Ireland has become an increasingly popular destination for surf tours in Europe as the well kept secrets of its exposed Atlantic coastline have become known to a wider audience. Expect some wild conditions and a warm reception - if you arrive looking for soul surfing.
Seaside towns on the West Coast such as Lahinch, Strandhill, Bundoran and Tramore have been revived over the past 5-10 years due to the popularity of surfing in Ireland. These types of coastal towns really suffered with the availability of cheap flights and cheap sun holidays but are now seeing a huge influx of both Irish holiday makers and tourists all seeking the thrill and buzz of surfing, whatever the weather.
A 3/2 wetsuit is fine from May to September with water temps in the 12 to 16 degrees range. The Irish weather is hard to predict. The gulf-stream can warm the water and it can be warmer than you would expect.
Autumn (September/October) is often described as the surf season as the water temp is still warm from the summer and hurricanes swells can produce big surf in the 6 to 10foot range. It can also be the time of year when there is crowds at the more famous reef breaks but seek and you can still find. A 4/3 is the best suit at this time of year.
Summer/spring is great for beginner/intermediate surfers as the smaller swells can mean good waves on the open beaches. The long days also allow us to surf after 11pm but the summer can produce long flat spells. Also when there is good waves it can be less crowded than the autumn.
Winter is cold and dark with strong winds but with plenty of sheltered breaks the surf can be great. Often no problem with swell but chasing the offshore wind is crucial. A 5/3 suit is essential but search around and you can find empty world class waves.
The Surf- General Information
There is a variety of surf breaks to suit all standards and nearly all have great views, it will be easy to find a surf school in Northern Ireland. Clare is most famous for its gentle left-hand point breaks and heavy slab waves for the hard core. Recently the tow in footage from Aileen’s has placed Lahinch on the world surf map. Lahinch beach break is situated in the middle of the town and is great for learners and intermediate surfers with gentle random peaks spread up and down the beach. The southern end of the beach has a collection of left-hand point breaks which are best suited to intermediate/experienced surfer. The points have relatively easy drops and can get crowded as there is a keen local crew however if you get your timing right and show respect you will get waves. If the points are breaking and you fancy something heavier you don’t have to search too hard. Spanish point to the south offers a variety of reef and beach options which are good without being great. Doonbeg to the south is the swell sucker especially in small west swells and is a saviour in summer. Located bang in the middle of an exclusive golf course Doonbeg is a great beach break for all standards and can occasionally have great banks. When it’s on its one of Ireland’s best beach breaks.
There are plenty of other spots in Ireland in Kerry and Cork. You just need to get in a car and drive and you are sure to find some great uncrowded waves. Get exploring!
Bundoran is a seaside town situated in South Donegal on the shores of Donegal Bay. Bundoran has been in the surf media spotlight over the last few years and has held international surf comps such as The World Masters in 2002. It is 30 minutes from Sligo and about 3 hours drive from Dublin and 2 hours from Belfast depending on traffic. As it is a seaside town its population jumps in the summer months. The nearest international airports are Knock, Derry and Belfast.
Bundoran provides some of the most consistent and best quality surf in Ireland. There are many quality reef breaks for experienced surfers, as well as numerous beach breaks that are perfect for beginner and intermediate surfers. Tullan Strand is the most consistent beach in summer and will have a wave even if everywhere else is flat. On bigger swells and certain wind directions there are good options at nearby Streedagh, Rossnowlagh and Mullaghmore. The Peak is the most popular reef break right out front of the bay in the town and gets quite busy but is an amazing A-frame right and left break in the right conditions. There are other amazing reef breaks in the area. Cosy up to a local, buy him or her a few pints of Guinness and they might share some secret spots!
Portrush is the hub of Northern Ireland’s surf scene and is a busy tourist town in the summer. Portrush hosts the Irish leg of the British surf tour every autumn. The seaside town is home to many surf shops, bars, restaurants and nightclubs. There is also a lot of worthwhile scenery in the local area with the drive to the Giants Causeway being the highlight. Portrush is easily accessible from Belfast by bus and train and there are many cheap airlines.
The surf is mostly beach breaks however there are a few river mouths and sandbars to be found if you befriend some of the locals. Malin Head tends to block off small to medium west swells so works best in North Swells or big west swells. Portballintrae is the swell sucker of the area and can have a wave when the rest of the coast is flat. The East strand is probably the best beach breaks but needs a big swell to work but does have shelter from the predominate south west winds.
Sligo has one of the best coastlines in Ireland for surfing especially along the Easky/Enniscrone coast. Strandhill is a seaside village which could be described as a suburb of Sligo Town. Strandhill has one of Ireland’s oldest and largest surf clubs and hosts the Strandhill Open during the August Bank Holiday attracting most of Ireland’s top surfers. Strandhill has a small airport which has regular flights to Dublin and is also probably the closest major surf beach to Dublin. Strandhill is accessible by a 10minute bus journey from Sligo town which itself has regular buses/Trains to Dublin. Strandhill beach has a car park right in front of the break which is very accessible and has lots of pubs and restaurants.
Strandhill beach is one of the best in the North West but can be very tidal. Generally it breaks on the rocks at high tide when there is no beach and can close out on low tides. However on mid tides nice banks can be found especially the right in front of the Strand Bar. There is a river mouth to the south and Blue rock at the north end of the beach which is a sand/boulder bottomed point break which can offer protection from swell and winds.
Lahinch is a quaint seaside town in Co. Clare with a stunning hinterland, it has the best surf schools of Ireland. It offers perfect surf for everyone from first timers at Lahinch beach to tow-in surfers at the Cliffs of Moher. Lahinch is probably Irelands busiest surf town and has a great surfy atmosphere during the summer and most weekends. The town is a great base for exploring the surf potential of Clare from Fanore to Doonbeg.