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Surfing Enniscrone’s big wave

Before setting off for Enniscrone I had to use a spatula to scrape the layers of ice off the car windscreen. It was showing 1 degree Celsius on the car monitor and the road from Ballina was icy and dangerous.

But I knew the surf was up. Conditions were looking good for some serious surfing  – and the opportunity to photograph the surfers.

Packing my camera bag into the car boot I wondered if any surfer would brave the ice and cold with the wind chill making it feel like an Arctic morning.

Surfing Enniscrone's big wave, February 12th 2018. Photo: Anthony Hickey
Surfing Enniscrone’s big wave, February 12th, 2018. Photo: Anthony Hickey

I wasn’t to be disappointed.

As I was parking on Pier Road, I could see a couple of hardy surfers, oblivious to the freezing February morning, pulling on their wetsuits at Enniscrone pier to take advantage of the near perfect waves that were roaring in off the big sea swell.

Enniscrone is a popular surfing destination, but it doesn’t get the same attention as nearby Easkey, one of Europe’s best surfing locations that offers surfers more reliable and consistently bigger waves.

Terror and ecstasy

However, on this morning conditions were near perfect.

A big swell powering in from the north-west and held up by a moderate offshore west, south-west wind, created 16-foot waves breaking over the reef that is located off the coastal walk north of the pier.

I have never surfed, but as someone who enjoys swimming in the sea, I know a little of the power a big wave breaking over your head and the fear and shock it can cause.

I cannot imagine what the surfer must experience with a skyscraper-like wave bearing down on them.

In his memoir, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, American writer, William Finnegan, describes the thrill of surfing the big waves:

“Being out in big surf is dreamlike. Terror and ecstasy ebb and flow around the edges of things, each threatening to overwhelm the dreamer.”

I’m not sure if the two surfers had similar feelings that morning, but it was certainly exciting to watch them take on the waves from the safety of the shore.

Enniscrone's magnificent 3 km sandy beach, backed by its rolling sand dunes looked even more beautiful with the coating of February frost. Photo: Anthony Hickey
Enniscrone’s magnificent 3 km sandy beach, backed by its rolling sand dunes looked even more beautiful with the coating of February frost. Photo: Anthony Hickey

Enniscrone’s coastal walk is a lovely spot, not just for a walk, but to watch the surfers in action.

In the clear air under blue skies, the panoramic views across the bay to Killala and Kilcummin Head were a joy.

And behind me, Enniscrone’s magnificent 3 km sandy beach, hemmed in by its rolling sand dunes, looked even more beautiful with the coating of frost.

Nephin capped in snow and shrouded by the approaching rain clouds from the south-west was the perfect backdrop to this beautiful scene.

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.