high tide just turning. the heats and the craic began, as did the weather! the day saw sun rain sleet and hail interspersed with the ever present irish rainbows and accompanied with a gusty wind. some heats were lucky and others as the squalls came through were pure comedy. during one squall several boards were sent cartwheeling down the beach and over the rocks. despite all this the early rounds went well. i came top of my heats in both the 10ft plus categoriy and the sub 10ft category coming in second in the masters, all enough to progress through to the next day. the 7’10 loco drew a lot of attention on the beach and on the water.
Sunday was forecast to be the peach with much lighter winds but a slightly dropping swell. things weren’t quite as smooth first off as most of the lads had been catching up until well into the small hours, several had elected just to treat the weekend as one mighty long day. to see folk who could barely walk in a straight line paddle out through the break was a treat. a few dips later and most heads had been sorted and some impressive displays of surfing both on 10ft plus monsters and the sub 10 tinies were displayed by the cream of all Ireland’s corners. participants from the north / east / south and west were ripping the somewhat challenging waves in the sunshine at last! hard fought heats and semi finals saw myself in all three finals and Ollie chuffed to bits to make the sub 10 final too. the masters and 10plus final was held during the second half of mid tide and was hotly contested with Finn mullen putting on a display and Paul Byrne consistenly finding the long players with his smooth and convincing style. then to the sub 10 where on that slightly lower tide the lefts began in earnest allowing goofy footer Finn to open up on the sections. dave owens powered his way around the break taking fast lefts and the odd suicide right towards the rocks which set the bar. ollie sat a little away from the pack and seemed to conjure rights out of nowhere and hack them to pieces. i battled through making the most of the lefts that i could and diving into one hit wonders making lefts into rights with a mixed success rate. all borne out in the final results with myself in 4th dave owens 3rd ollie 2nd and finn 1st.
A respectable first appearance on the Irish scene I think.
The girls and the first timers were also a treat to watch with much bravery as well as skill brought to the table. Katie McAnena dropped by on her way back from maui to take the win for the girls and tony doherty air dropped his way to the first timers win.