Last week, a colossal swell rumbled into Europe. As you know, the UK went off. But over the Irish Sea, the Emerald Isle was kissed by this swell pulse for three days of flawless surf. And while some of the meatier slabs weren't really working, a whole range of other spots went off. Here, MSW's senior Ireland correspondent Dylan Stott breaks down those sessions and the FOMO that comes with only being allowed 5kms from your home.
Where I last left you, dear reader, was after young Conor Maguire just rode the biggest wave in Ireland, in Europe, the Atlantic Ocean. It was the biggest wave in the world. We were in the middle of the second Covid wave then, RedBull’s pockets cut through red tape like magic and allowed us access to the scariest playground in the world when everyone else had to stay put.
Conor rode a wave so big and proper, just swatted at the very end, mega keg, as it fell off the reef. You could fit a dance club into it. One of those three story jobs that plays House on the main floor, dirty trance and techno on the second, and Dancehall on the third, takes up half a Dublin block.
Forecast: UK + Ireland
Remember big cheesey clubs and dancing with people? Speaker stacks? The bass in your heart? I’m having a vision right now of hundreds of people all listening to a selectaa, getting’ down and throwing shapes inside Conor’s giant barrel. The bass kicks in when the lip hits the water. I’ve been having more of them.
There is an intrinsic connection between satisfaction and contact between humans and nature. Another connection between visions isolation. We see what our subconscious yearns. I think I’d hug any stinky ol’ stranger right now. Yes, if I heard Marty in the Morning say on the wireless that the pandemic is over. I’d go to a pub, I would think about how many of the pubs I’m in would fit in Conor’s tube while my pint settles, have a swallow, big, so the level of stout is just below the logo on the glass, then hug the smelliest pub urchin in the yoke.
Maybe not though, maybe that’s not my subconscious, maybe I’ve already developed some sort of social phobia and I’ll never be able for crowds at all, the loud music, the closeness of everybody, three deep to order drinks, never mind hugging pub lepers. Impossible to tell for sure about all of this till we get to see people again. Dam my subconscious, playing dodge-ball with meaning.
We are lucky, up here in the smaller latitudes on the west coast of Ireland, we are lucky. Those of us in the neighbourhood especially. After the hardcore lockdown in-place during the Conor Day, after I recovered from the concussion I got bungling a drop the paddle day after, after the Christmas ease in Covid restrictions and the inevitable surge in infection rates -highest in the world for awhile- and the equally inevitable return to hardcore lockdown, after I finally was forced to learn how to teach classes online, we are back where we were. Five kilometre restrictions.
We are lucky because our little surf community has hundreds of spots to choose from going up or down the coast five thousand yards in either direction. We are lucky because we already live in one of the least populated areas on earth, this isn’t too much of a change. Is it? We already knew what isolation felt like. Didn’t we?
Darragh Gorman is a common sight in the five k zone well before you couldn’t leave it. His deal is to stand where no man with a surf minded camera has stood before. I have become accustomed to his frizzy, bearded head poking out of a Liquid Therapy surf changing robe hanging down to his winter boots, bristling with cameras and big lenses, walking with the purposeful randomness of a sage on a vision quest. He shoots the heavy ledges like Mullaghmore sometimes, but his goal seems to be that new angle, whatever the spot.
Sometimes, when I see Darragh on the hunt, I make a game of trying to imagine the shot I will see, later, but I never get it right. The distance distortion of the lens, the colours, and his psychic migration wandering to just right angle, all make his photos consistently unique, a trinity between the photographer out for a shoot; the silly surfer, the universe.
Our little surf community here is blessed with photo talent. Each, like Darragh, finding their own angles and places to be. It’s an extension of the quality of waves and winter light here as well as talented surfers, all within that ten thousand meters of limestone. We’ve got homegrown pros like Conor Maguire and Gearoid McDaid. Solid, committed and quick, that elegantly display the skill gap between professional surfers and the rest of us. We’ve got stylish Aussies like Noah Lane, seasoned, catlike. We’ve got a hell of a younger crew too, a mix of locals and expats, who have a lot to look up too, often right out their window. A great place!
I sound like a tourist ad, spouting out attractions. But only if I could keep it up, dear reader, I would be a well-paid travel ad writer.
“Come to Bundoran for your next phase of the lockdown. Exist in a van or an expensive registered hotel for two weeks then suffer faintly disguised scorn from your fellow surfers as they ever-so-slowly accept you as a non-infectious normal into a world divided save for Amazon shipping. Once you are accepted as a human surfer, do not stand too close to your fellow human surfers, you will get a citation from the Garda at best, spread some mutant version of some pandemic to your fellow human surfers and their grandparents at worst. A great place!”
Doesn’t have the right ring does it? I’m too cynical for advertising, especially now. I only do periodic positivity. I’m glad I’m a teacher. Even if I’m conducting agonising online classes full of tortuous pauses, echoes and delays, but at least I know my online classes will get better. Travel ad writers don’t have a hope.
And hope is the thing with feathers.
And I hope, dear reader, that FOMO from these photos is the worst you are suffering from right now. I hope you can do a little mind-surf if you can’t get to actual waves. And I hope, dear reader, they are still paying you something while you adjust to this brave new infectious world where the rich can’t help but get richer, the lucky masses adjust to a more sedentary life and worldwide, the unlucky hoards are running out of options.
Because no bad or good you seem to have it right now, it’s hard to know how we’re all coping with this. No matter how bad or good you have it you are still a lot lonelier than you used to be, you miss the wealth of the human fabric, the banter and hugs.
You miss the faces.
So keep mind-surfing, dear readers, and giggling and finding new joys close to home. Know that Emily D was right. The thing with feathers never stops, never asks for anything, and I know that we will all be soon, be in a different place, a better one, our human fabric back the way it was. I hope, dear readers, we soon move forward to the way things will be.