When powerful hurricanes steam across the North Atlantic, it excites just about everyone on the western flank of Europe. You see, September is magic month, the weather; summer-adjacent, the crowds; migrating from holiday hot spots and the swells; show signs of life.
Last week, the first hurricane of the season (called Danielle) whipped up waves for the UK, France, Portugal and Ireland – where spots along the Emerald Isle's west coast were kissed by a run of swell that'll be forever etched into the memories of those who go amongst.
Take this small, tight knit crew for example; super groms Josh Karbus and Odin Villarreal along with Cillian Ryan, Ollie O'Flaherty, Callum Curtin and more, made a bee-line straight to Riley's -- to take a look at one of Ireland's heaviest slabs.
Spot guide: Ireland
“This was an amazing day,” said photographer George Karbus, father to grommie Josh. “The groms have been surfing Riley's for years but this was the day when they properly started charging, dropped their fear and got into those bombs. Was a big day for them.”
Ollie O'Flaherty sequence from the day the groms ruled the slab!
“The groms, this last while, have been pushing it so hard it's amazing to see,” said Ollie O'Flaherty. “I run an Academy here and have invested a huge amount of time nurturing the youth here and help them experience what I have. We have incredible waves for all levels and some of the best waves in Europe and I'm trying to bring the level up to match the waves and utilise the incredible waves we have. Surfers like Joshua Karbus, Odin Villareal, Conor Moroney, Ross coyne, Hazel Rafferty, Natalie Karbus, Saidbh Mccullough and many others are gonna be names you should remember.”
Meanwhile, photographer Megan Gayda was treading water. “Getting in and out can be a nightmare here, especially when you're holding such an expensive piece of equipment in your hand [laughs]. Sometimes it can take a couple of attempts swimming in to actually get out of the water, there's a strong rip pulling you onto a death right hand slab as soon as you get close to the inside.
“It works like a conveyor belt and sometimes, it takes me a few goes around until I touch base on land again. The whole set up is quite intimidating, from walking down dodging the rocks falling from the eroding cliff to hearing the noise of a bomb breaking on such a shallow slab. There's so much energy down there, it's sick!
“Once you're out there and in position it's a dream, especially when the light is like it was on that afternoon. Everyone was sending it and making mental ones, it was so cool to see the groms step it up in the line up too. They make it look even bigger, Josh got some crazy ones, he's going to get so good out there. We've had a few little swells this month which is a good taster to get us all warmed up for winter, it's still pretty warm too so zero complaints from this end.”
This September's broken the summer flat spells with aplomb. But it's also lifted the curse of a few sub-par season starts. “The last few years have been poor,” said George. “This September is a different story, pretty much swells all the time up until a few days ago. Hopefully that means we finally get that classic autumn here.”
“September has been super interesting,” said Ollie. “It feels like it's been sunny and head high for weeks with a few whopper pulses mixed in. It's funny; the day after the swells have been best when the period dropped a little – the slabs were lighting up.”
Ollie's a big purveyor of ditching the centre fin. “I was riding a twinny trailer, the RNF Mason Ho model, 5'6” super small, paddles well, fits the pocket and I love the feeling of the twin so much that I just can't get off it. So good over the foam ball and they make you position your self right under the lip, like an extra little challenge.”
Of course, other spots across those hallowed lands were lighting up too...
MSW forecaster Tony Butt walks us through this swell and Hurricane Danielle.
The swell was generated by Hurricane Danielle as it crossed north of the Azores on Wednesday September 7, and then moved towards the ENE. The strong westerly winds on its southern flank, combined with the movement of the windfield itself, generated the swell. The fact that the windfield moved in the same direction as the swell it was producing was crucial in this case, because otherwise the effective fetch (the length of ocean over which the swell-generating winds were blowing) would have been too short.
The swell arrived in southwest Ireland on the afternoon of Friday 9th and peaked on Saturday 10th before ramping down again on Sunday 11th. The peak of the swell combined with excellent local conditions, with light offshore winds and very little residual swell.
Off-the-coast wave heights were around four or five feet, but a combination of longish (over 14 secs) periods and just the right swell direction meant that the swell magnets really came into their own, producing world-class waves.