Chasing Waves on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

There was surf somewhere from County Kerry to County Donegal, if only they could find it.

Comments: 62

  1. Surfer's mantra: You should have been here yesterday.

  2. Surfing Ireland in June means channeling your inner Stevie White: “if you see a wave, get on it.”

  3. I really enjoyed reading this article. I had been out in Doolin back in 87. I was exploring Ireland and was able to hookup with the Hades Caving Club from Wales to do some caving. I needed to borrow a wet suit and the hosts of the hostel had a good friend that drove the commuter bus. I met Noel Walsh, who informed me that he wrote the surf report. Others at the pub chimmed in that if the waves were right in the morning that they'd be late for work. Noel carried his board on the bus.

  4. Noel now runs a great B&B near Doolin but I don’t want to give it away and spoil it for us. Best to keep out of the way local spots well hidden!

  5. @LindaS Thanks Linda. It warms my heart.

  6. Nice report. However, why don't you cover the actual pro-surf scene with all their wonder guys and girls?

  7. why run this piece and ruin this mostly unknown element of Ireland? i don't understand. perhaps it's some sort of human compulsion to destroy wild and lonely places.

  8. @gentle jack jones They actually cover much of the known towns/villages in this piece. The unknown ones are not referenced here, at all. As one guy surfing said to me (after his opened his car and handed me a Nikon lens to borrow that cost as much as the car) "just don't post the photos from this spot on the internet. We try to keep this spot secret." Of course I won't tell you where that was..... ;-) sb

  9. @gentle jack jones I agree. It is like all the people here in Vermont telling others of swimming holes, fishing spots and places to back country ski. Just stop

  10. @gentle jack jones Why complain about it? The sky isn't falling.

  11. If I'm ever reincarnated in essentially the same form and with much the same sense and sensibility, I wish to have a band and a boat and a child; then I shall name each of them "Idoline Duke" (the child, "Idoline Duke Murray" -- assuming my own name 'carries over').

  12. The landscapes were beautiful and the travel writing nice, but that "action photo" was unfortunate.

  13. My wife and I visited Ireland for the first time several months ago. The one thing that I was left with by the end of the one week road trip was just how friendly the Irish were. We are world travelers and we've never come across a culture or people that were more friendly and outgoing. As for the photos presented in this article, I can't believe those surfers were climbing down that cliff completely barefoot.

  14. @Marc Jordan Barefoot AND climbing down a cliff that has a staircase! SB

  15. @Marc Jordan In my experience, the friendliness of the Irish is their persona. Yes, they are lovely people and a core value is to welcome the stranger, 100,000 Welcomes and all that. But for all the gregariousness, there is also a lot of melancholy. Most tourists don't want to see the melancholy, but it is indeed there. Spend more time in Ireland and you will feel it.

  16. Lol...I could be mistaken but I seem to remember that cliff was not 20’ tall.

  17. This is a fantastic article. My sister sent it to me. We traveled to many of these places on the West coast, since our Grandparents are from the West. It brought back great memories of the trip and how magical Ireland is. Next visit should be a surf trip.

  18. @Evan hang out in Sligo (Strandhill and Easkey) for the beer (White Hag), the food (Shells) and ice cream ( Gelato award winners).... I moved here for the altantic ocean and gained weight... Price you pay for living here.

  19. I’m not a surfer, but thoroughly enjoyed this article. I’d highly recommend the West of Ireland to anyone - surfer or not - looking for a great vacation. Dingle, in particular, is a wonderful little town. Perfect if you want to experience the real Irish feel (and hospitality!)

  20. I get that waves are hard to find, but... could it be because you decided to do this piece out of season? If you're going to write a piece on surfing in Ireland, why not do it when there's something to surf on?

  21. Fun film: "Step into Liquid" (2003) touches on the Malloy brothers doing some Irish surfing and bringing Protestant and Catholic kids together in the water.

  22. I don’t surf but wish i could. Been to the area once on a family vacation. Drove around Ireland in the southern half. The west coast is amazing. I don’t know about the surfing but if you want a spectacular day trip take the people/dog ferry from southern Dingle peninsula to Great Blasket Island. One of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen, with cliffs and a long green hill in the background. We had sunny days and a few rainbows in Dingle. Amazing time and place.

  23. As a fellow Long Islander, and ex-surfer...I know the laments of looking for surf-able waves...on the Island and along the East Cast. Ireland while having breathtaking shorelines compared to here, sounds similar. A good day is like no other...written into ones personal book of legends. I spent many a morning and evening on a board, paddling around, looking longingly at a distant roller...praying for it to come to you, sighing at the inevitable...but always better then a good day at work.

  24. This is a truly awe-inspiring article. I recently visited the Atlantic Coast of Ireland, and It has the most beautiful natural landscapes I have ever witnessed. From the powerful Cliffs of Moher to the quiet and peaceful city of Galway, Ireland truly gives jaw-dropping contrasts that are hard to find on Earth. I can only imagine how cold you were with the water and the bone-chilling wind, but I am certain a wet-suit helped tremendously. Hopefully, I can get back to Ireland again, but if not, excellent articles like these will revive my experiences I had on that Atlantic Coast.

  25. Amazing... I learned how to surf in Wexford, Ireland 19 years ago. Not exactly the beaches of the west coast but it created a love of surfing in me in a country I love dearly.

  26. Surprised you did not mention Strandhill in County Sligo. There were tons of surfers there when we went there for the magical seaweed baths. They say the surf is good most months too...

  27. @Janie F No waves of over head height in Strandhill in June, though I suppose it's hard beaten for reliability providing the wind cooperates.

  28. Loved reading this article as I do all articles about surfing, although, alas not a surfer myself. Surf writers capture a certain spirit that is wild like the waves and they give us a vicarious thrill! I have visited many of the beaches mentioned here either as a tourist or a reveler. The beauty of Ireland is endless and a few new intrepid surfers would never spoil that. BTW Dolmens are Neolithic monuments many used as passage graves and some perhaps as boundary markers. My favorite is Poulnaborne on the stony moonscape of County Clare's Burren. Must go back to Ireland...soon!

  29. The week spent I spent driving the Wild Atlantic Way along the south-west coast of Eire included some of the best days of my life. The untamed power of the churning, steel-blue Northern Atlantic Ocean, the rolling green hills and dramatic crags dotted with sheep, cottage towns stuccoed with cheery palettes scattered across a landscape crisscrossed by ancient stone walls... I hope to one day return for good!

  30. Ten years ago, we took our teenage son and his friend (both avid surfers) on a surfing vacation to Ireland's West Coast. What an adventure! Everyone we encountered was generous to a fault; from the surf shop owner in Strandhill who loaned out two of his best boards for three days for free, to the women pub owners on Achill Island who called around for us to find a local who would rent us a board. For the most part, the surf was challenging, and when it wasn't, there were endless hills to hike, rocky beaches to explore and oysters to consume. Oh, the oysters!

  31. I loved this article. My ancestors on my mother's side are all Irish - Kelly's, Campbell's and Dunn's - and I visited Ireland as a girl but haven't been back in many years. Now, I live in Southern California, within a bird's eye view of the Pacific Ocean, where I watch gaggles of surfers out on the water every morning on my way to work. Still, this article transported me to the wild coast of Ireland, my grandmother's and grandfather's homeland, and I felt a pang of bittersweet regret that I am not living there now . . . thank you for a wonderful article, it took me out of my head and brought me to a place I long to call home.

  32. Great article! If you'd like to branch out a bit, head over to Enniscrone Golf Links. Dunes bigger than the biggest slab waves you've ever seen. Peak experience. Strandhill links and Rosses Point in Sligo will also thrill any golfer. We'd all agree about Pudding Row, however...

  33. Ireland has no surfing! Fake news! Nothing to see here! You won’t like it! There. That should work to keep my favorite place on the planet free of tourists. Wait...that’s what I am when I’m there!

  34. Only one photo of waves and they were ankle slappers. Nice travel article, not much here for surfers.

  35. Flat And probably very sharky. As we tell visitors around here as well

  36. Congratulations to the Times for honoring the long-established conventions of surf journalism: namely, show photos of only the lousy spots, and keep the descriptions of the good spots purposely vague.

  37. @Chris Baker We only have basking sharks, they don't bite.

  38. Forwarding this story to Marty Walsh!

  39. Remember a day at the beach in Dingle, a town in County Kerry in May. The water was freezing. The wind was blowing. The kids were running around in their bathing suits like it was August here. Intrepid little swimmers.

  40. Nice article. It's the middle of the summer. Not sure whether there are south swell windows on the Ireland's west coast for summertime. Doubt it. I imagine it gets out of control when the winter swells arrive.

  41. @Marvin I don't think the North Atlantic gets south swells in summer like the Pacific does. West Africa and Brazil block it all.

  42. @Dash what about hurricane season? Every once in a while one heads up the eastern seaboard, roughly pointed towards the eastern north Atlantic.

  43. This article intrigued me because I learned to surf in Costa Rica and every day there were amazing views but not amazing waves. I have always wanted to go to Ireland and travel around the country to see the breathtaking clifts and shores. This article was a great insight into how even if you don't find what you're looking for, you can find something even better. I loved how Duke described the days when he was disappointed with the surf, but didn't give up and kept driving and didn't give up on his mission. I wish I had the same perseverance to travel to a new country, with nothing but time, and search for great waves, but most importantly just to enjoy myself and the place I'm in.

  44. As we say over here: Cold - Wet - Wonderful! I'm an expat now lucky enough to live in County Kerry, Ireland. Didn't go there today, but could see Inch Beach - I was at Rossbeigh beach, across the channel in Dingle Bay. I'm disappointed that the writer starts by explaining when the good surfing is, and then -- writes that he came in June. Ummmm if it's an article about surfing why not surf it during the months recommended by the surfing community?? Interesting that they climbed that cliff to get to Lahinch's surf spot - especially when there are cement steps down to the beach to make it easy to get to the surf. Was that just to show off a photo? Granted, he does explain how you can get out there and see much untouched beauty along the Wild Atlantic Way, by SLOWING DOWN..... but as someone who's lived here for six years, I can now state with certainty: he'd have been better off spending a week in one place and surfing it over and over. The waves, like the weather, change day by day, hour by hour. Oh - and if you're interested in seeing some great Ireland surf photos, be sure to check out Emerald Surfwear on Instagram. THAT'S Ireland surfing!! Susan Expat in Waterville on the Wild Atlantic Way * Skellig Coast .

  45. When Barry Britton's mom brought back two surf boards from California in the early 60's, the kids did not know how to use them, therefore just paddled on them body down, until one day two years later one of their hotel guests was seems riding a board standing up, and Barry and bros never got off them after that. That seminal moment started the surfing culture which this article talks about.

  46. I’m in love with Ireland. I’ve never been to Ireland.

  47. @Robertinho: I have been there many times. You're right to be in love with it.

  48. I'm making my first trip in November. Never too late. No surfing though.

  49. What - County Sligo and no boat out to Prowlers?

  50. Sorry, but the photo of the barefoot approach to the break while hanging off a goat rope just confirms any suspicions I've had about surfers' intelligence. Flipflops anyone? Maybe sensible shoes?

  51. A way to preserve what you have is never allow cruise ships near your shores. They have ruined many places in Europe, and seeing them in the lagoon in Venice turns my stomach. Save the wonderful places you have.

  52. Nice article, reminds me of Oregon in the 60's and 70's.

  53. Fun story. Thanks! Visiting Doolin as a 25-year-old surfer from Oregon in 1979, I was more interested in chasing a pretty Scandinavian girl I'd met than chasing waves. Besides, the locals simply laughed when you asked about surfing. To make a long story short, I ended up living in Scandinavia, and still surf small waves on Oslofjord (albeit on a SUP). By coincidence, I just booked a trip to western Ireland in September and will revisit Doolin. Maybe this time I'll get in the water.

  54. Ireland is beautiful for sure, but i don't know if I could handle the pervasive Catholicism there...

  55. It's more progressive than the States

  56. Out of date, mate, those days are long gone

  57. Kind of silly comment. Ireland is a normal country.

  58. I think this article is wonderful for surfing lovers. Through the writer's words you can really get the whole vibe of the beach in Ireland, which every wave feels like can break a wall and take you to another level of excitement, and I don’t even feel the need to explain how incredible the view from the picture seems. Even though, for some surface traveling all the way to Ireland just for surfing might not be so affordable. That for I liked the added content about other experience, it’s might won’t make the trip more affordable, but much more worthy and unforgettable. Additionally, I loved the little story attach about Mr. Farr, it’s so lovely that someone so young can fall in love for a new place and be willing to spend the rest of his life there. My favorite chapter in the article, is the one with the title “looking at Aileen’s”. I believe that the in-depth description can give a lovely inspiration for the readers who about to visit the place. personally, the thing I love the most is to find that heavenly corner that probably only the locals know, and there is also directions on how to get to this special place, I really recommend to check this out.

  59. George Freeth is a founding father of American mainland surfing. He was born in Oahu in 1883, his mother was part-Hawaiian while his father was Irish. An interesting story - lots about it on the web. There is a memorial to him in Redondo Beach. Readers will enjoy this: Waverider: The Irish Roots of Surfing

  60. From the article: The president came up frequently, too, as he owns a hotel and golf course in Doonbeg, County Clare, directly on a popular surf beach. Mr. Trump’s organization’s plan for a sea wall there to protect the golf course from erosion has prompted fierce opposition and protests among locals and surfers — “Trump’s other wall,” local media has taken to calling it. Missing from the article, as mentioned in other NYT reports: Trump is pursuing legal strategies to build the wall as based on scientific reports that beach erosion will increase due to rising sea levels caused by climate change. I haven’t seen any reports on how he reconciles those claims with his denials of the existence of climate change.

  61. I liked this article, too, and I am not a surfer. I would encourage the writer to listen to the Irish Passport podcast generally and the segment about the Famine specifically. The pod casters make it clear that only Americans use the term “Potato Famine” . The Irish rightly think that such a term diminishes the Great Hunger which led to so many deaths and so much emigration.