Tow-surfers rejoice as 55ft wave faces expected to hit Ireland this weekend

Massive waves up to 55ft high are set to batter the western shores of the British and Irish Isles this weekend. And while most sensible boat owners will be busy in the shed or on the hardstanding, a small group of dedicated surfers are ready to take up the challenge of riding the biggest swells forecast in recent years.

Swell forecasters are predicting the arrival of powerful swells peaking Saturday afternoon of 38 feet (12.5m) high. There is an 18-second wave interval between the crest of successive waves, a daunting measure of the power behind these swells, generated by a 960mb low-pressure system out in the Atlantic west of Ireland.

Once the swell comes out of deep water off Mullagmore Head, Donegal Bay, onto a shallow reef shelf, the waves can double in size as the wave crest is forced upwards by the changing seafloor contours, making waves heights greater then 55ft faces likely for the surfers.

Working in teams surfers will utilise jetskis to provide them with the initial momentum to slingshot them onto the giant unbroken swells. Waves of such magnitude and power move too fast to be caught by traditional human paddling-power alone.

Paul O’Kane (Easkey), the towsurfing co-ordinator for the Irish Surfing Association stated ‘This is what we towsurfers wait for.  This is a huge swell that comes along every five or six years.’

A group of Cornish and Irish surfers were involved in a ground-breaking session in October 2006 at a feared surfspot ‘Aileens’, under the Cliffs of Moher (Lahinch, Co Clare), where wave buoy readings of 27 feet with a 17 second interval were the largest ever ridden and recorded in the British Isles.

Duncan Scott, chairman of the British Towsurfing Association, and acting chair of the British Surfing Association, stated ‘The swell forecast looks the most promising many of us have ever seen in the British Isles. All of the surfers involved are professional with many years heavy water experience. We train regularly for fitness, and in using the jetskis effectively for safety and rescue purposes. We have the utmost respect for the power of the ocean, and look forward to the challenge, camaraderie and ‘stoke’ of riding some huge, challenging waves together, and coming home safely afterwards.’

Portush’s Alistair Mennie, one of the pioneering towsurfers on the Irish big-wave scene commented, ‘In the past I have travelled to famous big-wave spots like the island of Madeira, and Mavericks (Half Moon Bay, N.California) looking for big waves to surf. Through exploration of our own coastlines in recent years, I have realised that there are some world-class big-wave spots in my own backyard. Now, the most respected Hawaiian, Californian and South African big-wave surfers are coming over to Ireland to tap into our waves. Surf spots like Aileens and Mullagmore Head are putting Ireland firmly on the global big-wave map.’ 

The surfers are expected to head out at first light at Mullagmore Head, Donegal Bay, tomorrow Saturday 1 December, returning to shore around 1 pm.