What was it all about?
The north Mayo coast is a bit of a mystery to our little crew who are mostly spotted around the balmy beaches of south Mayo, but to see a 150 foot tall sea stack rising out of the Atlantic opposite 350 million year old sea cliffs and caves, we were willing to take a drive.
The plan was to get on the paddleboards and paddle a round trip of 2km from the car park featuring a nice little food truck by the name of ‘Tea by the Sea’ (dishing out cups of tea and curry chips), through the interconnected sea caves, emerging out in front of the famous sea stack and then rounding back to our entry point via the open sea.
It more or less went to plan.
We discovered that even though there were almost no waves that day the power of the sea out there was still incredible. In the caves we were sucked back and forth as they filled and emptied and then out beside the caves we rode what felt like 10 feet up the side of the cliffs at the crest of the swollen waves, and we dropped down the same amount in the dips between waves. It was a fairly hectic experience.
Despite the surprisingly challenging conditions the experience was otherworldly. At the foot of the sea stack we looked up to see all manner of birds circling high above us and we were lucky enough to have a pod of dolphins cruising around below us. It was one of those rare feelings of being a part of nature rather than just a bystander. I find these moments tend to come when you’re properly present for a moment in a vaguely threatening wilderness.
Reaching the mouth of the biggest sea cave and having Dún Briste (what that big sea stack prefers to be addressed as) perfectly framed in the arch of the cave.
Having underestimated the power of the sea that day I decided to bring my dog, Mara, on board. She got swept overboard when we paddled over a small reef with a breaking wave and despite having her in a little canine buoyancy aid she was extremely rattled.
I had to maroon her on some land and come back and fetch her.
What I’ve learned for next time
Don’t underestimate the power of even some very small waves at the foot of sea cliffs and caves. On a calm day like we had it was very easy to get into a dodgy situation, if there was any more power in the sea that day it could have been very dangerous.
3.5 out of 5
On that day it wasn’t overly difficult, anyone with strong paddle skills could do it. The difficulty came in judging what was an acceptable level of risk, making a call on the weather and having a rescue boat on hand to get everyone out of harm’s way if something did go wrong.
Definitely not a trip for anyone to take on alone, or in a group unless there’s a qualified guide or a very competent leader involved.
Stand up paddleboards
Ropes for towing someone out of harm’s way
A phone in a waterproof pouch
Plenty of skill and experience
A good knowledge of the sea and ability to read a weather forecast