Al Mennie interview p2

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I had a few close calls and at one point while I was surfing I saw him launch the boat vertically off the back of a 30 foot face of water which was scary as we were a good two miles from land. Our coast is littered with shipwrecks and I was really concerned that on some of these reefs beneath the breaking waves, a wreck of a trawler, a yacht or even bigger may be lurking waiting for me, so I wore a thin impact vest that I had Circle One make specially for me. Basically it was enough to take a stab from a sharp object or the reef but barely enough to float me. I also wore a helmet. Those are the risks that come with exploration and tying to find somewhere to put all my enthusiasm into surfing. I think the fascinating thing about big waves is the unknown, will I make it, will there be waves, is it going to be surfable, will it be too windy...  It's all unknowns and I think that is what keeps me hooked cos even while you are riding one of these huge waves it is still unknown what is going to happen until you have made it to the channel.

datrip: Ireland has such a huge potential for massive waves (and anyone able to read weather charts and maps should have mentioned that since a while). Is there a local big wave surfing history that we outsiders just didn’t recognize until recently, or is riding the big stuff just evolving since a few years?

Alastair: Yes Ireland does have a huge wave potential. In the past two years I have had waves that I have ridden off these coasts make it into contention for the billabong XXL title. That says one thing, we have waves as big as anywhere else in the world! There a few guys here in the whole country who have a desire to surf big waves. Very few of them are actually from this island and even less have the desire to surf really big waves. That was evident on December 1st when the biggest swell to ever hit the Irish coast showed up with favourable winds. Only two surfers, including me, from this island where out there. The main issue I see in this country for big waves is often the wind. We are so close to the low pressure systems that quite often 50ft surf can batter us with 50mph winds! A lot of surfers just head to a sheltered spot when that happens but if you wanna be a big wave rider in this country then you have to take the rough with the smooth, so to speak. The wind is always present when really big waves hit here so if you won’t accept that then you will ride very few legitimate big scary waves in this country. Yes you are right, anyone can get a weather chart, a nautical map etc and realise that big waves exist along our shores but the one thing that separates the true big wave surfers from the in betweeners and the talkers is the desire to do it. The guys who want to surf big waves do it because they truly want to and they will hunt them down until they do. The history of riding big waves in this country depends on what you call big waves. There have constantly been bigger and bigger waves being ridden at a small number of spots but I feel it is only now with the progression of surfing that bigger waves at more locations are being ridden more regularly and more successfully, not mention more safely. I think in the past 12 months the world has begun to see what we have here and are now taking notice. The December 1st session blew the doors open for the world to see what we have here. I was doing interviews for international television, national papers, radio, mags, etc for weeks about that swell as it completely surprised the world yet in fact I have been surfing waves maybe not as big but not far off it with my tow partner Andrew Cotton for quite some time now. The significance of that storm in the media showcased the Irish big waves as all sorts of weather warnings were in place and people were told to stay inside. In the medias eyes I was portrayed as a mad man but what they failed to realise is that this is what I do, it's what I love, what I train for and everything else in my life revolves around, riding big waves!

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