Swell time on the Way
Surfers find themselves riding a wave of green that’s different
“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.
RUGGED BEAUTY: The cliffs of Moher in County Clare form an epic backdrop to some of the Wild Atlantic Way’s popular surf beaches.