WATCH Shambolic: An Ode to Sending It Headfirst at Perilous, Heavy Reefs

Jason Lock

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Updated 21d ago

Throwing yourself over the lip of heaving, emerald slabs that detonate with fervour across perilous reef, may not sound like everyone's casual day at the office – and there are few who do it with such aplomb than Ireland's Seamus McGoldrick.

You see, for years, Shambles has been at the forefront of that contingent of Irish chargers who have made it their business to sling headfirst down some of the world's heaviest waves. And his latest edit, Shambolic is an ode to the lack of a danger-reflex.

Forecast: UK + Ireland

The opening shot is a classic affair, an impossibly round keg that rolls out with just enough slow mo to set the tone for the following three or so minutes. Anyway, Shambles is an eloquent individual, so we tapped him up to talk about the latest movie, life right now, surfing's infrastructure in Ireland and more. Hit play above then dig into the interview below.

Firstly, that opening sequence is sick – when was this edit shot?
I asked Stephen Kilfeather to put this edit together for me for the Doolin Surf Festival last March. Stephen is one of Ireland's top surfers and also a talented videographer and filmmaker.

Most of the shots from this clip are from last winter with some classic evergreen content stuck in there too, for good measure.

That insane opening sequence was shot at Rileys late last year by an underground legend of the Cornwall bodyboard scene, Jacob Bartrop. Jacob has recently got into filming and has been killing it.

It is funny how bodyboarders turn into such good filmers and water photographers. Portuguese bodyboarder Joao Tudella is another perfect example.

Once he got a camera into his hands he started doing all this amazing and innovative work. Joao was another key contributor to Shambolic because he shot all the Mullaghmore water footage.

Guys like Joao and Conor Flanagan love floating around in hectic situations filming crazy water angles of heavy waves. And of course, myself, Jacob, Joao were all heavily influenced by Mickey Smith.

That Riley's session was pretty epic. The good vibes are strong in the water in Ireland at the moment. When I arrived I could see that there were some big slabs coming through. It was nice and sunny, not too windy.

I wasn't sure exactly how big it was until Conor Maguire and Gearoid McDaid arrived on their ski as I was getting changed. They immediately dropped the rope and Conor whipped Gman straight into a set wave, probably about 10 -12 foot, which he made

Conor Flanagan was already out there floating around with his camera watching the most insane slabs unloading on the reef. It looked solid, but I wasn't sure exactly how big it was until Conor Maguire and Gearoid McDaid arrived on their ski as I was getting changed. They immediately dropped the rope and Conor whipped Gman straight into a set wave, probably about 10 -12 foot, which he made.

Impossible to walk away from.

Impossible to walk away from.

What's it like towing and surfing Rileys at that size?
Towing Rileys at this size is basically like playing Russian roulette with a loaded gun. They were playing a dangerous game but they were mostly winning. Nevertheless, as they kept passing the gun between them eventually one of them was going to blow their brains out.

They both copped a few horrendous beatings. When they ate it they ate it hard but they popped up and shrugged it off with a laugh and got straight back on the horse.

They would let go of the rope early and try and tic-tac down the face and back door these massive peaks before the wave hit the shelf and the wave went inside out and upside down.

Sometimes they would almost lose their balance or only be holding on by their tippy toes. My heart was in my mouth watching them. Looking at them whipping into these waves from the channel I thought they were going to eat shit every time but they made it five out of six times.

Conor and Gearoid were going wave for wave towing each other into the craziest sets. It was honestly so nuts and I can't explain what a pair of legends these two young men are.

For me, it was super exciting because I haven't seen people towing big Rileys like that in a while. It just made me think of the crazy shit Fergal, Mickey and Lowey got up to during the Powers of Three era.

Those guys have all moved on with other phases of their lives and on that day at Rileys I honestly felt as if the torch had been passed. But instead of Powers of Three it was Double Trouble.

At the start I was a little nervous and kept paddling over to Conor [Flanagan] in the channel for reassurance. Conor was like a pig in shit, swimming under massive sets in the impact zone and snapping away as wave after wave detonated on the reef.

I managed to snag a few paddle waves in between the massive sets. Conor drove over to me on the jetski and asked me did I want a go next. I said, 'sure, why not.' But while I was waiting I went for another wave, wiped-out and unfortunately snapped my leash, which means I didn't get a tow off Conor. Gutted. Next time!

In his day-to-day, Shambles runs his own surf school Sligo Surf Experience.

In his day-to-day, Shambles runs his own surf school Sligo Surf Experience.

Nuts. It's those things that can make or break session but sounds like you got a few. And with Shambolic, it's not all Ireland right?
No, I go to the Canary Islands every year to visit some friends and surf in warmer water with the best bodyboarders on the planet.

I was lucky that a local photographer Daniel Meana sent me some clips from my trip there in November so I stuck them in for a bit of variety.

Tell us a bit about the cut, how did it all come together? You mentioned Doolin Surf Film Fest but these things usually take a lot of planning...
Yeah for sure, this clip came about because I wanted to enter a short movie into the Doolin Surf Film Festival. Doolin Surf Fest neatly filled the void when the late great Shore Shots Irish Surf Film Festival ended.

Although we are just this small island with a handful of surfers and even less bodyboarders, it is a really good idea for us all to come together at least once a year to celebrate what we have achieved collectively.

It is also a great way to give back to the hard working videographers and photographers how go to great lengths and endure all sorts of injuries and insults just to get the shot

After such a fun year last year, I wanted to support the event and enter a film. So I asked Stephen Kilfeather - who is also a talented filmmaker - do an edit. I thought if I scrounged around I could salvage some footage of this winter from a few unsuspecting videographers and Stevo would work his magic and put together something special. And that's exactly what happened, except that Doolin Fest was cancelled because of the world wide pandemic.

Stephen and me go way back. Right back in fact. The first people I started hanging out with when I started surfing were Stevo and his brother Andrew. Stevo was eight years old the first time I met him. In fact, I think he tried to start a fight with me even though I was a few years old. Stevo has a fiery temper back then but he was as cool as ice in the water. Stevo is a super smooth and stylish surfer; the best surfer of his generation.

Good lawd.

Good lawd.

And, how's Irish surf infrastructure right now? How are surfers in Ireland being supported?
Only about one-to-two max, 5 per cent of the truly great Irish surfers in the last 20 years have got any real support from the industry, financial or otherwise, to develop their talent to the highest level.

The surf industry continues to profit from images of waves of consequence all around the world. I think the industry needs to give back to these locations so that, at the very least, the local crews at these spots have access to jet skis and proper first aid equipment as well as jet ski training and surf survival training. But as a bodyboarder, it sometimes irritates me when I see some b-rate, small wave competition surfer from the USA, Europe or where ever, swimming in sponsorship and travel opportunities while guys at home like Tom Lowe and Conor Maguire have at times struggled to find sponsors

Professional surfing is a double edged sword. Introduce money into anything and it gets complicated and can sour quickly. Still, I do not begrudge any man or woman who finds a way to make some money from what they love doing.

But as a bodyboarder, it sometimes irritates me when I see some b-rate, small wave competition surfer from the USA, Europe or where ever, swimming in sponsorship and travel opportunities while guys at home like Tom Lowe and Conor Maguire have at times struggled to find sponsors.

These guys put their lives on the line to push the boundaries of wave riding globally and, luckily, they have found the support they deserve in recent years.

How’s the vibe in Ireland right now with the pandemic doing its thing?
The vibe is good now but, yeah, it was scary at the start wasn't it? When I first heard about the Wuhan virus on the news I was a bit skeptical about what I was hearing because the media in a country like China – a centralised, communist, authoritarian state - is highly controlled.

I was supposed to be going to Berlin at the start of March for a tradeshow. Then, in a shock move, they decided to cancel the tradeshow three days before it began because the coronavirus situation in Italy was starting to look a bit dodgey.

That was no small decision because it was one of the largest travel tradeshows in the world. At that point, Germany didn't have a single case of coronavirus. Two weeks later, Germany was at the centre of an unprecedented SARs epidemic.

About a week before Saint Patrick's Day, my good friend Shane Meehan came back from Mexico and convinced me to book tickets to Bristol because we had been invited out to the Wavegarden by Rob Barber along with Martin 'TK' Kelly from Portrush for a special session and with the cream of UK bodyboarding legends. On Saint Patrick's Day!

It was too good an opportunity to miss. I thought the virus would take a week or so to reach Ireland from Germany and I would be able to nip over to Bristol and get back to Ireland before it reached us and we are forced to do some kind of lockdown like they were doing in Italy at the time.

In the end, the Bristol Wavepool event was called off along with all Saint Patrick's day parades and celebrations. It wasn't your average Saint Patrick's Day. That's for sure. In the end, the Bristol Wavepool event was called off along with all Saint Patrick's day parades and celebrations. It wasn't your average Saint Patrick's Day. That's for sure

At the start of the month, coronavirus was just something China had and then it was something Italy had, then England got its first few cases, then Ireland and then it was something one of my friends down the street had.

Then the UK Prime Minister had it! It was surreal which is a feeling that I am sure every one reading this can relate too. Then the Pentagon released three videos of UFOs, which – if I am not mistaken - is kind of like the Pentagon was saying that UFOs are real.

And the craziest thing about that news story was that no one seemed to care!

First impressions of Bristol's The Wave? Here.

Wait, aliens? That slipped through...
No one took any notice. I guess so much crazy stuff had been happening in the news for weeks people took this as just another crazy news story.

Now, I haven't heard anything since on the news about it. But I still can't help but view that news story at the end of April as monumental. In any normal circumstance that would have been the news story of the year, surely. What could have been crazier?

Another moon landing perhaps? But nothing much came of it in the media as far as I can. It was basically just another news story.

So, yeah, it has been a crazy year. I pity my friends who have lost their jobs. Musicians who have has their gigs have been canceled for every month for the rest of the year. People who have lost their jobs because the company they worked for was hit by a financial crisis.

Is Ireland recovering now?
At the moment, Ireland is starting to try to reopen its economy from the virtual standstill it has been at for the last two month. It is still uncertain whether you will ever be able to fly anywhere, return or not, for sixty euros ever again.

I feel very sorry for someone who lost a loved one to Covid 19. Nothing really happened with the virus here in Sligo but I do know people who lost loved ones to suicide during the lockdown, which is equally awful.

So, it is been a painful time for much of humanity. I've just witnessed one of the largest waves of violent and non-violent protest ever happen in the United States. Ostensibly, the protests were sparked by a incident of police brutality.

Shambles' entry to the Doolin Surf Fest...

Any sign of a return to normality?
Yes. I think things should get back to normal over the summer here. People are talking about things going back to a 'New Normal'. But a new normal isn't really normal, I want things to back to normal normal.

I am now able to reopen my surf school as businesses are slowing opening back up in the west of Ireland. People won't be travelling abroad but the domestic Irish and English market should feed the Irish tourism industry for the next few months.

Tourism is Ireland's largest indigenous industry. It provides a lot of jobs in rural Ireland. Tourism in Ireland was hit first and hardest in this country and will take the longest to recover. But recover it will.

But we are surfers. We are resilient. We'll survive as long as we can surf. All we need are some tasty waves

Despite all the tragedy I think a change is good. The ability to chill out is good. The world has needed to chill out for a while. I am an optimist and I refuse to believe the worst predictions of conspiracy theories. I don't believe in my own bullshit and I don't believe in anyone else's bullshit.

I believe in eating right, taking plenty of vitamin C, vitamin D and Zinc and boosting my immunity by being in the ocean regularly. I feel this is the best way for me to do the right thing for society.

Obviously, there is a global recession coming and although every politician worth their salt these days is talking about sustainable development I thing the only thing they are capable of delivering in the current climate is sustainable austerity.

But we are surfers. We are resilient. We'll survive as long as we can surf. All we need are some tasty waves.