GALLERY: Storm Barra Unleashes First Swell For UK and Ireland

Jason Lock

by on

Updated 158d ago

Here we go. We've been following the great European Meltdown for some time now. At first glance, Nazare looked like the golden child for this week - but as these series of storms washed through the North Atlantic, it was clear that Europe's favourite amphitheatre was going to be belted with strong, onshore wind. An XXL winner, it was not.

But that doesn't mean the party stops. Oh no. Officially named Storm Barra, this thing blipped to 40ft@14 seconds on the M3 buoy (that's the one off the south coast of Ireland) and it's still raging right now. And while the wind funked up a load of places later on; during the morning, things were more than doable, if you sought shelter. Or if you were on the Emerald Isle, those storm force winds dropped for an hour or two into something no surfer would turn their heel up at.

Forecast: European Meltdown

All alone in Ireland.

All alone in Ireland.

© 2022 - Darragh Gorman.

How powerful was Storm Barra? Well, let's put it in this perspective. This is footage, captured safely, from Fastnet Lighthouse yesterday, on the most southerly tip of Ireland. What's remarkable is all this rage and power translated into some stunningly beautiful waves around the area and further up north, into Cornwall, Devon and beyond -- and this is why we all love storms.


From this, in the open ocean...

For French surfer Kylian Guerin, this was his first time over in Ireland, teaming up with Rip Curl stable-mate Gearoid McDaid for a couple sessions in between that wind blasting. “What a session, was so epic,” said Kylian. “This is my first session ever in Ireland and I got treated pretty well by the conditions [laughs].

“I've gone from firing Hossegor, 10-days-ago, to now pumping Ireland. Life is good. [laughs].”

...to this, close to shore. Yeah, that's Kylian in there, all neatly tucked up under a chilly Irish blanket.

...to this, close to shore. Yeah, that's Kylian in there, all neatly tucked up under a chilly Irish blanket.

© 2022 - Darragh Gorman.

For those in the know, like Gearoid McDaid, scoring during a storm like this, with complex winds, big swell and an ever-changing surfscape is not easy. “Hard to call where to go with the charts,” said Gman. “How big was it going to be? How windy? To be honest, we made the wrong call first thing yesterday morning, ended up driving to the wrong spot.

“It was one of those days where you just stay put and surf the ol' faithful – turns out, it ended up firing [laughs]. As the wind died in the afternoon, it got super rippable and there were some fun little pits too. Sometimes, it's like that – you go on the mission when you should have stayed put. But pretty fun day all-in-all.”

Sweeping carve, goofy foot - that's Gman alright.

Sweeping carve, goofy foot - that's Gman alright.

© 2022 - Darragh Gorman.

Scotland got it good too – but more on that soon. Down in Devon and Cornwall, a strong south wind groomed select spots throughout the morning, before switching to that gale force westerly, right on schedule. And that meant; seek shelter.

For any surfer, pipping out of this nugget during a storm swell is going to make you grin ear-to-ear. Ireland.

For any surfer, pipping out of this nugget during a storm swell is going to make you grin ear-to-ear. Ireland.

© 2022 - Darragh Gorman.

On hand though was photographer Mike Newman. “Monster ocean swells from Storm Barra pushed the wave buoys up to the 30ft region today, driven by force ten winds hitting 60mph locally, and 80mph up in Devon,” he said. “Surfers looking for clean surf were largely unlucky, unless you got to shelter.” Luckily, those who waited for the wind swing knew where to head. Even with 50, 60mph winds, there's always a corner working somewhere.

Wonderfully framed little point in deepest Kernow.

Wonderfully framed little point in deepest Kernow.

© 2022 - Mike Newman.

And then, just a few miles away, Kernow's north coast was throwing up some gigantic, unsurfable monsters.

And then, just a few miles away, Kernow's north coast was throwing up some gigantic, unsurfable monsters.

© 2022 - Mike Newman.

Meanwhile, Cornwall's Harry Timson has been on a solo mission to a slab you really shouldn't surf alone. Remote, windy and damn right ugly at times but the thing about Mr Timson is, he'll send it in just about anything. "After my first wave, I had my heart beat in my ears," he said. "Adrenaline was pumping, it's a sketchy place but only when you're alone -- hopefully get a few more playful ones over the next few days." [laughs].

Harry Timson. This slab is fickle and hard to surf at best, let alone the impending feeling you're about to hit rock. Or worse.

Josh Deery Brown.

Josh Deery Brown.

© 2022 - Darragh Gorman.

Oh and France had a go too! "This was before Storm Barra hit yesterday," said lensman David Berthet of RIPITUP. "The calm before the storm, next few days are going to get out of control. This is Vincent Duvignac, I ended up shooting it as a sequence, 50 or so shots compressed down into a few seconds." And David's not wrong about the swell in France for the foreseeable, big waves, big wind.

50+ images and a sequence to make you hoot!

How this formed? Let's kick it over to MSW forecaster Tony Butt. "The swell originated from a large, complex area of low pressure that formed off Newfoundland last Saturday December 4, behind a collapsing ridge of high pressure north of the Azores. The system got much bigger and created a north-south pressure split in the North Atlantic by Monday 6th, with a vast area of strong westerly winds between Greenland and Ireland, generating swell for most areas.

West Cornwall, yesterday morning, was big, wild but almost doable, if you had a big enough board and the arms for the paddle.

West Cornwall, yesterday morning, was big, wild but almost doable, if you had a big enough board and the arms for the paddle.

© 2022 - RT Shots.

© 2022 - RT Shots.

"A low developed on its southern flank around Monday, rapidly intensified and moved very quickly eastwards in the following 24 hours, hitting Ireland by Tuesday. That storm sneaked around the front of the original system, with the eye passing over Ireland, causing local winds in northwest Ireland and Scotland to swing between east and south. The gale-force winds its southern flank generated a second, much shorter pulse of swell that slammed into southwest Ireland and southwest UK later on Tuesday, and is currently hitting southern areas today, Wednesday."

UK forecaster Jamie Bateman added: "Surf quality in UK and Ireland varied greatly with some breaks in Cornwall, Devon and Wales see a brief window of clean surf during the morning on Tuesday before the wind howled onshore in the afternoon. England’s South Coast suffered onshore conditions through the day Tuesday will swell heights building in the wind. Breaks further north in Ireland and Scotland held onto the favourable wind longer and ESE wind ahead of Barra’s warm front brushed smooth a W/WNW swell from a previous storm."

Something about early bird and a worm. Devon, yesterday morning.

Something about early bird and a worm. Devon, yesterday morning.

© 2022 - James Price.

Ireland, big and if you peep to the right, see that surfer? That's Stephen Kilfeather, all alone.

Ireland, big and if you peep to the right, see that surfer? That's Stephen Kilfeather, all alone.

© 2022 - Mark Capilitan.

The rest of Europe? Oh there's much more on the way. But as this swell heads further south, it is Morocco, Mundaka and further on that will switch on. If you want to check out stormy, colossal, moody Nazare today, you can by going HERE. And for the forecast outlook, go HERE.