“Surfing in Ireland?!? SURFING in IRELAND? Are you sure?!?” It's rocky, rough, cold and wet! Well, honestly… people DO surf in Ireland and I have to confess, it is one of the most consistent surfing areas in Europe and it has some seriously good waves!
There's something I have to explain first. Surfers are a very peculiar tribe, with their customs, habits and rules. The most important of these rules is not to advertise unspoilt waves and their location; surfers rely on waves, and if there are more people than waves, well, there's obviously no surf for everybody. So, rule number one, if you know of some “secret spot”, well, keep it that way – keep it secret! This is the reason why I am not going to mention any details of locations, except for the obvious ones, in this article.
Where do I start from? North, South or West? Unfortunately the East coast does not boast consistent waves and there's no chance you can find anything to surf there! If by any chance there's some special secret spot, as I explained before, I am going to keep it for myself!
In Ireland there are actually several surf Meccas where, if you are a devoted follower of the waves' religion, you should go at least once in your surfing life….
Bundoran in Donegal and Lahinch in Clare are the two most known surfing towns. Don't get too excited, there are no bikini girls here and the sea is usually cold and rough!
Bundoran is known to possess the most talked about wave in the whole Country – the Peak. It holds big swells (8-12 feet and more) and it hosts a big hollow tube that will crash on a welcoming bed of rocks just a few inches under the surface…. And I tell you, you don't want to be a beginner here, it hurts. The town itself has a strange and unusual feeling in the air, with cars loaded with boards of every size and level that drive up and down the main street, with people looking for waves north and south of the town or just some hints from local surfers. It is not Honolulu but with a bit of imagination….
Lahinch as well is visited by the ever-growing population of mad Irish surfers and the level is generally lower. The main beach is well known for beginner classes and has a more welcoming sandy bottom. The big days are not rare here and the beginners are advised to leave the water. The rapidly rising tide and strong currents may turn an enjoyable, easy-going surf session into a nightmare for which the physical effort required is not to be underestimated, as for the rocks that protect the promenade.
The surfing options are not limited to these two popular choices, but extend all over the Country because there are waves everywhere. The fun of being a surfer is connected with the pleasure of discovery, driving around, exploring and entering water never tried before, being watched by a herd of cows and nothing more. Ireland is still an underdeveloped surfing Country, with more beaches than surfers. In the South lie Cork and Kerry, where the beauty of the scenery is matched by the quality of the waves. Then driving up the coast you reach Clare, with Lahinch, but also some more dangerous and challenging waves. Galway is unfortunately very poor for surfing despite the length of its coastline, with the exception of surfing the Aran Islands (as some legend says). Then you have Mayo, Sligo and Donegal and here you are definitely spoilt for choice.