When I watched the reports of the Mullaghmore event in awe I stumbled upon competitor Easkey Britton and really was amazed when I found out that this was a woman charging these cold behemoths. Reason enough to contact her and find out a little bit more about this lone Irish big wave surfing heroine. Here´s the resulting quick interview:
datrip: How did you get into tow- / big wave surfing?
Easkey: I sort of fell into unexpectedly. I got bitten by the bug when I went to watch a swell at Aileens about 3 years ago. I'd seen the photos of this wave and it looked amazing but I’d never seen it break for real. I remember I was packing up to go back to uni when my friend Peter Conroy called me to say the "the Cliffs are on! Get down here!" I had no intention of towing, no tow board or anything at this stage. I was sitting in the channel on a jetski watching the Malloys and the locals charge it, filming for Waveriders. It was such a spectacular setting. I think the guys were afraid to tow me in but at the end of the day, just before dark and when the jetskis were running close to empty my friend came up to me and said, "Right Easkey. let's go!" Didn't have time to think about it really, I just went. And I was hooked after my first wave. Never felt anything like it. But it was quite a while, saving money and looking for a like-minded tow-partner, before I invested in a ski with my cousin and tow partner Neil. It's a huge commitment.
datrip: What is motivating you to get that far out of the comfort zone and surf these waves of consequence in those rough ´n chilly Irish waters?
Easkey: A week before the event I surfed Mullaghmore on 7-8m swell with winds building up to gale-force, that was a little crazy but still managed to get some of my best rides out there that day. I just wore about 5 layers! I find the cold drains your energy much more so you have to be extra prepared for that. I'm not sure what motivates me exactly or how I ended up doing this - I think it comes from having grown up on the wild North West coast of Ireland in a surfing family - so my comfort-zone has always been the sea, more so than land. And the desire to push the limits of what's possible, to explore new waves, the excitement and thrill...everything gets stripped away in big waves, I do it for myself, not to prove anything to anyone else - it's between me and the ocean, and the ocean is constantly guiding me through facing my fears. If that makes sense!
datrip: Are you paddle surfing big waves too?
Easkey: That's a totally different buzz, and free from the stress of the jetski hehe! In some ways it's even more critical and really tests your water knowledge and commitment. I paddled the Cliffs (Aileens) for the first time 1/1/11, so that was a great start to the year! I'm getting a big-wave board shaped by Tom Doidge-Harrison, a regular charger at Aileens.
datrip: When did you start surfing Mullaghmore?
Easkey: I surfed it for the first time about a year ago but our jetski started filling up with water so that session didn't last very long! Then we hit a calm period from end of Jan - July with no big swells. The first proper swell I surfed was last July when we scored an unusual 20ft summer swell - it was so good to get to know the wave when it wasn't totally freezing! I'm still learning how to surf it and figure the spot out.
datrip: Did it help to be out at Mullaghmore with all these reputed big wave guys or did that put extra pressure on you?
Easkey: It was a great learning experience for sure - to see how waves could be ridden deeper and more critical, everyone pushing themselves but also all the support in the water from everyone. And to realise that everyone gets beat-downs, no matter what! It was a little strange being in a competition environment in solid 20-25ft waves, with hundreds of spectators and stressing to get a wave at the end with time running out. An hour felt like 15 minutes!
datrip: How was the party after the event?
Easkey: Haha, well we were all pretty much asleep after the first pint! And the swell hasn't stopped so we've been too busy surfing to fit a party...plenty time for that when it goes flat ;)
datrip: Easkey, thanks a lot for the interview!
Easkey is also spokeswoman of the Irish Tow Surf Rescue Club
photos by Roo McCrudden.