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A Surfers Story on The Dingle Peninsula

Summer Swell somewhere in the west of Ireland


It was on a Wednesday ( like Big Wednesday !!) in October in 1997, the Charts in the News Paper were showing High pressure over Ireland for quiet some time now. This is rare in Ireland for such a long time, the storms were traveling North over Greenland and Iceland. One in particular was very low 1960 pressure and the High pressure was over 1010 and the High was just sitting there. Before the the internet and Wam Charts you could only predict Swells by Weather charts of someone at the site letting you know. Any way We headed off to Brandon Bay, driving I could not take the pedle off the accelerator as All I could think of was the excitement of the waves as we got close, the charts are too good. We got to Tralee bay and then it hit home, there was 6 foot + waves here in Tralee Bay where I never saw a wave over 2 feet previously. Infact it is normally calm even with big waves in Brandon.
My foot pushed the accelerator even harder as the adrenaline was already pumping at this time. It was October but it seamed like the middle of Summer, the Sun was shining, it was very warm and there was ever Bees flying around the wild Fusia growing along the Roadside. There was no wind and it just seemed perfect, you could smell the Atlantic Ocean and the Wild Gorse off the Mountains. You could hear Cows in the feilds and the distant sounds of Sheep on the Mountain slopes.We were nearly there ! and when we got to where you turn at the Grotto to Castlegregory Village and then we saw it "Holy #### ". All you could see from 3 miles away was white water breaking everywhere and I mean everywhere. I saw White Water in Places I never saw before and I have done a fair bit of surfing in Brandon. There was Reefs apearing we had never seen before, the amazing thing was the Ocean was flat calm, not a ripple outside the break.
Eventually when we got there there was maybe 100 Surfers congragating on the East side of the Bay, we were not the only ones to antisapate large waves. To the large Wave Riders of the North Shore of Hawaii these waves maybe not what they are used of but to us they were the bigest challenge we had ever met in the Ocean. The Surf was breaking for over 3miles and you could accommodate maybe 10,000 + Surfers there that day if you had to.

Most of the Surfers were in the same area and we noticed that only maybe 4 or 5 had got out to the break, out or 100 this ment that they were either novices or the Surf was too strong. I could not put my wet suit on quick enough ( 5mm used all year round) and the excitment was to much. I warned my brother (less experenced) that the only way to get to the Break was an all out attack in Duck Diving, Mental and Physical Endurance. If you hang in the hitting area you will end up like the other 90 something paddeling, getting now where and surfing white water. We came for the Clean surf just 200 meters from the beach and we aim to get there. We looked for rips and they were there but the Swell was too big and there was no clear slipway to help you today to these magnificent waves at the back.

Off we went and it was hard going, the white water was so big it was scary. If you diden't Duck at a right angle it would turn you and spit you out on the beach after a dear death experence of a likeness of being in a washing machien. After many frights and determination I made it to Elysium, where the God's stop time. There is only the present no past and no future here. Unfortunatly my brother did not make it this time. The last I saw of him was when I rushed to get under the about to crash wave and he got hit head on. Gladly he did not drown so so I went back in as the excitment was so great I had to share it with as many as possible. I took a large wave and all I could do was roar at the top of my voice as I slid down this thing I thought was trying to end my life. It was so scary but so exciting it was the bigest wave I have ever surfed and stayed on it even when it turned to white water and landed on the beach like I was thrown from a height.
I told my brother of the experence and told him to follow me and do as I do and we both made it to the Break. We both made it to the Break this time and lucky for us we did quiet alot of Surfing that Year and were in good shape. We just chilled out for a while sitting on our Boards now maybe 300 + meters out as the first break had moved out. The Sun was shinning and you could see Garrywilliam Point a very famous reef break with waves as steep as any on the Planet but it was un surfable today unless you had a death wish. Needless to say there was no one there today.You could see Mount Brandon, Brandon Point, Stradbally and Caherconree Mountains as clear as anything. There were Sea Birds Diving for fish and some Dolphins breaking the Glassy surface of the Ocean. You could smell the Wild Atlantic Ocean and the noise, the noise will always be with us forever. The noice off the crashing waves was so loud it was unreal. Sitting behind a wave looking in and watching the height it was over 12 feet and on the faces it was over twice that. Every country has a diferent height mesurement when it comes to waves, it could be 10 ft one place and 20 another, I don't know the exact height but I do know that they can kill you if you are not careful and in good shape out here.We met one guy from St. Andrews on Scotland who Surfed around the World and he said this was the best he had come across. You would see maybe 20 + Surfers trying to get out and one good wave would would sort maybe 15 of them and only 5 may appear closer to you, the others on the beach. Watching the waves Collapsing was a sight to be seen. There were also Rouge waves, one of which my brother nearly took until the last move he pulled up much to the happiness of myself and our friend from St. Andrews. It had pivoted like two folding waves meeting and shot up very high and dumped straight down, definatly a recipe for a broken Neck of Drowning. Thankfully all was well despite him putting the ####ers on us for a few minutes.
Every so often as far out as we were the sets would start 100 meters out further and we would have to duck white water if you didden't paddle out further. We would only ride the clean waves and stay as far out as possible. It was comical to see all the surfers trying to get that extra 100 meters to where we were and sit on you board and chill, all they were doing was paddling and Duckdiving.
The noise off the waves breaking was like a digger driving through graved with the bucket at 50 miles an hour, it kept the adrenalin pumping. We even got a visit from the Sea Rescue Helicopter and the Staff were hanging out the window to see the amasing waves. We were in Elysium and you wished it would go on forever.
We were now exhausted and the problem was the waves were starting to dump a little bit as the tide dropped. My arms and body felt like a rag Doll's and there was very little left in the tank. I had to make one last effort to get to the beach without drowning. I got there after a nasty wipeout proberly due to tirdness and hesitation, there is no substitute for experence out there and I got my lessons today.
Four hours later a few near drownnings, a sun tan, dehydration, exhaustion and could hardly take off my wet suit, looking out to the west ovet Brandon as the Sun is decending thinking what a lucky thing we decided to do this day as age, time and the chance to do this again on such a day may only be possible in the next life. Surfing Pipeline, Hawaii in February and this day always come to mind when anyone ever mentions surf to me. Only my brother has the same interest in surfing where I live and all my other friends do not even know what it is like to be a surfer on such a day. People used to laugh at me in my town when they saw me heading off to surf with my surf board but as it has got more popular it is very common now in Killarney to see Surfboards on Cars. Wind Surfing and Kite Surfing also are common now. The World Windsurfing Tour now stops at Brandon Bay each year with all the top pros, The Hawwaians,Californians, Europeans, Austrailians and all the other Nationalities.

For the next few days the high I had experenced was wearing off and I was low form the lack of Adranilan as experenced on that day. At Night when I would close my eyes I could feel the motion of the Ocean and I would feel as if I was still out there going up and down from the swells passing under me. This faded after a few days. I have Surfed many days since this time and enjoyed it very much but that day will be there forever. I don't think I am in good enough shape right know to tackle that kind of Wave again, although I have seen some nice ones this Year, 6 ft. + clead with offshore winds ( 2002 ) in Brandon. If I could be the worlds best at any sport it would be Big Wave Riding maybe like Ken Bradshaw from Hawaii who has Surfer the Largest wave on the Planet.



 

Irelands first Surfer

Is this Ireland's first Surfer ?
(taken in the late 50's or early 60's in Ballinskellig's Bay near Waterville, Co. Kerry - beside the Golf Course )

Some Foreign Surf Spots