Ireland’s rugged west coast is renowned for its wild waves, world-class breaks and invigorating swells. Giant walls of water pick up speed as they travel across the Atlantic Ocean on their way to the European mainland, crashing against the beautiful coastline to create awesome waves of up to 50 feet.
Known as ‘white horses’ for their pace and the colour of their broken white crest, the quality of these waves is measured by their height, speed, hollowness (the more hollow a wave, generally the faster it moves) and the point at which it breaks onto the beach.
There are good conditions for surf for most of the year along Ireland’s west coast, with a constant rumble of swell from September through to April. However due to the cold winter conditions, the two seasons of spring and autumn are generally considered the best times to take to the seas. The water is at its warmest, an average of 16°C, in August and September and drops to its coldest temperature of about 8°C in February and March.
In September and October the weather is still warm, there is swell coming down from the north and pushing up from the south and the hurricane season on the other side of the Atlantic in North America drives warm water across the west coast. This is the time to head to Irelands west coast and experience the optimum condition for surf!
Along most of the coastline’s handsome beaches you’ll find surf clubs where you can hire wetsuits, boards and book lessons whatever your ability. Surfing has been popular in Ireland since the 1970s, mostly with men, but in recent years the sports demographic has expanded to include many more women and young people. Several surf clubs and schools now run lessons exclusively for these groups.
So whether you’re male or female, young or old, beginner or expert and whatever you’re into, be it surfing, body-boarding, long-boarding or boogie-boarding, there’s no excuse for not breaking the Irish waves!
Best Surf Spots
Tucked between the windswept outcrops of Mayo and Donegal yet in full view of the Atlantic rush, County Sligo is the outstanding place to catch the Irish surf. Visitors to the region will be able to experience stunning countryside and old-world charm of the county’s villages and pubs as well as its beautiful beaches.
The Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, Sligo just outside the town centre is only 2 kilometres from the coast and ideally positioned as a central base to explore the finest beaches and most thrilling surf the county can offer.
Strandhill beach is considered to be one of the leading surfing beaches in Ireland – in fact currents and swells are so strong there that swimming is actually forbidden. As a north-facing beach, Strandhill picks up any type of swell producing some huge waves and consistently great surfing conditions all year round. The beach is home to County Sligo Surf Club which provides shower and changing facilities to visiting surfers.
Aughris is a small harbour town with a great surfing inlet. The unspoilt sandy beach is wave rich and enjoys the unbroken, rolling breaks of the Atlantic as it rushes towards the coastline. Tucked out of the way, this quieter beach of West Sligo is a gem well worth seeking out.
The riverside town of Easkey is predominantly known for its great trout and salmon fishing, but internationally it’s also becoming popular for great surf and is home to not one, but two reef breaks. A major attraction to visiting surfers it the way the incoming ocean breaks over rocks rather than on sand, creating vast waves which are hollow and faster than the average beach break. The Irish Surfing Association has its headquarters on the town’s Main Street.
The long sandy beach at Enniscrone stretches over a vast area of shoreline and offers exhilarating breaks to surfers of all levels. There are two surf schools on the beach offering lessons and equipment hire to experienced and wannabe surfers.