Irish Eyes Are Smiling
Big-Wave Maestros, the Mullen Brothers, of Northern Ireland reaped the fruits of their labors when quick reactions and local knowledge sent them into the biggest Atlantic swell the Irish coast has seen in modern times.
PWA competitors Timo Mullen (Starboard / Severne) and big bro and current Irish wavesailing champ Finn Mullen (Severne) know the West Coast of Ireland like the back of their hands. So when the weather charts worldwide went crazy as December rolled in the boys knew they had a feast on their hands and flew home quick sharp.
The hard slog over the years of being skunked, rewarded, and learning how to be in the right place at the right time finally paid off in a big way. Timo explains what Saturday December 1st was like...
"This for sure was the biggest forecast we’ve seen for a couple of years - way more than Jan 2005. It was the wave period that was significant really, as we've had plenty of swells in the winter at 38ft but never with a 17 second period.
There were warnings all over the national newspapers and TV that day to avoid the coastline, which has never happened EVER in Ireland!
It’s pretty hard to pick a spot that can handle so much size and not close out. Our normal big wave spot in Sligo can handle the size, but the swell direction this day was NW so it pretty much closes out the channel at all the normal locations.
We basically had a choice of two spots. One of those was to go where the all the tow surfing guys (Ritchie Fitzgerald, Duncan Scott and co.) were going in Donegal, but they were pretty limited on their jet ski cover so were rightfully pretty reluctant to be lumbered with a couple of windsurfers on the day of all days.
Taking everything into consideration we opted for the only other place that could handle that size surf with a channel, Magheraughty reef in NW Ireland.
When we got down there in the morning it was only really mast high, so we were pretty gutted but Finn was pretty sure the swell was arriving later in the afternoon.
Sure enough, bang on cue at 2pm, the first of the bigger swells hit. So I guess we sailed for about 3 hours with the occasional double mast high set coming through.
My younger brother Tam was also there filming for the upcoming Greenie 2 DVD we’re working on, plus my Dad was on hand to keep us from killing ourselves! And, of course, PWA snapper JC was there to shoot some awesome still images – you’ll be able to see those in quality mags like the UK’s Windsurf pretty soon so I’d go and subscribe now to ensure you get a copy!
A few opened up on the face for a few turns but the majority were shutting down which was a shame. I had two bomb sets that day that made it worthwhile though, but I think Finn had the biggest set of the day at well over double mast.
Ireland is pretty much the only spot in Europe that can handle waves of this size, plus I feel comfortable sailing any size swell at home because I've sailed these spots so many times.
I think Scotland was big too but Ireland and Donegal were probably twice the size of anywhere else that day.
I didn’t feel more nervous than normal really, as when we launched the surf wasn't over-the-top big, but I guess after I took my first few big ones that I was getting more excited.
We’d been gearing up for this swell for 3 days so we were pretty ready for it and relatively relaxed. I guess also from sailing here since we were 14 you feel pretty safe whatever size it is, plus my big bro was there to look after me!
Losing track of Finn for 10 minutes did give me a few worries as I saw him get nailed pretty bad by a big set, but turned out he had sailed way out the back to try find an even bigger set…
Personally I got engulfed by a pretty solid wave but somehow or other I managed to hang on. The sequence of that is pretty rad as I disappear for 2 frames of the sequence…
Let’s just say the traditional pint of Guinness afterwards tasted pretty good – better than the 10th normally does anyway! We honestly had just the one - I’m pretty teetotal during Irish winters as these are the days we wait for. When the big swells really start to hit, being hung-over and unfit isn't really conducive to sailing and surviving big COLD waves - summer is for partying…
It was pretty depressing when got back to England on Saturday night and saw the size of the waves the tow surfing guys had at the other spot, which was proper triple mast high.
I guess we thought we should have been there, but with no safety cover and according to the tow guys hardly any wind we probably were better where we were, but you’d be a liar if you didn’t say you always want to sail the biggest spot!
Still the UK was rocking too so Sunday and Monday had some nice waves on the South Coast Reefs and there’s more big surf coming this week and into the weekend – so in a way it’s a shame I’m off to Cape Town really!”
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As this went online Timo called in from the airport to say he was going back for more tomorrow...his lovely girlfriend Zani wasn't too happy about it, but it is his birthday after all! Happy Birthday Timo. We hope the waves are sick!
© PWA / Brian McDowell