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 the best 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.
Part of the interview process involved re-telling some of the stories I’d already collected from other contributors to see what they might inspire.
When I recounted a story, told to me by Mickey Smith, about a vivid memory he had of surfing Aileens in the early days and a large pod of Orcas passing through the lineup, it sparked some reflection in legendary Irish bodyboarder Seamus ‘Shambles’ Mcgoldrick and the memory of a similarly mythological experience he’d had with a shoal of sea fauna.
Shambles: What Mickey did – and what a lot of surfers do – is bring surfing back to a serious spiritual connection with nature. You can go on waxing philosophical about all that stuff, but I’ve definitely had those kind of experiences and I know Mickey was really tuned into it.
When I first met him I was kind of on the fence, doing crappy little bodyboard competitions in Ireland, trying to get on the Irish team to go to Europe and the World Championships. It was all about trying to outspin your mate and saying, ‘Fuck the British guy, the French guy, the Spanish guy, I’m going to beat them!’ As soon as I got a taste of surfing Bumbaloids and hanging with Mickey and Jack [Johns], I realised that the whole competition thing just destroys the spirit of it. The boys were just silly and had the craic and would say, “This is your turn, you have this one, you can do it.” You’re not going inside and trying to snake someone to get priority. I mean it was really competitive, everyone wanted to get a better wave, but it was a good type of competitive.
I remember paddling out alone at Mullaghmore, one day, on the inside ledge. It must have been in spring because I wasn’t wearing gloves or boots or anything like that. I was getting some good waves and I was pretty amped, and then all of a sudden I started getting some little stings and I was like what’s going on? I looked around and there were all these little mini pink feckin jellyfish that must have just been blooming like crazy. I thought I’d muddle through it because it was kind of pumping, but as time went on there were just more and more these guys, to the point the water started to feel weird. I remember this set broke and washed through to the inside ledge and it was just half pink. They were all getting churned up and there was just bits of these little stingers everywhere. I duck dived and I got them all over me.
Underwater I could feel this electricity in the water, it felt like there was this mythological, massive sea beast lurking around and I’ve never really felt that before. That one stuck with me. When I got out I thought I was alright and then the next day my fucking ankles and my forehead were stung to bits.
Cover photo: @lugarts