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by Ed Temperley on Tuesday 15th February, 2011 415593 Views
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TWENTY foot Mullaghmore caverns welcomed the coming of age of Ireland's big wave scene this weekend. The inaugural big wave invitational backed by Billabong and Monster was won by Eric Ribiere and Benjamin Sanchis in front of a packed headland cheering each twisted tube.
It's Ireland so the sports fans are always going to be vocal and where big wave surfing differs from standard chop-hopping is the accessible scale and the spectators were packed tight like blades of grass. "It's the most spectators I've ever seen at a surf contest in the British and Irish isles so that's got to be great for event sponsors and publicising Irish surfing in general."
The winning Irish team was Peter Conroy and Glyn Ovens. Wave of the day went to Gabe Davies who pioneered Mullaghmore with tow partner Richie Fitzgerald who took the beating of the day and sustaining a knee injury to boot.
Biggest barrel of the day was awarded to Al Mennie whilst Easkey Britton the solo female proved that it's not just a lads' game. © 2013 Gary McCall/potatobread.co.uk
"That left is crazy. One of the best lefts I've surfed in my entire life" said one half of the winning partnership Eric Rebiere.
This was just one swell in an insane run of swells for Ireland and believe it or not Mully is capable of delivering even more.
Chief organiser Paul O'Kane was a deservedly happy man, "We're just stoked that everything worked out so well. The waves at Mullaghmore can be bigger but they were perfect for this first competition. These waves were about 20- 25ft but it's a really heavy wave with a twist. Once you're on the twist, you're on a roller-coaster. The important thing was that everyone stayed safe out there. Everyone was really looking out for each other." © 2013 Bonnarme/Aquashot.fr
The other half of the winning team Benjamin Sanchis apparently received a congratulatory phone call from Kelly Slater, who himself is thinking of taking up big wave surfing full-time.
"It's been a journey." Said Paul O'Kane. "Everyone was watching each other, pushing up the level and seeing Sancho coming in deep from behind the peak was an eye-opener. The sheer level of skill was incredible." © 2013 Gary McCall/potatobread.co.uk
The stir-crazy wipeout of the day went to Gabe's partner and Mully pioneer Ritchie Fitzgerald.
"I've got some pretty nasty swollen-to-hell ligament damage, I went over the falls in the barrel with back foot still in the straps and it completely twisted, I heard a nasty crunch, got held down for two waves and I was on the verge of blacking out.
"It took a few minutes after Gabe picked me up to get my vision back, and air in my lungs. Gotta love getting smashed and I'll be on it again as soon as it feels good." © 2013 Conn Osborne
So how come it's taken so long to hold a big wave comp in Ireland?
"I think only now are we at the right stage that we can hold one." SaysAl Mennie. "There are only a very small crew of us here that surf big waves. It takes a lot of patience to score in this wild weather battered country and only within the last few years have we become confident in making calls on swell and weather conditions. That's vital in holding a big wave comp on an island so susceptible to weather. It's obvious we have a cold water Teahupoo here and we have surfers capable of surfing among the best on the planet."
Andrew Cotton agrees, "It takes a lot of organisation and balls to put it out there and get the ball rolling, it's not just a simple case of rocking up and holding a comp on any given weekend. Luckily Paul stepped up and had the passion and belief in actually getting it together and fair play to him." © 2013 Gary McCall/potatobread.co.uk
One school of thought about big wave competition heralds them as facilitating a new professionalisation. Gary Linden (Big Wave World Tour director) is convinced that it is only through having a world champion and a structure taking the best from the ASP that you can progress the sport.
Paul O'Kane agrees that this has pushed the whole game forward. "At a time when getting money out of anyone is impossible Billabong and Monster stepped forward and put up the cash to make it happen. We couldn't have done it without that support and we hope to make it an annual event." © 2013 Bonnarme/Aquashot.fr
One question which is bound to be asked is: Why is this a tow comp not a paddle?
"I think you'd struggle to fill the places if it was a paddle comp out there at this size! Said Andrew Cotton." Al's paddled it numerous times when it's been huge but it's so hard. It's a pretty unpredictable wave, some just go inside out and get bigger as they run down the slab and others barely break. But it is doable if you're patient and don't mind taking the beatings between the odd wave."
Greg and Rusty Long attempted to paddle before the contest but just found the steps, bumps and double-ups impossible to negotiate.
"In the future we'd love to run a paddle round of the Big Wave World Tour in Ireland." Said Paul O'Kane. "Maybe at Aileens. At the moment we're battling with local authorities who just want to ban PWC water support. Sligo County Council are far more progressive in their thinking and we hope this will help to set the basis in place for a rational set of protocols using world best practise that we can all agree on across Ireland. Without a water patrol there can be no progression." © 2013 Gary McCall/potatobread.co.uk
Peter Conroy and Gyln Ovens came in a hot second winning the Irish division. © 2013 Conn Osborne
Easkey Britton as the only woman in the event came in first laying down the gauntlet to any other wannbe big wave ladies and proving she can mix it up with anyone. © 2013 Conn Osborne
Best pick-up (water patrol award) went to Lyndon Wake who can surf a bit as well. © 2013 Gary McCall/potatobread.co.uk
Barry Mottershead, one of the Prowlers pioneers was out there giving it all. © 2013 Gary McCall/potatobread.co.uk
Caught in the moment this wave can throw out the roundest most perfect looking barrels one second and then totally catch you off your guard the next. © 2013 Gary McCall/potatobread.co.uk
One golden moment for Gabe Davies. © 2013 Conn Osborne
For Ireland this comp was an ambitious and ultimately successful step forward, one which helps to progress the whole of Euro big wave surfing.
This is actually the first time Ireland has come together in this way to celebrate big waves outside the edited snippets of perfection that the world is previously used to seeing.
It was participatory, real, raw accessible and allowed the public to get involved. One day as it really was, no colour-correction required. © 2013 **Footage and commentary courtesy of Jamie Russell**
1st Open: Benjamin Sanchis and Eric Ribiere (France)
2nd Open: Peter Conroy and Gyln Ovens (Ireland)
3rd Open: Al Mennie and Andrew Cotton (N. Ireland)
4th Open: Gabe Davies and Richie Fitzgerlad (Ireland)
1st Irish Division: Peter Conroy and Gyln Ovens (Ireland)
2nd Irish Division: Al Mennie and Andrew Cotton (N. Ireland)
3rd Irish Division: Gabe Davies and Richie Fitzgerlad (Ireland)
4th Irish Division: Mikee Hamilton and Dave Lavelle (Ireland)
Best wave: Gabe Davies
Best/Heaviest wipeout: Richie Ftizgerald
Best barrel: Al Mennie
Most radical turn: Barry Mottershead
Most committed: Shane O'Connor
Best pick-up (water patrol award): Lyndon Wake © 2013 Conn Osborne
It's a Mully chicken ... unlike everyone in the water. © 2013 Gary McCall/potatobread.co.uk
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