No need to be said that we have had on king rockin’ hell of a year. Paul O’Kane has gone on record saying that it will “never be this good ever again.” If you are not alive and surfing in the west of Europe in this foul year of our two thousand and fourteen, you missed it. It will never be this good again.
We are in the golden season. The light is creeping up quickly now at both ends of the day. Though we have yet to feel the warmth of the sun we can see light now on our side of the mountains, and shadows are getting smaller.
The crew did not assemble at dawn. Everybody slept in. There was not any amping on the headland – for we honestly did not know if this swell would be enough for the Slave, but the surfer in us gets strange psychological tremors if we don’t take advantage of all the opportunities the gods provide. We all assembled far after the dawn. If Irish sailors are salty than Irish surfers are moldy. The crew was very moldy. And there were some of us missing as constant winter assault of waves have taken its toll on even the toughest bucks. More and more sessions proceed without any hype or media and fewer surfers as everyone is spread so thin. It’s a beautiful thing.
When enough power flows over the reef it sucks down like a vortex. A lot of water goes straight to the bottom of the hole, and if you’re in it you go down too. It's deep enough so the pressure will pop your eardrums if you don’t equalise.
Sometimes swells are nothing more than a fantasy on this stretch of coast. A slight bang of the wrong direction and you’re looking at sets every hour. Toes too numb to feel your board when you finally get one. But this one came on cue. Barry Mottershead led the charge. He started suiting up, and like lemmings they jumped off that cliff and onto those mars coloured and storm battered rocks at the bottom. I followed them out on the safety ski and watched for the first hour as Conor Maguire, Kurt Rist, Noah Lane, Tom Gillespie, Hough Galloway and Dan Skajarowski all got amazing waves while I did some safety duty on the ski.
There are reasons I was sitting on the ski. I’m a firm believer someone being out there for safety. Mullaghmore dishes out a brutal beating, and if you got hurt out there with no ski you’d have a long swim in against the rip, a rock dance thought the inside surge and a short hike up a slippery cliff before anybody could get you. A trained ski rescuer is such an obvious lifesaver at most big wave spots.
The other reason is that the last time I paddled here I got a beating that shook me. It was a month ago or so and it was a similar size but a little heavier. I had backed off a couple. And there is nothing worse really for you confidence in the bigger stuff than realising at the last second, after you put on the brakes, that the wave passing under you was totally doable – that the gods just threw you a bone and your damn sense of self-preservation got in the way of something great. I got frustrated and paddled like mad for the next biggest thing I could find. Air on the drop and I was down, over the falls for the violent shake then down.
… and down. Past the shallow part of the reef there is a hole. When enough power flows over the reef it sucks down like a vortex. A lot of water goes straight to the bottom of the hole, and if you’re in it you go down too. It's deep enough so the pressure will pop your eardrums if you don’t equalise. And it's hard to get your hand to your nose when you’re being battered. I went down deep enough to give me black eyes like I was punched. I got just a foamy little breath before the next one sent me down again. Tom Butler had come in to get me but I was too weak to hang on the sled.
The frontsiders, Hough and Conor Maguire were weaving through massive bombs on seven footers while all the regular footers had boards 18 inches longer.
I had considered not paddling there anymore. Selling the gun. I’ll go surf somewhere fun. I don’t have to do this. Because of all that I was fairly content riding Mickey Corker around the inside so he could get some images, and watching the highlights, including Hugh Galloway pumping through a 10ft bomb from a deep as could be. The frontsiders, Hough and Conor Maguire were weaving through massive bombs on seven footers while all the regular footers had boards 18 inches longer. Backside on a board that big, a line set is a line set. The bodyboarders had bodyboards and they used them well. Irish bodyboarders are some of the best surfers on the planet.
Barry Mottershead stepped up and took off on one of the biggest set waves of the day. And although it looks perfect it had a sidewinder warble and it sucked off the reef like none other. The board didn’t fit into the curves properly and down goes Barry. I kept watch and he was down for a long time. He popped up with only a fraction of his 8’4. Barry went though the vortex and deep into the hole. I came and got him and he offered to run safety for a bit and give me a crack at it. He was pretty upset that he fell, but he sure did jump at that chance the gods gave him on that wave.
As soon as I reached the lineup a massive wave came in. Kurt spun around like a champ and went deep. Time and time again Kurt amazes me by just turning around on some of the waves he catches. This one he didn’t make. But it was close. Pure commitment over an unexplainably scary ledge. I managed to get a couple. Ol’ miss Mully even let me off this time without a beating. I managed to find the cradle four times in an hour; two of them ran down the reef and kept me in the hook the whole way. It felt like a proper session, in heavy-as-it-gets 10ft barrels.
I can’t decide if Mully is trying to give me false confidence. She’ll give me just enough to keep me around to beat me some more. All of us guys and girls who surf Mullaghmore will admit she can be abusive at times. But she is so damn gorgeous.