Grit and Guts at Mullaghmore

Words by Dylan Stott

I predicted that something was going to happen. Weird goings on. Tides are bottoming out at 0.0 because of that damn black moon. The mood in the house is ugly. Winter has set her dark and stormy teeth. Wind all night. Snow splattered up against the window. Snow not just on top of the mountains, but all the way down. Big and booming outside before dawn, several hours before the beginning of the swell – we stumble around in the dark to the thunder of another big swell. Paddle yeah? … No. Nerves.

Kurt and I have been in this house now for four months. It’s like a cave, this house, this town. Howling and whistling – and when a big swell is coming, it’s stressful – to be going surfing when there are new rocks in front of your house that weren’t there yesterday. We argued about the fuel for the ski then about how I stitched together our only fifty-newton flotation vest and glued our sled back together while he went surfing. We argued about who bought the ingredients for last week’s chilli and who bought the last bag of coal, who has to pay for what kinds of blah blah blah. We argued about bad breath.

Sitting on the bluff the mood got no better. The waves were pumping. Big and 50ft looking – high tide and still barreling. We didn’t even stay to watch a set. Weather was dark, and the wind was still shaking the car. At the harbour there was flotsam everywhere – it looked like something exploded, like the debris from Louis Mountbatten’s old boat washed up all over the ramp.

Met up with Francois Liets, and a gang of usual suspects in the harbour. Everybody seemed a little tense. On edge. I think it’s the moon and this insane weather. Paul noticed it too. Everybody is wandering around like the apocalypse just happened. Useless. Like zombies were on the attack.

With every set coming it felt like somebody let the plug out of the ocean a little more, with every big wave you could see a few more contours of the bottom.

The harbour had a foot of wind chop on it and was so full if junk we immediately got some of it stuck in the ski intake. Once out and into the lineup there was no hanging out and watching it. We knew it was good. We only had a little window before the centre of the storm passed and we would be on the wrong end of it. So after a quick chat we were out there. A pod of dolphins now hang around every session, cruising around to let us know we were not the only people who appreciated Mullaghmore.

It was way too big to consider paddling, and it was really nice to cruise around on some medium-tide ones, and after a nice round of a couple warm up waves, it started to get interesting. With every set coming it felt like somebody let the plug out of the ocean a little more, with every big wave you could see a few more contours of the bottom. Peter Conroy pulled in too deep and got a “very bad wipeout,” which in his fireman standards and XXL Pedigree standards is saying that most mightn’t have survived it. Peter and Ollie came back to the lineup, when I was on the rope and told me about it – a harsh trip over the falls and then down to the bottom of the trench – the deep behind the shallow part of the reef. He hit the bottom, Peter said, after he got sucked way, way down – and that isn’t best thing to hear from a goofyfooter at a giant left slab. Kurt promptly put me into a big one, and I had a bunch of fun nervously fading to a semi-critical spot then pulling into a big pocket which spat at me.

Barry got a couple of massive ones. Fun as it could be. Conor Maguire got on the rope behind the golden hands of Paul O’Kane and rode out a huge barrel before being clipped, injuring his ankle. Sets poured in. Time got hazy. And like Captain Paul O’Kane said to me one day, the sun shines on somebody every session. The last big swell had about twenty or 30 good waves in it. This one had 50 or 60 – way more consistent. But in every swell there is one special wave.

Tom Butler is full of energy. He was fired up on paddling this session and wanted to borrow a bigger board so he could have a go. But it wasn’t to be. There was no chance at a paddle even though Tom gave it a good look, and then waited a whip into one. I got Tom on the end of the rope. I waited out there for about twenty minutes and the horizon went black, I turned around and Tom is going put me deep. I established myself in the lineup, and dropped Tom “Buttliar” Butler as deep as I possibly dared. Usually from the back you just see a huge heaving froth, but this thing went square and clear from the back like you would see at a perfect little reef break, except it was a perfect 30ft barrel.

I only could watch as it exploded from the back. Just as the Hercules swell when I came in to the channel and nobody could speak when Kurt did his layback, this time coming in was weird too. I gave Tom the ol’ hi five, then Barry, who is not predisposed to public displays of affection swam over from out of nowhere and gave Tom a long and affectionate hug. I’m going to go on the record here now and say that Tom Butler has ridden the best wave of the session, of one of the best sessions of the year, of one of the best years ever, at one of the best waves in the world. Which might mean something.

And once again we’re back in the house. It’s Saturday night and we’re not doing anything, we’re gonna stay inside and nurse our sore bits. Coal and wood are more important than food right now. I usually eat sprouts and lentils but I just fried up burgers and had oven chips. The rain goes on and with the hail and the wind and the storms. And the winter is not over yet.