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What’s So Special about Irish Surfing?

By Lucianne Hare
More by Lucianne

Why are Irish beaches among the best surf spots in the world? 

Where to begin? When I moved to Ireland I was surprised to discover that it has some of the best surf spots in the world. Surfers of every ability come here and are mesmerised by the contrast of being submersed in the ocean whilst looking back at shear mountain landscapes, green fields, churches and livestock. Theres nothing like running through farmers fields, scaling cliff edges and walking down hidden paths to access your surf spot.

It also helps that each surf village is also accompanied by at least one pub – often with a roaring turf fire, local beers on tap and perhaps even some traditional Irish music. 

Wether you’re an experienced surfer or a complete newbie, Ireland can accommodate all year round. It’s home to some of the most passionate and knowledgeable surfing instructors in the world and you’re guaranteed to have fun whatever the conditions might be. No matter what level you are, there are plenty of surf schools and instructors who can help you perfect your technique or learn new skills. 

As a fairly new resident of both Ireland and the surf world it didn’t feel right to only share my perspective- so I asked a couple of men who really know their stuff to help me out!

Conor Maguire, Professional surfer for Redbull - from Bundoran, Co.Donegal, Ireland

“Ireland has one of the most wave rich coastlines in the world. We’re the battering ram for swells generated in the Atlantic which means there’s no shortage of days to surf either. Our world class breaks attract surfers from all over the world throughout winter with everything from big waves for the more advanced surfers, to smaller, more user friendly beaches and reefs for beginners and intermediates”.

Surfing in Ireland is a unique experience to say the least. Our breathtaking coastline brings an extra special element to it all with amazing waves perfectly positioned in the most beautiful locations. Sheer cliff faces, mountains oozing with character and enchanting castles that could tell a tale or two are some Ireland’s best attributes. 

An aspect of surfing in Ireland that a lot of traveling surfers comment on is our energetic pub culture. There’s nothing a pint and some tunes after a fun day in the sea with your mates. Nowhere compares to home in my opinion.”

Anthony Keaney, Surfing Instructor - from Co. Cavan, Ireland

“The profile of Irish surfing has recently risen on the world stage, helped by big wave exploits at breaks like Mullaghmore and by the next generation of rippers like Gearoid McDaid. There are many variables that one takes into account when considering a destination for a surf trip. People tend to weigh these variables differently depending on their individual preference. To one person solitude may rank higher than the social element or perhaps vice versa.

Surfing in Ireland is about quality of experience and is more experimental than theoretical with the variance of great scenery, friendly people and even better craic. Even the inevitability of rain can’t dampen spirits on a surf trip to the emerald isle. The cool, clear waters off the Irish coastline make a great place to be a surfer and the perfect destination for any kind of surf trip”.

Where are the best surf spots in Ireland?

The west coast is where you’ll find Ireland’s surfing beaches. Though most visitors want to head to the southwest, it’s really in the rural northwest corner of the island that you’ll find not only the best landscapes for hiking but also the best beaches for surfing (in fact, many of the best beaches in Ireland are actually north of Galway, mostly because they’re off the beaten path). Read on for a selection on a few surf spots that we’ve selected.

Bundoran - Co Donegal

Remote County Donegal is one of Ireland’s most under-rated regions. At the southern end of the region is the snug old-school surfing town of Bundoran. Bundoran’s coastline has several different surf spots – some great for beginners and others only really for intermediate or even advanced level surfers. Good to note that there’s a massive music and surf festival every summer called Sea Sessions.

Rossnowlagh - Co Donegal

A popular spot for bathing, surfing and even kitesurfing, Rossnowlagh is a large beach in southern Donegal – in fact, the beach is about 3km in length. Unlike the other beaches on this list, Rossnowlagh doesn’t have it’s own village. Rossnowlagh Beach is recognised as one of Ireland’s best Blue Flag surfing beaches. If you’re looking for big waves, autumn and winter is the best time of year. The closest towns are Ballyshannon – home to the famous annual Rory Gallagher festival – and Donegal town.

Strandhill - Sligo

Strandhill, just 10 km from Sligo town, the regional capitol, is a tiny coastal village known mostly for two things: Surfing, and Shell’s Cafe. This popular surfing village is always lovely but really comes to life when the sun is shining. Looking to stretch your legs? Strandhill village is tucked under the shadow of Knocknarea Hill and its massive Neolithic cairn atop the mountain, or else you can stick to the coast and walk out to the tiny ruins of Killasprugbrone Church. And brunch at Shell’s Cafe by day and a pint at the Strand by night are a must!

Easkey - Sligo

Easkey is a small town on the narrow coastal road from Sligo to Ballina. Home to a pretty interesting fortified tower (complete with a “hidden” set of stairs to the top) and a cute downtown, Easkey also plays host to plenty of surfers. However, the waves here aren’t as calm as they are in Strandhill or Bundoran, and is really only be for confident surfers. Afterwards, check out Pudding Row, an award-winning café in the village.

Lahinch

Heading down the coast, Lahinch in County Clare is another cool surf spot. Because it’s further south, it’s probably the most well-known surf spot on the list. It’s proximity to the famous Cliffs of Moher makes it all the more popular. Lahinch’s downtown is also larger than Strandhill or Easkey. As for the surfing, it’s lovely for all levels and even perfect for beginners.

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Meet the Author: Lucianne Hare

“Swapping the gentle hills and lakes of Yorkshire for the wild landscapes and rugged coastlines of Sligo and Donegal, Lucianne is our resident expert surfer, swimmer and all things water sports.”

View profileMore by Lucianne

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