The Emerald Isle isn’t the easiest place to score waves, what with fickle conditions, inclement weather, cold water and a half dozen of the world’s scariest waves. But it is as beautiful as destinations come and practically dripping with history, so a visit is well worth it. And you never know—with the luck of the Irish on your side, you just might score the trip of a lifetime.
The Surf: Cold and rugged, Ireland is best known for its slabby reefs, although there are also river mouths, beach breaks and points to be found. In general, this is an intermediate to expert destination.
Five Waves Worth Surfing:
- Bundoran: One of the most popular spots in Ireland, Bundoran is a left and right peak over reef that can handle size—in fact, some would say it doesn’t really get good until it’s double overhead. One of the island’s best waves, so there is nearly always a crowd.
- Kilcummin: A soft lefthand point, Kilcummin is one of the more user-friendly waves in a land full of mutants.
- Mullaghmore: Forget massive Cloudbreak—if you want to see the cutting edge of big wave lefthand barrel riding, Mullaghmore is the place to be. Unfortunately, the wave is so heavy that it is rarely paddled with any kind of size. But for those who enjoy towing 50-foot barrels, there probably isn’t anywhere better.
- Aileen’s: Anyone who has been watching the progression of Irish heavy water charging over the past few years (think Fergal Smith and crew) has seen what this big wave righthand bombie/slab is capable of. For those who haven’t, it’s time to get with the program.
- Streedagh Strand: With strong, consistent sideshore winds, this righthander is a good option for kitesurfers.
The Water: Cold and dark, though relatively unpolluted. How cold, you might ask? Booties, gloves and 5/4/3 hooded wetsuit cold—59 F (15 C) in summer and 48 F (9 C) in winter.
The Season: Fall (September through November) is best, with consistent swells and relatively tame weather. Winter (December through February) pumps, but can be incredibly stormy and cold, and is basically for big wave freaks. Spring (March through May) has nicer weather, but can be a bit fickle, while summer (June through August) is beautiful and relatively warm, but can go flat for weeks at a time.
The Vibe: The more crowded spots—such as The Peak at Bundoran—can be tense, and the Irish are renowned for their drunken fighting skills. They are also known for being a friendly, welcoming people, however, so if you come with respect and a good attitude, you should be fine.
Things To Do: Drinking is the national pastime, and understandably so, since the weather can go bad for weeks at a time. Castles abound for the history buff, and you can’t miss if you are an outdoor enthusiast—after all, they don’t call it The Emerald Isle for nothing.
Where To Stay: Bundoran is your best option, as it has access to a number of nearby waves. If you are coming in winter to charge the heavy stuff, you’ll probably want to make some on-island contacts ahead of time, as the local crew has the place wired.
What To Bring: A shortboard and 4mm wetsuit in late summer and early fall. A big wave gun and the thickest rubber you can find in winter. A taste for whiskey and a love for rain.
Getting There: Dublin International Airport is your best bet, as it’s a short four-hour drive from Bundoran. Citizens of many countries do not require a visa before arrival. Airport code: DUB.