First spotted as a spinning wind somewhere off the coast of Newfoundland, the level of hype ahead of last week’s swell looked, to a miserable pessimist, like a recipe for disappointment.
However, after Hurricane Epsilon merged with another Atlantic depression early in the week, it did just as it was supposed to, making landfall on Wednesday as one of the biggest, cleanest swells of the last decade.
While all sorts of corners lit up, the spotlight shone firmly on Europe’s two big wave behemoths; Nazaré and Mullaghmore, with Conor Maguire’s massive tow wave at the latter serving as the defining moment.
Already a prep-heavy pastime, with all the jet-ski rinsing and inflation vest testing, Conor was forced to take things to a whole new level last week, as Ireland entered a new level of lockdown. He sought special permission from the local council and the RNLI and with a team of Mully’s most experienced watermen, installed one of the most comprehensive risk-managed safety protocols ever seen in the big wave world, including masked safety briefings, multiple ski drivers and clifftop spotters, waiting paramedics and more.
Dystopian levels of bureaucracy for a sport long-heralded for its divine simplicity, sure. But necessary for Connor to insulate himself against both the raw power of the North Atlantic and the subsequent wrath of the keyboard warrior. And in the end, totally worth it, we think.
In Nazaré, conditions were the best ever, according to G-Mac, with many very big waves bounced down. Whether they’re the biggest or not remains to be determined by a team of data and optics analysts, however until all that gets underway and numbers start getting generated, we can just enjoy the watery descents for what they are, which is pretty fucking mental.
Alongside all the usual circus acts, we got news that conflicts between some of the tow teams, which often bubble just beneath the surface, had erupted into full-blown confrontation, with reports of punch ups and even an accusation that a jetski driver had attempted to mow down a surfer who’d crossed him. Attack with a motorised vehicle would be very alarming in any other context but appears to have largely glossed over in this instance. I suppose when you’re dancing with death, what’s a bit of grievous bodily harm between friends?
From Galicia to Hossegor, any wave that could hold the size pumped, with Basque chargers fanning out between Menakoz, Mundaka, Belharra and more.
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Surf overdose, Vitamin D recharge and a thousand hours of sleep in these eternal nights…we’ll sure remember this weekend for a long time. Now my granpa body is looking forward the exciting chair and screen week. #BarrelFest #JustTooGoodToTakePictures #NoPhotosJustWonderfulMemories #MuchasComidasYMuchosGritos #TutusSinManos #CofidisTuEnpadronamientoDirecto #SeLoJuroAgenteSoyLocalDeIbarrangeluAunqueEnMiDNIFigureElche
In south west Blighty, options were a little more limited, but a Cornish novelty point was reportedly the best and busiest its ever been, while up in North Devon surfers dodged a washed-up shipment of adult nappies to snag a few good ones.
In the highlands, the reefs fired for a charged-up crowd of locals and visitors from across the land, drawn by the promise of pumping waves, the sunniest week in Scottish history and fields carpeted with mushrooms. And across the North Sea, Lofoten in Norway enjoyed dreamy conditions in a manageable size range.
As soon as the swell began to retreat and surfers returned home, rumours of looming confinement began to swirl and soon enough, England, France and Spain joined Ireland and Wales in a state of full national lockdown. It might seem trivial in the face of such circumstances to be so totally consumed by matters of wave sliding, however, we think fixating on the little things that have the potential to bring a bit of joy is by far the best course of action. So this time around we say, be sensible, follow the rules, but for god’s sake surf if you can.
And if you need something to help you escape during those longer darker days at home, may we suggest treating yourself to our brand new print edition, now available with free Allpress coffee to enjoy it with. You can see what’s inside here and browse our full range of subscription deals here.