Al Mennie Interview

AL Mennie's back in Ireland, fresh from that session when Garret McNamara towed into a wave at Nazare, Portugal that some are calling the biggest wave ever ridden.

The elevation of Nazare from legend to legit big wave spot means a winter of transfers from the Continent to Ireland and back, chasing blobs of Northern Atlantic energy. In November flickers over to the North Shore for the Triple Crown/The Eddie and Peahi. But the North Pacific is in an El Nina induced hibernation whilst the Atlantic seems to get more active with each swell cycle and the low hanging Jet Stream keeps ferrying storms down and across to Europe.

You've warmed up for the winter swells by helping Garret McNamara ride a wave in Portugal that is a contender for the biggest wave ridden in 2012 and maybe ever.

Al: Yeah we hooked up with Garrett last year in Portugal and he asked us to help with his mission to get some big waves. We jumped at the chance, as he is one of the most competent and best big wave surfers in the world. So anyway he asked us again this year so myself and Cotty went down to get involved.

Tell us about that session

Well, actually that surf where he scored the bomb, he wasn't even going to surf. Cotty and I had already scored some big waves and I said, "C'mon Garrett it's your turn. He was like, 'No, I'll tow you into a few.'" Anyway eventually he decided to have a turn and then as if on cue that massive one just popped out of nowhere. Of course both Cotty and I were ready to ride a wave like that, but that's just the way the ocean goes. Right spot, right time.

You competed last year in the Billabong Tow in Session that saw some epic waves at Mullaghmore, what are you expecting for this year's event?

Last year was pretty unusual, in that it was so clean. Generally if we are surfing the 'More, we are usually out right in the eye of the storm. It can get much bigger, scarier and angrier than the waves we had for the comp. I actually prefer it in those conditions, when it's bigger and wilder as it walls up and throws out even more. So hopefully for this year's event we score one of those big massive days. It can hold anything really, easily up to 60 feet, maybe bigger, so I hope we get to see those types of waves.

How long have you been surfing out there?

I first started paddling Mullaghmore around 2003 and started tow surfing out there a few years later. As I said, it tends to break in those big storms that happen every couple of weeks over here in Ireland. So I've plenty of experience surfing out there.

Do you approach competitive surfing out there any differently than a free surf?

Look to be honest the whole competitive side of surfing isn't really my thing. I'll try to use my experience when I competed earlier on in my career, but with big wave surfing you have the added elements of fear and danger thrown into the mix. I do think though one of the bigger bonuses of events like these is that you get the chance to get together with other big wave surfers. Over the last year myself and Cotty have competed in Chile and Oregon and throughout the contest our surfing improved even in that short time. When you are surfing with those guys from around the world or Europe, you can't help but improve and evolve.

How important is the teamwork aspect in these big-wave events?

The teamwork is one of the most crucial components in surfing big waves. I've been surfing with Cotty now for years and having that trust is essential. To know how your
partner is going to react in heavy situations and to understand all the variables involved is really important. I think that those competitors that have that close, experienced partnership will usually standout.

What's your plan in the meantime?

I'm just happy to be back in Ireland and chasing swells. There are so many waves around here if you are committed. It really is a great place to be if you are into big waves.

Interview: Ben Mondy


Ed Temperley

MSW editor. Instagram @edtemperley