The crash of waves, the exhilaration of the climbing tides, the scenic surroundings; surf is well and truly up along Ireland’s coastline. Paul Rowley asks super surfer Stevie Burns about our beaches, breaks, and his favourite spots to catch a wave.
Last November, the surf world put down its collection of colourful boards, sat up straight and took a good hard look at Ireland when this 3-minute video of the massive 15-metre ‘Prowler’ waves off Donegal Bay went viral. It even bumped the famous ‘Aileen’s break’ – at the base of the Cliffs of Moher and said to be the perfect wave – as the most spectacular surf spot in Ireland. And the experts are raving about it, dudes!
“We’re known as the Hawaii of Europe,” confirms Stevie Burns, former manager of the Irish surfing team and 2010 Irish Master Surfing Champion from Portrush in Antrim. But don’t take that to mean surf in Ireland always entails James Bond-style racing jet skis to catch ‘prowlers’.
There are conditions to suit everyone with deserted beaches, extreme reef breaks and consistent surf all year around. Virtually the whole coastline from in County Antrim to in County Waterford has incredible waves in idyllic locations.
And the added bonus? Stevie says it’s our lovely friendly locals always willing to offer advice and tips on the best places to catch a wave.
So our next question, naturally, is where do we find the best waves?
The best spots are too numerous to mention and a tour of the whole coastline is worthwhile. But if you had to pin me down, I’d say and Castlerock on the beautiful Causeway Coast, and Strandhill and in Sligo and Clare, respectively.
We have to admit, there are times the Atlantic looks a little chilly. Is surfing only seasonal here?
Not at all! The mild climate and relatively warm water means you can surf all year around – a good wetsuit in winter and, during the sunny summer months, you can surf in board shorts.
For those who don’t know one end of a board from the other, Ireland has some great surf schools. According to Stevie, visitors who want to give surfing a shot should really catch a few good lessons before tackling the waves to get all the safety tips and pointers on technique – and for the craic!
Many of the schools are owned by surfers themselves, so as well as a guide to the best waves, you’ll also be steered to the most beautiful scenery and best Guinness after dunking your head above and below those white horses!
For the veteran riders, Stevie advises travelling with two boards; one for the calm summer months and another for the hollow reefs. Real adrenaline junkies might need a jet ski to catch the huge offshore days like the Billabong Tow-in Surfing event in in Sligo. But fear not, beginners; surf schools will sort you out with all you need.
Lucky enough to travel the world, Stevie’s face lights up when we ask about his sweetest surf memories – and they’re all here in Ireland:
Strandhill on a summer’s evening, no wind, 4-6 foot waves, the sun slipping over the horizon and the mountains in the background as we caught the last waves.
Another is the pure noise and power of the waves at Bundoran – my heart pumping in my ears as I slip from another tube. At times like these, nothing – I mean nothing – exists except surfing.
Find details on all the accredited schools, clubs and events on the Irish Surfing Association website.
Grab your board and beach towel and head out to claim a spot on Ireland’s beautiful coastline. Discover Ireland found