Photo by Denise
Sligo is surprising. It's a surfer's paradise with its sandy beaches, on the cusp of the Atlantic sea, all those waves. The only thing that's missing from this paradise is the sun that puts in an occasional appearance.
A couple of weeks ago, Denise informed me that Billabong's Tow In Session was taking place. International surfers ("wavehunters") travelled from around the globe at mere days notice to surf the big waves. I had known that 'tow surfing' (getting towed out further to enable surfers to ride bigger waves than they'd normally be able to paddle out to) was a thing off Mullaghmore Head (in North County Sligo), but I'd never witnessed it for myself. I dressed in my most sensible woolens, my winter coat, packed a thermos and she picked me up and we headed out.
The biggest waves in Europe, measuring 40-50 foot high had until this year had been surfed off Mullaghmore Head by an Irish surfer in 2010. The day we went out there (January 23rd) groups of onlookers had gathered to watch the waves and the surfers in the blustering wind. The waves seemed to me to be almost like something out of a film. When you stand at Mullaghmore Head you are confronted with the awesome power and force of the sea. I get an adrenaline rush just standing there, thinking of the restlessness of the sea, and how nothing but the unpredictable Atlantic is between you and America.
Ooops, I forgot to bring gloves!
I was mostly too absorbed anticipating the waves to take many photographs, and these are a poor reflection of the mood out there that day. The surfing community is an international one, they're all there for a common goal, there's an etiquette to surfing, that you won't find in many team sports. The community is very pro-active, there are extreme surfing photographers and surfers who capture incredible footage to distribute and share with the international surfing community. In these cases, capturing these moments on film aren't simply for personal preservation, but as visual proof for competition judges, but they're also enjoyed by surfing enthusiasts and curious folk such as myself (I had a brief fling with surfing when I was 16, and haven't been involved since).
This is what was taking place a couple of weeks ago, in my backyard (in a sense):
Classiebawn Castle, with a snowy Ben Bulben providing a winter backdrop, January 2013
At Classiebawn Castle, December 2012
As you drive along the coastal road of Mullaghmore Head, Classiebawn Castle with Ben Bulben in the background comes into view. I always have to get out of the car for a few moments to admire my favourite view in the world.