Hundreds of people came to Mullaghmore, Ireland to witness some of the best international big wave surfers riding the swell, which was caused by the storm Hercules. Some of the waves were up to 10 meters. Pros from around the world mixed with big wave locals for tow-in sessions. One of the spectators was the Irish sailor Finn Mullen, who had a Hercules windsurfing session, too. 

Read Finn’s story and watch the videos (one by Red Bull) about the big wave session at Mullaghmore.


Finn Mullen challenging Hercules

Finn Mullen challenging Hercules – Pic: Al Bennett



A story by Finn Mullen

Recently a huge storm hit the North Atlantic – some were calling it the biggest ever swell – ‘Hercules’. For a sport that relies so much on the internet for forecasts, for once you didn’t need to go to the web to check the wave height or wind speed – it was on the radio, TV and the good old fashioned newspaper. ‘Biggest ever !’ – for a surfer this was a media storm like never seen before. For the media, this was a storm like never seen before by a surfer and it was called ‘Hercules’!


It’s hard in times like these not to get caught up in the hype but as much as I wanted to keep an open mind, Hercules was a solid 20 x 20 forecast – 20 feet at 20 seconds and for a week the forecast never changed, almost unheard of in Ireland with or without hype! Even more different was the track – the storm was coming up from the SW Atlantic as opposed to the normal NW approach – that meant the SW coasts of Cornwall, England and Clare in SW Ireland were facing the full force of the storm but would it be too big? – there was little advice my friends there could give as no one had ever seen a swell this big before.

My third option was to stay local around NW Ireland – this had an element of the unknown too as the swell being so South would it come in with the strength of Clare or Cornwall?- it was a tough call but in the end the risk of travel seemed too great and with some of the world’s best big wave surfers descending on NW Ireland there was always going to be a home grown show to watch.


Finn Mullen - Pic: Al Bennett

Finn Mullen – Pic: Al Bennett


Morning came with a dramatic dawn of sea spray, hail and brooding grey skies – being Ireland this was rapidly replaced by brilliant sunshine and clear blue skies on a 15 minute rotation of good, bad and very bad weather. Enduring the best of the worst was big wave stalwart, Al Mennie, part of the first tow team out at Mullaghmore to test the leading edge of the swell – watching from the shelter of a nearby hill definitely felt like the better option at this point if not the bravest.

The swell was huge… biggest ever? – not at this point – the forecast hadn’t changed but the sea and forecasts don’t always add up as any wise sailor knows.

Hundreds of people now lined the cliff eager to see the ten tow teams whipping into the sort of barrels that has made this remote headland so famous. The peak looked too much to paddle but keen to contradict the view were local bodyboarders Conor Flanagan and Shambles McGoldrick. The young chargers proceeded to put on a jaw dropping and game changing display of what was possible on bodyboards but not yet and maybe not ever on surfboards. Mayo man and all round wave wizard, Fergal Smith paddled into one prone and Tramore legend Henry Moore broke his beloved gun in his paddle effort.

The tow teams had respectfully sat aside for the paddle session but were soon back to cold water cavern chasing once the paddle pack were done. I was still watching, the wind was too offshore and the waves now too hollow on the dropping tide for anything other than tow assisted tubes. A well timed front veered the wind round to a more cross off shore direction and I abandoned any ideas of a Mullaghmore mission for an exploration on the coast for somewhere to catch a few before dark.


SLIDE SHOW (Touch-enabled, if you have a smartphone or tablet you can swipe through the pictures!)



What I found was a chunky reef break and a wind that in an ideal world I’d have taken a 4.2 and a small board but this being a world of 7 degrees, hail, huge gusts and lulls, I took a 5.0 Severne Blade  and 92 litre Starboard Quad to guarantee a ticket back to shore. After being a spectator for a few hours the first wave was a welcome and overdue change of pace, as I sailed out the back the view of the swell lines breaking on rarely seen outer reefs was proof that Hercules was anything but legend. Inshore the wave size was smaller but you still had to be selective as the 20 second period meant an equally powerful rip as the reef tried to restore some order to the storm’s surge of surf rushing over its rocks. I was happy to have an hour of fun before the wind dropped completely and I squeezed a ride in to the very downwind edge of the reef where seabirds rested next to seaweed, oblivious to how grateful I was to meet them.

It always strikes me as funny how much we love to admire human actions on seas that our animal kingdom face on a daily and much more enduring basis without any praise, any wonder the birds were not impressed :). That evening the storm marched on further south to France, the Canaries and Africa, in its wake, a costly trail of destruction and a reminder of how we can enjoy the sea, call its storms silly names but never lose respect for its strength or be anything but humble to its power. Huge thanks to my friend Al Bennett for dodging the hail showers for the shots.


To keep track of Finn’s adventures follow him on Twitter: Finn Mullen Twitter 


Mullaghmore Big Wave Surfing – a video by Red Bull


Irish news report