Here a rough and ready roll call of BigStyle’s favorite spots around our little island.
Achill Island, Mayo
As far as I’m concerned every other spot in Ireland pales in comparison to this craggy rock off the west coast. The local trees have taken to lying completely horizontal in response to near constant gales, while the rest of the landscape has that windswept, rugged charm peculiar to this corner of the world.
By being lucky enough to be an Island Achill has a beach for almost any wind direction, allowing riders to take down their hoods for a spell when those balmy southerlies arrive. While the heavy Atlantic swells that batter the coast year round make for fantastic wave riding, the Island’s secret weapon lies at its heart. There’s a little lake just a few hundred metres from the ocean – exposed at one side to the expanse of the Atlantic, and at the other two mountains create a venturi effect that whips a ten knot breeze into a twenty knot session as if by magic.
Tearing up waves in the morning washed down with an afternoon flatwater sesh, a cold water nirvana.
This is small town Ireland at it’s finest. Duncannon comprises of a shop, a pub, a chipper and a kitesurfing school – all entirely owned by one family. Not famous for it kitesurfing pedigree in the last few years a few hardy locals, led by Mr. Niall Roche owner of Hooked kitesurfing (insert link) and BigStyle’s partner in crime, have turned this corner of Ireland into a mini-mecca for the kite scene.
The town faces out onto a long sandy beach that stretches down the coast for miles. While being susceptible to choppy waters at high tide this is still a spot that works on most winds, and when it works it works. The area also has a whole lot of other beaches only a short drive away, along with cliffs for jumping off and great bays and coves to SUP around when the wind’s not playing ball.
Locals claim that Duncannon has its own microclimate and I find it hard to argue. I have yet to see the sun not shining there – which is frankly scary by Irish standards.
Rosses Point, Sligo
Sligo’s coast is where generations of Irish surfers have cut their teeth, though recently a few world class kite spots have reared their illustrious heads. Most notably of these is Ross’s point, a beach split in two by a grassy headland that welcomes our prevailing westerlies with open arms.
A pair of local rippers by the names of Peter and Eamon Armstrong began a school there a few years ago. Since then the place has become a bit of a destination for Irish riders, and it seems the surfers might have been onto something as the wave riding is some of the best in the country.
This part of Ireland has no qualms about perpetuating a well worn stereotype. A travelling kiter will find no shortage of assorted Paddywhackery – flat caps, tin whistles, sheep wrangling, pints of Guinness… the list is endless. Set in the midst of all this bejaysus is a fine kiting beach with a generation of windsurfing pedigree behind it.
Castlegregory is another fantastic beach for a mix of good clean Atlantic breezes and pumping waves. For the adventurous souls there’s no shortage of surrounding beach and point breaks to explore, and it’s not out of the ordinary to befriend a cold water dolphin while out for a session.
Mulranny village stands beside a little collection of seaside lakes in the far west of the country, you might even pass through there on your way to spend a few days on Achill Island if you’re lucky. If the wind finds its way through the surrounding hills and inlets you could be treated to the flatwater session of a lifetime – though you might want to steer clear of the hardy local kiting crew.
Tullen Strand, Donegal
I like to think of Donegal as Ireland’s frontier. A big lump of a county with a coastline stretching all the way up to the northwest tip of Ireland. Here, once again, there is a million and one beaches to be explored and a wealth of great, clean waves and generally onshore conditions to be found.
Tullen strand is another favourite of the surfers, but the sheer expanse of the beach and variety of peaks leave enough room for everyone. Just keep an eye out for stray bullets from the army training ground that lies just behind the beach.
Finally it would be a foolish move not to mention Ireland’s own slice of Southern California, Lahinch Beach Co. Clare.
This is the favourite stomping ground of university surf club outings, while half the country learned to surf on this hallowed beach. The town is home to numerous murals of waves, surf shops and pubs such as O’Looney’s Surf Bar.
Recently the town has been getting an influx of kiters, it wouldn’t be uncommon to see a few kites in the sky especially if the wind happens to be blowing from a west-south-west direction. While not Ireland’s foremost kiting spot it’s a fine place to spend a few days, and you could always treat yourself to jumping over a pod of floundering surfers during their first lesson