The Search – SUP Surfing the West Coast of Scotland

 

There’s no denying this golden hour shot is wonderfully atmospheric, capturing the imagination taking us to our happy place where the water is warm, the waves are perfectly-formed and the scenery is just breath-taking. You guys are probably thinking the whole purpose of the photo shoot was to capture this sunset SUP surfer however this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality was a friend and I had driven ALL day to chase a surf forecast in Machrihanish on the tip of the Kintyre Peninsula in South West Scotland immortalised by Paul McCartney & Wings with their song about the Mull of Kintyre.

While the journey up there was everything and more you expect from a beautifully rugged Scotland on a sunny day it’s not a journey for the faint-hearted. We had originally planned to get a ferry across to Islay for more reliable waves and a few ‘wee drams’ of single malt distilled locally but the bank holiday weekend meant there was no availability until 2 days after the best of the surf had passed so it was already a bust. The adrenalin was already flowing though so despite the option to venture up to ‘ever reliable Thurso’ neither of us had been to Mach before so we ignored the ‘prepare to be skunked’ cries from the haters, loaded up the van and set about our 5 ½ hour drive which turned out to be more like 7 ½ arriving at Westport Beach to some lovely looking waves and warm summer sunshine. The swell was still building so we decided to drive into Machrihanish to get a lay of the land and see if the waves were any punchier round there. The forecast suggested the following day was going to deliver the content gold so we dithered, got some lifestyle shots/video before finally heading back to Westport to score a sunset session. Thankfully I decided to get the drone up for 20mins to capture some cut away longboard SUP video and a few snaps and the moody sky sunset just presented itself so it was too good an opportunity to miss. In truth we thought this shot would just make for good insta fodder and it was only when we got home we discovered just how magical it was.

After a few pints in the local pub (so we could charge the drone batteries) and a largely restless night in the van we woke up at dawn to be greeted by thick fog so we drove around in zombie mode trying to assess where was best to get in for session one. Nobody had told us about the triurnal tides where the Irish and Hebridean seas compete for priority with the Atlantic which means you get 12 tides in one day! The fog soon cleared but the wind had arrived a day early so we spent the rest of the day driving from spot to spot discounting waves as blown out or too small to photograph. It soon turned into praying that the sea glassed off around teatime and we could get everything we needed at Westport. Simon went out while I manned the camera but the wind actually got stronger so it was more like windsurfing weather and the sun was in the wrong position meaning it was nigh impossible to get anything usable with double overhead sets crashing on the inside so we had to make do with some capturing some video from the dunes in 30kts. The wind was here to stay so we decided to drive back on the same night. I scored six amazing waves but I’m still unconvinced 14hrs on the road and a rubbish night’s sleep justify one amazing photo? People romantically talk about ‘the search’ but in truth capturing content can be a frustrating and expensive proposition. For sure this part of the world is an amazing location with beautiful sandy beaches and amazing mountains and a couple of reefs with potential but the tides, wind and wave-size can change in a heartbeat so if you are venturing up that way make sure you go ahead of the predicted forecast and take at least a week, pack some wind kit and if you see some waves don’t pontificate get straight in!

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