I finally made the road trip back down south to County Clare to collect a new addition for my ever-growing family of boards. Except this one is different. It’s the first one I’ve had shaped by the the legendary Tom Doidge-Harrison, board shaper, lover of Aileens and Patagonia Ambassador. And it’s bigger than most…
The last time I was down here was the start of the new year. I had some of the most amazing surf experiences that set the pace and tone for the rest of the year to come. I embraced ‘the call to arms’ at the Cliffs and paddled Aileens for the first time. No jet-ski for back-up. Just the ocean, me and my board, well Fergal Smith’s borrowed board!
I climbed down Ireland’s highest cliffs in the pre-dawn dark with all our surf gear. That goat path was mental, actually glad I couldn’t see the big drop-off on the way down!
Aileens or Aill na Searrach is a natural amphitheatre like no other, possessed by a dangerous beauty. It was exhilarating to take the drop there on my first wave, flying below the cliffs. A very different sensation to tow.
All going good until I tried to scrape over a set wave and it sucked me back over the falls. The board tombstoned for ages and I couldn’t believe the beat down such a beautiful wave can give you. I eventually came up gulping air to see Ferg’s lovely 7’8, he so kindly let me ride, in two pieces. Rest of the set landed on me and even what was left of the board tombstoned, dragging me under and sweeping me towards the foot of the cliffs. It was a hard swim out of there, trying to get back over the slab and avoid being swept into the boulders and facing a long swim back out around the line-up.
I was gutted about the board, and not getting the chance to get more waves. She left me humbled and hungry for more. But as Ferg says it takes time, experience and patience. This was an important step on my way to getting to know her – a fearsome, fascinating wave that has me under her spell now.
As a friend said to me, it’s good to be ‘tamed by the leen and keen for more.’ So keen in fact I called up Tom straight away, decided it was time I got my own equipment.
Tom is an epic shaper and charger, who knows the Cliffs more intimately than most – always pushing the performance bar out at Aileens and testing his knowledge on fine-honing the best wave-riding craft for the job.
He calls this one, ‘Easkey tweaked’, an experiment and evolutionary process for both of us. With a lovely and important message written on the stringer, “mind how you go.”
It’s summer time now so it could be a while before I can really test her, and myself. But who knows when the ‘leen may wake again? Meanwhile Ferg recommends I take her out and paddle her and get a feel for her when the surf is small and no good. A board like this moves differently, has a different speed, different glide, different power. And I can practice punching through waves too!
Check out more about this beautiful board-shaping craft!