Surf Where You Least Expect It

Ton Koene/VWPics via AP Images

Ireland, known to outsiders for its castles, whisky, and lush green landscapes, has some serious breaks along its beautiful west coast. To ride them, you have to contend with frigid water, rough seas, and fickle conditions, but chances are you’ll have the waves all to yourself, give or take a few grazing sheep watching from a bluff. For The New York Times, Biddle Duke and his wife take a two-week trip up Ireland’s Atlantic coastline, out of season, to check out spots like the Cliffs of Moher and Coumeenoole beach for themselves. Conditions are hit and miss in June, but when it hits, it hits, as it did in County Sligo.

Mr. Stott and I connected through the New York surfer grapevine. Following his bread-crumb trail of texts, I found a narrow lane through a clutch of barns and farmhouses to a cove. It was a near windless afternoon, with head-high waves breaking over a smooth limestone ledge. On my scale it was excellent. For Mr. Stott it was an average practice day, so he surfed his tiny board with the fins removed for an additional challenge.

In the lineup with us was only one other surfer, Paul O’Kane, an Australian who’d come to Ireland 20 years ago for his honeymoon and, like so many others, stayed. Starved for it, I stayed in for hours. A contingent of friendly locals rotated through. Ireland is so far north that when I quit it was close to 10 p.m. the sun still just above the horizon. We had dinner, slept right there, and went at it again the next morning.

The swell lasted four more days. Between shifts in the wind and downpours we got our fill on that north coast. We moved our camp to near the ruins of the thousand year-old Rosslea Castle on a grassy bluff overlooking the two main breaks at Easkey, our only company a family of Germans who’d ferried over in their own van.

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