It’s always an exciting time for a surfer to go to the shaping bay and pick up new boards! I love it! It’s so exciting. So today I drove to Rosy Surfboards in Londonderry to pick up a new 10’8″ gun and a new 6’0″ tow board. Both have future fin boxes in them with options for both thruster and quad set ups so I can play about with what works at different spots. My last big gun from Rosy worked well although I wanted a little more thickness all the way through it to allow me to catch bigger waves more easily on it.
Thes boards have been the result of me trying a few different boards from Rosy to date so in theory by working together these boards should perform better than anything I’ve already had.
I will be shipping the big 10’8″ (red and white) down Biarittz tomorrow for the La Vaca Gigante event to my friend Pilou’s house because the airlines don’t let us fly with anything over 9’2″ most of the time.
Tow board Future fins
In my tow board I generally use the Gerry Lopez tow fins which have two small side fins and one big trailer fin made from glass fibre but Futures have just sent me a simon anderson quad set which i’m looking forward to using. In my guns I tend to change between a thruster and quad set up quite a lot but I prefer the glass models as they are stronger and handle speed well.
For anyone who is interested Rosy has done a full photo and video journal of making these boards which he will make available pretty soon and i’ll put it on here.
New video. Thanks to Jamie Russell for filming and editing it and also to Polvo Concepts, Jorge Leal and Wilson Ribeiro for additional footage. Its filmed in Northern Ireland, Aileens, Prowlers, Mullaghmore, Lanzarote, Donegal, Spain and Portugal.
On the podium with Cotton Socks, our cheque and our new chamber pots, I mean trophies!
Cotty and I were invited to take part in The North Canyon Tow in Contest at Nazare, Portugal. We have been lucky enough to have surfed lots of big waves at this spot now and had some great experiences out there so to compete there just had to be the next step for us so we were stoked to get the invite.
Praia do Norte is an unusual place to ride giant waves. For any non surfers reading this, in most cases, big wave surfing takes place at a well defined reef break over submerged rock shelves giving some pattern to the breaking waves. Praia do Norte is far from normal. Waves approach the headland from a deep water canyon that is 1000 feet deep just of the headland. The waves peak and break onto sand bars which means they generally break in random places very close to shore. This presents all kinds of issues for big wave surfers wanting ride the waves so to hold a contest there, adds yet another dimension. In photos and video the waves look tame compared to some of the big waves we ride but believe me, this place is the craziest! You really cant comprehend it until you go out there. The beach is huge but when I’m out there amongst the waves it feels so tiny with the giant peaking teepee waves coming from every angle. It’s really difficult to explain and then there is the driving the ski side to the surf. In one sentence …If you can drive a ski here, I honestly think you could drive it anywhere. Lots of the teams lost skis during the contest. I’m talking about Europes best and most experienced big wave riders and even then, skis get lost. I’m trying to explain how intense the place is but I’m finding it difficult!
The format of the contest was that the 6 invited teams of surfers from all over Europe would compete in two rounds were they would be scored overall on 4 waves per team out of a total 400 in two opening rounds of 45 mins each. By the end of the 2nd round Cotty and I were leading with 290/400 to The Basque teams 230/400. We felt so good and on form. We have competed in quite a few big wave events now but never felt as on form as we did in this one. Cotty rode a giant one early in the day really close to the cliff which got the ball rolling and later we both got a couple of barrells under our belts and some big steep left handers. In the hour long final it seemed our luck ran out. Our cumulative scores were not significant anymore as the rules were that the winners of the final would be the champion which meant there was no room for mistakes. With changing winds and conditions making it difficult for all of us to find the good waves we all struggled to post high scoring rides. The Basque team of Axi Muniain and Pablo Garcia however picked off a bomb and sealed the deal. Axi is without doubt one of the best surfers I know. We have surfed lots together in Ireland and in Spain and I have so much respect for him. Axi is a full waterman and looks so natural in the water, like he was born to be in it. Axi and his partner Pablo Garcia, another well respected big wave rider, scored a well deserved win! The Portuguese teams and CJ Macias put on a great performance too with some high performance surfing throughout the event.
I’m happy with just being able to surf the waves out there for yet another time! When we left Nazare to go to the airport we arrived to find out that a strike at the airport meant our flight was cancelled and we wouldn’t be able to fly until Saturday! Stuck in Portugal for two days with good waves, good people and good weather…not bad!
There are so many people I’d like to thank for all of this that I can’t possibly name for fear of forgetting someone but I am so thankful for all who have been a part of and included us in The North Canyon Project and all of you who support me and follow what we do from home everytime we go away! Thanks everyone!
We are without are main safety ski and no helicopter back up. All we have is a ski to tow with another ski that doesn’t work in white water and Nicole spotting for us on the cliff top. This meant instead of yesterdays five man team on the water, we would only have three of us. We assessed the whole thing and decided we could safely attempt to ride what looked like the biggest Nazare we had ridden yet. I had finally got my confidence back after a couple of wobbly days on a new tow board and I was amping to ride some huge waves. I surfed first. The peaks today were coming at us from every angle imaginable and at times we felt completely surrounded out there. Both Cotty and I rode waves in the 60 foot range before Cotty lost his board. The white water was so chaotic we decided to not go looking for it. Thankfully it washed up on the beach about ten minutes later and didn’t get smashed into the cliff. The swell direction was making the cliff area really dangerous with waves smashing 100 feet up the sandstone rock face with a huge explosion.
It was Garrett’s turn to go on the rope. Ok, keep in mind Cotty and I had just ridden the set waves which were around 60 feet or so tall. Now do you know when you go surfing on a normal say 4 foot day and you might get a random 8 foot set? Well as if it was meant to be, a set of three waves stood up on the horizon. Nicole was going nuts on the radio “HUGE SET APPROACHING!” she proclaimed. Cotty pulled Garrett up and I followed closely behind on the safety ski. We have a system where the safety driver follows the other ski and as soon as the surfer goes on the wave, both skis go in one after another so that if the first ski misses the rescue the other is seconds behind them. Ok, so the sets so far were 60 foot plus. This set appeared to have at least another 20feet on that! I faded back and they headed out to swing round onto it. It was effortless on both Cottys and Garrett’s part. Garrett was in the perfect spot right on the peak of what looked to be the biggest wave about to be ridden at Nazare. I was sitting almost in front of the wave as Garrett started to make the perfect drop. He was going so fast. I was naturally concerned he might fall with so much speed. As the wave passed me, both Cotty and I went after it to get him before the next wave would mow him down. From the water perspective I reckoned Garrett’s wave was a solid 80feet but I knew that from a more direct angle it would probably measure somewhere in the 90 foot range. History was made today in Nazare. There is no doubt that was one of the biggest if not the biggest wave ever ridden. It was such an honour to be a part of the whole thing and support Garrett in his dream. When we watched the footage back we realised that when he climbed onto Cottys rescue sled after the ride he was obviously oblivious to what he had just ridden as his first comment was “ On the next one I wanna come from behind it more!”
There is no doubt we live for this stuff and it is a huge passion of all of ours to ride huge waves. Garrett is a living legend in the world of surfing and being out there with him is a huge inspiration to me. I used to watch videos and read about him in the surf mags when I was a little kid and now I’m out riding waves with him, what an honour.
I think it is really important to emphasise that although it may appear, in particular to the non surfers, that Garrett, CJ, Cotty and I and all the big wave riders for that matter, are reckless and throw caution to the wind. The truth could not be further from the truth. So much time, preparation and consideration of safety and planning for worst case scenarios to the finest detail is done before a wave is even ridden at any spot. Minute details in fins can affect how a board works on a certain wave and testing different skis in various conditions can mean the difference between saving someone or not. I know for a fact that it has taken years of preparation and planning and working with the knowledge of the local people for Garrett to achieve what he did today at Nazare, in particular, not to mention all the other things he has done in his career so far.
Garrett rode a wave that was like some sort of rogue set wave. As soon as that wave passed the ocean calmed down and we all sat out the back reflecting on what just happened, totally absorbed in the moment. A huge shoal of fish came to the surface. It was one of those moments that make you really stop and think, feel and take notice of your surroundings. Nicole came on the radio “Ok you guys, it’s time to head back to the harbour” there is a fine line between pushing it and over stepping it. It was time to go home.
La Vaca Gigante big wave paddle in surfing Contest
La Vaca Gigante is Europe’s only big wave paddle in contest. It is held in Cantabria at a spot just off the coast of Santander. Cotty and I have been invitees for the past couple of years and made last year’s final. Unfortunately the tide killed the consistency of the swell and the final was called off. The waiting period has just begun for this year’s event and runs to the end of March. Hopefully the conditions are better this time round and allow the organisers to run the entire contest. We will get about 48 hours notice of a swell in the 5m range with good wind and will make the trip to Cantabria at some stage within the next five months. Most of Europe’s big wave paddle crew are invited to compete including riders Pilou Ducalme, Axi Munian, Dani Pablos Martinez, Ibon Amatrian, Oscar Gomes Ibars and San Francisco based Joao de Macedo.
I want to say a huge thank you to Glancy Seafood’s of Tuam, Co. Galway for getting in touch and giving me a jet ski. Your generosity will not be forgotten. The ski needs a fair bit of work but very shortly we will be able to use it as a backup safety ski this winter. Glancy Seafood’s are wholesale fish distributors supplying seafood all over the country. Thanks guys.