Whilst doing research fort he „Big Wave Europe“ article in the 2008 edition of the Blue Surf & Travel Yearbook I had the opportunity to talk with a few of the most renowned European big wave surfers.
The first wake up call from Europe for the big wave scene came at the beginning of December, when Irelands Mullaghmore Head was bombarded by a 45 foot swell. One of the guys setting new scales for the old continents big wave surfing was Alastair Mennie from Northern Ireland. Alastair is not only a remarkable guy because of his impressive size, he is also THE pioneer of big wave surfing in Ireland. He explored – and still is exploring – a good number of massive waves on the emerald isle, and surfed most of them first, oven charging the challenging waves and weather alone.
Besides that he achieved a solid reputation on places like Mavericks, which isn’t that much of a surprise as conditions at the northern California waves are often soft compared to what Ireland has to offer.
Here’s the interview:
datrip: First off all: I read that you were pioneering Irish big waves by driving far out on an inflatable and surfing those waves alone. What fascinates you about surfing big waves that much, that you are willing to put your life at those risks?
Alastair: When I first started searching the coast for big wave surf locations, I was driven by the passion I had for being out in huge conditions. I grew up at a beach called Castlerock where the sands are gently sloping meaning that when huge surf hits the coast, I had to paddle way out to sea, sometimes about 3/4 of a mile to get to the line up. I loved the isolation and the fact that I was out there on my own amongst huge swells. It made me feel very confident, vulnerable and alive to be out there. When I bought the boat, I did so because I had explored and surfed all the spots that held big surf that I was aware of and I had gone and bought a range of admiralty charts so I could map out potential big wave spots far off the beaten track. I found it very difficult to find anyone else willing to get involved with me mainly because all my friends just didn’t have the same desire to explore the ocean for the chance to ride new undiscovered big waves. I found myself ringing everyone trying to find someone who would go out there with me and check the spots out. You have to remember, I knew very little about boats but I wanted to explore the coast so much, I would do anything to get out there. I eventually got a friend to drive the boat on a couple of occasions and he would hold it out in the channel while I surfed some of the new reefs.
Aileens right and snow portrait by Aaron Pierce
Mullaghmore Head left by Kelly Allen