The 50-year storm. It's almost whispered in hushed, whimsical tones amongst our humble culture. And ever since it was first given an airing in Point Break, the thought of such a storm has garnered its own cult following, much like the 1991 film. So, when an actual 50-year storm delivers, it sure peaks interest from surfers all over the globe. Around this time last year, that mythical beast bore down on Ireland in the form of Hurricane Ophelia (see here)– and damn, did it set off a trail of destruction but, also, whipped those sheltered spots into a turbulent frenzy.
Fast forward to 2018 and an edit's just dropped documenting the search for the 50-year storm across the Emerald Isle. Think, 21ft @18 seconds, slamming into the east coast, far and away from arguably Ireland's notorious slab, the west coast's Mullaghmore.
Enter Freddie Browne and Eoin Deering, who went on the hunt for the biggest swell they could find out of Ophelia – and the subsequent swell from Storm Brian. The edit's above but we caught up with Freddie to ask just what it takes to score the 50-year storm and be one of the first humans to recount the real-life tale.
First up, tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Freddie Browne, I’m from Dublin and I’ve been surfing the east coast since 2004. I live pretty close to a consistent east coast beachbreak and that is where I met Eoin McCarthy Deering for the first time in 2015.
I started shooting surf edits with Eoin three-years-ago but it was really only last year when we decided to up our game and chase swells around Ireland and the rest of the world. We have been lucky to score some perfect waves locally and in a few undisclosed locations.
Off the bat of shooting surf edits with Eoin, I’ve gone full time into film production and last year set up my own media company. I’m now working as a videographer in Dublin and I guess you could say my passion for film stems from shooting surfing.
A mission around the east coast of Ireland sounds like it could be quite fickle. While Dublin has its own local scene, it’s not known for pumping waves. Had you planned where to score prior to this mackin' 50-year storm swinging in?
Yeah for sure, Dublin would not be well known for its wave quality. When this chart appeared we were genuinely in a state of shock. We knew that we would have to drop all our commitments to fully reap the rewards of finding once in a lifetime conditions on the east coast.
Eoin has been surfing the east coast for 20 plus years and his vast knowledge of this fickle coastline meant we knew exactly where to be during this mysto swell.
How long did you spend searching?
Eoin and myself spent four to five days over a two-week window on the hunt. This was off the back of countless hours scouring the east coast, researching charts and having an intimate knowledge of the fickle nature of the Irish Sea.
All of this information has been amalgamated over the last two decades to make scoring the sessions in this video possible. Due to the inconsistent storms, short fetch window and the lack of any defined waves in this region.
All of the above makes this video as rare as hens’ teeth
All of the above makes this video as rare as hens’ teeth. It’s extremely unlikely that conditions, this good, will ever appear again in our lifetime.
Who was surfing and how were the conditions?
When Hurricane Ophelia hit, Eoin knew of a few sheltered spots on the east coast that might hold the swell but it was also going to be wild and windy, so we didn’t know what to expect.
The night before the swell hit we ran through all of the potential options. With major storm damage due to effect the eastern coastline, it was going to be tricky navigating fallen trees and power-lines along with road closures.
The swell was there, but the wind was howling over all the headlands. We eventually found a sheltered point that was holding and Eoin hopped in...
It was also likely that during the peak of the storm everywhere would be blown out but we knew of a few corners that could offer shelter from the 100km per hour southerly winds. As expected, when we arrived at the first spot it was wild and out of control, yet Eoin jumped in solo to see what he could make of the conditions.
The swell was there, but the wind was howling over all the headlands. We eventually found a sheltered point that was holding and Eoin hopped in with one very close friend. Between the horrendous rip and relentless wind this was a truly testing session yet Eoin managed to snag a few solid double over head runners.
They were most likely the biggest waves ever ridden on the east coast. We were stoked but also a little frustrated that we couldn’t find perfection.
Then, a few days later another chart appeared…dubbed as “Storm Brian”, a rapidly deepening depression was expected to hit in the coming days with wind gusts of 130km per hour.
We knew this was promising as the wind direction was more favourable and actually the gusts were due to drop off pretty quickly after the eye of the storm had passed. Once again Eoin was driving from west to east to surf.
This is pretty unheard of in Ireland or even deemed to be a farce if you told any regular Irish surfer. But not for Eoin, he has been surfing the east coast his whole life and knows that if you are patient and know where to look, it is possible to score some of the best beach breaks in Ireland.
On morning of the storm, we arrived at our local beach at sunrise. The swell was solid but still messy. We surfed with a few others for an hour but it was chunky and cross shore at best and again we felt slightly disappointed.
It was only when we went on a mission further afield and drove to a fickle beach break that we realised how lucky we were in the end. The wind had begun to drop and swing offshore, the tides were perfect and there were solid spitting kegs, that imitated SW France and New Jersey, filling into the bay...set after set, stacked to the horizon.
I don’t think Eoin has ever changed into his wetsuit so fast. We surfed these waves with one or two locals and Eoin scored powerful waves with back-to-back barrels for a couple hours.
Then the tide started to drop off and the waves started to close out. We got out of the water, still in a state of shock as to how good the waves were, and drove to a nearby left hander that was still holding.
I managed to score a few evening kegs to myself before it got too dark, then we had to call it a day…the most epic day for this coastline in living memory.
That night, surfed out, we drove back to Dublin both stoked out of our minds. We couldn’t believe that we potentially had scored the best swell to ever hit the east coast.
You mention it could be one of the best days on the east coast, have you surfed there as much as Eoin?
It was hands down the best waves I have ever seen on the east coast. I have been surfing there for 12 years now. We have never seen waves of that scale or magnitude with all the conditions coming together in such perfect fashion. It was totally extraordinary for our local spots to be this good. We felt privileged to have witnessed such a spectacle.
The west coast gets all the attention – reckon there’s scope for an east coast renaissance?
Obviously one can’t compare the waves on west coast with the fickle East. Yet there are characteristics that make this surf zone unique. Backdrops of islands, passing cruise ships, castles and mountains make this coastline more eye catching than most.
There is a vibrant surf scene, a tight knit crew of locals and an interesting mix of people from the capital that frequent the waves whenever there is even a ripple. East coast surfers will always be stoked no matter what the conditions and that creates a good vibe in and out of the water.
Let’s not forget the older generation of surfers who pioneered the first waves along this coastline. Interestingly enough, the godfather of Irish surfing, Kevin Cavey, hails from these shores and actually set up the first surf club in Ireland on the east coast.
My grandad, Tony Gleeson was one of the first members of this inaugural club and it was he who also bought me my first surfboard which I still ride today on the Irish Sea. Eoin’s father, David Deering, was one of the strongest advocates of surfing on the east coast and pioneered many of the more secluded spots.
It obviously helped that he shared his knowledge and stoke for surfing with his son from an early age which led to infinite amounts of joy spent relishing in the wonders of the east coast for Eoin and many of his friends.
Ongoing to this day, the founding members of the East Coast Surf Club still get their waves close to home on a regular basis. The previous generation of surfers on this coast inspired us to make the most of the waves we have on offer here and now we wish to shine the light on the joys of the Irish Sea for the next generation of east coast surfers to come.
There is also another local surf club, KBSC, which was set up in the last few years to cater for the next generation of east coast surfers. It aims to get groms in the water on the east coast as much as possible, all the while hosting children’s competitions and coastal clean ups. This next generation of east coast surfers has been one our foremost reasons for this edit.
We wish to highlight the possibilities for many young up and coming kids to get out and enjoy the natural resource of waves up and down the east coast of Ireland.