Surfers have been freezing their asses off and getting bounced on peat-covered reefs in Ireland since at least the late 1940s. But it’s really only been in the last 20 years or so that non-European surfers took much notice. Andrew Kidman’s moody masterpiece Litmus, released in 1997, deserves much of the credit for that. We watched with envy when Joel Fitzgerald ripped into perfect little pea-green barrels. Then we covered our eyes in horror as Fitzy went toe-to-toe with a devastating Mullaghmore lookalike, set to that haunting Val Dusty Experiment piano score. A couple years later, in 1999’s Thicker Than Water, Brad Gerlach, the Malloys, Bobby Martinez, and Conan Hayes nabbed a few slate-grey lefthanders in the lee of a weathered castle straight out of the Game of Thrones set. When Gerr and company tracked down “sweet as a nut” pints of Guinness in a quaint Irish village, Ireland started looking like a damn fine surf destination.
Then came the slabs. By the mid-‘00s, the dead of winter meant you could count on a rush of videos from Mullaghmore, Aileen’s, Pampas, and other impossible to pronounce and unnamed hell-breaks. Local chargers like John McCarthy and Fergal Smith became minor surf celebs. Just like that, Ireland assumed its rightful place at the top of Europe’s big-wave surfing mountain.
So let’s raise a glass to Ireland, and to the brave men and women who charge her emerald-green slabs. Here’s to plopping down in front of the computer with a pint of Beamish and feasting your eyeballs on Irish surf heaven.
THICKER THAN WATER (1999):