Swell time on the Way

Surfers find them­selves rid­ing a wave of green that’s dif­fer­ent

The Coffs Coast Advocate - - ESCAPE - CE­LESTE MITCHELL es­cape.com.au

“YOU go­ing to surf the Thames, are you?”

If the at­ten­dant at the over­size bag­gage check-in at Bris­bane wasn’t in­cred­u­lous enough, walk­ing through Lon­don’s Un­der­ground with a surf­board is a sure-fire way to at­tract at­ten­tion. But my part­ner is ded­i­cated to the cause.

We’re on our way to Dublin, where we’ll be pick­ing up a camper­van and head­ing west in search of waves.

“Surf ? In Ire­land?” was the re­peated dis­be­liev­ing ques­tion we heard be­fore our trip, but it’s a se­cret that’s slowly get­ting out.

And while it’s not the sole pur­pose of our visit, the hunt for waves opened up Ire­land’s jew­ellery box of nat­u­ral as­sets and put the keys to the ig­ni­tion.

A patchwork of green ma­te­ri­alises all around us as we cruise the M7 to­wards the west coast to join the Wild At­lantic Way, the name given to the 2500km route that hugs the dra­matic coast­line.

We pass crum­bling forts and an­cient stone farm­houses that neigh­bour mod­ernised B&Bs, as if the up­keep just be­came too much so the own­ers de­cided to start afresh next door. Once we leave the mo­tor­way, the roads be­come nar­rower; the scenery more spec­tac­u­lar.

We slice straight through the cen­tre of Ire­land’s belly in three hours, pass­ing Barack Obama’s an­ces­tral vil­lage in the blink and you’ll miss it town of Money­gall, loop­ing un­der Lim­er­ick and pulling up in County Clare surf town Lahinch, about 6pm.

The beach is a long grey arch butting up against the head­land of Lis­can­nor Bay, on which an­other rocky fortress stands de­feated. Around that head­land, just 10 min­utes fur­ther north, lie the hulk­ing Cliffs of Mo­her.

As far as surf goes, it’s dis­ap­point­ing, but we have ar­rived on a day of 25km/h on­shore winds. At dead low tide, it’s as if the ocean has sucked the beach dry like a kid with a straw on the last drops of a milk­shake, re­veal­ing rock­stud­ded sands.

If it weren’t for the string of surf schools lin­ing the beach­front, I’d be du­bi­ous of the town’s sur­fie de­meanour. We wan­der the main street in­stead – a tight clus­ter of old pas­tel pubs and restau­rants, ice-cream shops and the Lahinch Surf Shop, where pho­tographs of vis­it­ing pro surfers hang proudly on the wall.

There are no beach­front sky­scrapers or golden arches here, just pierc­ing green farm­land.

It turns out sum­mer is not the best time of the year for surf but my part­ner’s not de­terred. Af­ter suss­ing the best spots to avoid the rag­ing on­shore winds, he pad­dles out while I stroll the fore­shore and watch fam­i­lies high on ice cream and sandy walks; not let­ting a lit­tle side­ways rain cloud their day.

Board or no board, the ground swell of emo­tion I’ve felt more than com­pen­sates for a medi­ocre wave.

Photo: iS­tock

RUGGED BEAUTY: The cliffs of Mo­her in County Clare form an epic back­drop to some of the Wild At­lantic Way’s pop­u­lar surf beaches.

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