PULLING THE TIGER'S TAIL
The last swell of the season was a banger and an old haunt roared to life for the local crew.
Pete Conroy off the safety ski and into a shimmering emerald pit. Considering Pete broke his back here once it's bloody impressive.
If there's ever a list of waves that don't want to be ridden it's got to be top three. A barely covered ledge that focuses a horrifically thick lip to defy natural law in all manner of ways.
It's one of those joints any normal surfer would look at and just say, 'Nope! No. No way. Uh-uh.' while backing away slowly giving it the double bird. It's a watery accident waiting to happen. It does not look surfable. At all.
Thing is as unruly and bone-snappy as it is there are routes through the madness. Chip in to the right one and you're guaranteed a tube of rare girth. Coming out the other end is a whole other matter. If you can survive the foamball nipping at your fins and the inevitable cannon blast of spit trying it's hardest to blow you over the handlebars then you might just make it out. Just be careful to not get drained into the deadly closeout just feet across the channel. As for the 'spit' it's a phrase that's not really man enough for this joint. 'Spit' suggests just that: a watery flob on your shoulder. This is like a blue whale doing it's biggest ever sneeze behind your earlobe. Hollywood would have real issues trying to recreate the salty eruption.
It's an awe inspiring spot, an amphitheatre of noise and nature, of cutting edge tube threading, the noise there is like nowhere else on Earth. It's also remote, dangerous and a really bad place to hurt yourself. Hence folk rarely surfing alone. Even with Peter Conroy running safety on the ski it's one of the few waves where you're genuinely worried whenever anyone puts their head down for a big one. Rescues are tricky, extraction even harder.
The spring sessions we enjoyed over a few wondrous days saw Gearoid twang his ankle, Conor faceplant the reef and another surfer near re-break his ankle (more on that later in the year).
Which for Rileys is getting off lightly. Considering it breaks legs and backs.
It's one of those places you get some good ones then you take your leave. You don't want to push it too far. Pulling the tiger's tail too many times only ends one way after all...
There are not many waves that are known as much for their body count as anything else. Rileys is just that.
(top left) Gearoid before he decided to try having an arse kicking contest with the reef.
Empty waves here are works of art.
(bottom left) Conor and 'just a flesh wound'.
Another angle of Pete's gem. ALL PHOTOS: TIM NUNN
Conor and a redonkulous one. The boys mixed up the paddle and tow as getting into the really big ones is flipping tricky.
Gearoid and an evening runner. The late session light show, when the sun deigns to appear, is something else.
PHOTOS AS CREDITED