I WRITE this squashed in the front of my van, in the passenger seat beside Gary McCall as Cotty drives us home.
We are surrounded by clutter and a general accumulation of empty petrol station food packaging. In the back of the van under six guns, three tow boards, a rescue sled, a box of spares and umpteen stinking wetsuits are Jamie Russell and Conn Osborne. We have pretty much been living like this for the past two weeks chasing endless swells all over Ireland.
I've been surfing for 22 years and January and February generally mean bitter cold, stormy unruly seas with the odd giant storm which gives us rideable big waves. This last month however has seen a series of unbelievable back-to-back swells and we've surfed the uber-fickle Prowlers several times.
This last session was by far the most rewarding.
Since we towed that giant day at Prowlers which blew our minds last November, Cotty and I have been out there, quite a bit, towing and paddling. Prowlers sits in a quite exposed location and is very susceptible to any wind. We can manage wind if we are towing but when trying to paddle into big waves wind makes it really difficult and depending on size, dangerous. Even a light offshore wind is magnified massively as it rushes up the face and underneath your board. That's why all big wave paddlers ideally want no wind, or even a very light onshore.
When we surf big waves we always use mark-ups on land to keep a close eye on our position so we can catch the best waves and also avoid clean-up sets. Every time we have paddled Prowlers there has been low cloud cover which has meant we haven't been able to see the top of the mountains to establish these mark-ups.
Believe me, that has resulted in a few heart palpitations when a huge set stacks and we have no idea where we are sitting out there. One day recently Cotty wore two full sets on the head when he got caught inside right under the peak.
Today, was a different story. The sun was splitting the trees, the weather's mild and the sky completely clear. We met with Paul O'Kane, Barry Mottershead and Seamus 'Shambles' Mcgoldrick and headed out there. Paul and Barry towed a few waves and also towed 'Shambles' into a few on his boogie board. Cotton and I waited as the wind was due to drop completely off.
As Cotty and I paddled into the lineup we spent the first few mins establishing mark-ups on land to hold position. Up until this point we couldn't do this at all. This helps as when you see a set coming and every part of your mind is saying paddle to the horizon or to the channel, we can glance over our shoulders and check our position. It was definitely this that allowed us to get a few waves today and not get cleaned up every five mins.
There is definitely a Mavericks feel to this wave. Mavs really focuses on one spot on the reef and so does this wave. As long as we knew where to be, the waves hit the same spot everytime and didn't catch us.