AT it again! Al, Cotty and co pioneer another Irish big wave -- Finn MacCools. This time surfing in the footsteps of giants, the boys prove that the legendary creator of the Giant's Causeway was no idle myth.
Northern Ireland's number one tourist attraction's unique hexagonal rocks protrude out into the North Atlantic, sliding below the ragged foam. Legend has it, Finn MacCool, a local giant, sculpted the causeway to bridge Northern Ireland and Scotland in order to fight a competing giant, Benandonner. Upon realising how enormous his opponent was he wrapped himself in a blanket, pretending to be his own child, thus causing Benandonner to flee fearing he was about to confront a 'real' giant.
Al Mennie and Andrew Cotton are merrily pushing the boundaries of Irish big wave surfing, seemingly pioneering a new spot every week, including the now infamous XXL nominee Prowlers. For this trip they collared Brit pro Lyndon Wake plus photog support from Gary McCall and Conn Osborne.
"Access is an issue at Finn MacCools so in order to do it safely it took a team of us." Said Al Mennie. "We used two jet-skis to get out there with Lyndon Wake and Gary McCall onboard to cover us for safety."
"The funny thing is this wave has been breaking right under our noses for years at Northern Ireland's premier tourist spot! It's one of those mythical places people often mention, wondering if there are waves out here."
As it turns out there are a few waves here... "Within 30 seconds of paddling out, I got lucky and happened to be right under a big peak coming towards me. As I spun my 8'2" around to paddle into it I almost couldn't believe this was happening. Last week I was at La Vaca surfing in the big wave contest and the week before I was surfing big La Santa point with Rob Small..."
"...Now, I'm paddling for a wave, just as big, two minutes from my house. I remember getting to my feet as it stood up and then going really fast down the face. As I kicked out I looked around me in disbelief. This big wave is breaking in one of the most beautiful natural arenas in the world and I've just ridden one. It was very satisfying. As I paddled back out for what became a four hour session Cotty took his first elevator drop."
The conditions may not have been quite perfect but after watching the sets break and establishing some mark-ups they knew where they needed to be.
Eyes always to the horizon as every now and again the bay would close-out with a set that would miss the main take-off spot detonating across the bay.
"The bay is very deep and holds a lot of water causing quite a lot of movement out there." Said Al "There are rock boils everywhere and it would be very easy to fall and become a human pinball!"
Whilst this might be the first time the spot has been paddled, it's been watched for a while and a few forays on the ski ended-up coming to naught.
But now you know where it is, do not think about popping down to surf. Access from the shore is not possible at size and when it's small you can't surf here. Unless of course you have a hankering to end up as goo on the rocks.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the hexagonal rocks to experience the causeway and the legend that surrounds it. It is Northern Ireland's premier tourist spot and now as a big wave spot it has huge potential under a very specific set of conditions.
"The shoreline is littered with uneven boulders and the peak of the wave breaks right on top of the submerged hexagonal rocks. It's a pretty intimidating place to be, anyway, even without considering surfing out there." Said Al.
"It doesn't break properly until it's as big as it was today so it's not like we will surf it all the time".
"This is huge for Northern Irish surfing." Enthuses Al "We have a number of big wave spots along this coast which I have surfed throughout the years but Finn MacCools is one I've never ridden until now despite several missions out there on the ski."
Shooting the wave from the front proved very tricky as there wasn't much room to manoeuver the ski with the inside often closing out.
"One set today caught Cotty and I inside and it gave me that full on butterfly feeling I've had surfing many other big waves on the planet." Cautioned Al "Cotty took a pounding on one and when I looked in, his 8'4" was tombstoning!"
When it's firing on all cylinders they'll be back to challenge the local giant one more time.