Our latest print edition, Vol 258, is dedicated to the mythology and folklore that animates surf culture.
For a feature set in the Emerald Isle, we tracked down some of the pioneering surfers from the nation’s golden era of heavy wave discovery, gathering a collection of stories from those halcyon days. We strung an in-depth and intriguing array together for the feature that appeared in print, but when we were done, still had plenty of tales kicking around on the cutting room floor. So, over the next few months, we’ll be sharing snippets from the interviews that didn’t make it to paper and ink. From near-death experiences to the altogether more light-hearted, these are the Ireland Surf Stories.
Here’s the first, as told to editor Luke Gartside by Tom Gillespie, one of the original crew of hard-charging Irish bodyboarders.
Tom Gillespie: The thing with farmers is, when you find a wave, you need to figure out who owns the land and then you need to try and be as nice as possible, so then they think, ‘These guys are alright!’ I always think, [in the beginning] ‘They like us now, but they’re definitely not going to like us in a couple of years when this place gets really well known and there’s a load of cars down here.’
[At Rileys] Ferg went around in the early days with four bottles of whisky and called around to every farmer who owns the land around there and was like, ‘Look, I’m one of the surfers that surfs here, and I want to give you my mobile in case anything happens and I want to give you this bottle of whisky for any of the times we’ve inconvenienced you.’ Most of them were like ‘Oh jeez, thank you.’ One guy took it but barely said thanks and one refused the bottle, so Ferg just left it at his door.
I had a pretty funny encounter with a farmer down there recently. I went down there on my own and parked in a field that’s usually fine, although I was a bit paranoid. You can see the parking spot from the lineup and I noticed this red van driving around my car in the field, and I was like, ‘Oh fuck.’
Then, when I got back to the car, I saw someone had keyed the windscreen and there were scratches all over it. As I drove away, I noticed there was one scratch right in front of my field of view and I just thought this is so shit. I rang my mate and he said ‘Call the cops.’ And I was like, ‘Oh maybe, yea.; I didn’t think it was the farmer, but then I spoke to my other mate and he said, ‘I think the farmer has a red van- so maybe he did it because he was pissed off you’re parking there.’ I was kind of annoyed, but I wasn’t going to ring the cops on the farmer who owns the land at Rileys.
I was nearly halfway back to Lahinch, and I thought fuck this I’m just going to turn around and I’m just going to go and ask him if it’s ok to park there. So I drove back and I asked around like, ‘Do you know who owns the land down there?’ And a guy said ‘Oh yea, he lives in that house, and I think he’s there right now.’ So I knocked on the door, and this guy answered and said ‘Hello?’ and I’m like, ‘Hi, how you doing, I’m just wondering if you’re the guy who owns the land down by Rileys?’ And he said ‘Yea, that’s me.’ I said, ‘Ok, I was just wondering if it’s ok to park there,’ you know thinking he was going to go mental, but he just said, ‘Yea that’s fine, as long as you close the gate behind you, that’s fine.’
And I was like, ‘Oh, right because I got back to my car then and someone had keyed it and scratched the windscreen’ and he said, ‘What, really?!’
And I took him and showed him and he said, ‘Oh no no, that’ll be the horses.’ I said ‘What the ff… the horses?’
Later, driving back, I stopped for a second and these horses come over to the car and started licking it, and then I noticed the scratches all over the car were in places that if someone was maliciously keying the car they wouldn’t have bent down to that area and done it there… so it was definitely the horses.
You know at first, when I was driving away I was really pissed off looking at the cracks thinking that someone did it, but when I was driving away the second time, thinking it was a horse, I’m going ‘Ah shit, can’t blame ‘em!’ Apparently they like the salt… [The farmer] was like, ‘They did it to my car before and they pulled up the windscreen wiper,’ and I was like ‘My windscreen wiper was pulled up!’ When he answered the door he was a big guy and he was looking at me all ‘What the fuck?’ but turned out he was really sound!
Cover photo: @lugarts