Simple, Clean and Green
Intro - With a coastline rich in some of the cleanest, greenest waves on the planet and plenty of wind knocking about, it's a wonder there have never been any wave tour events in Ireland. Big wave slayer Ryan Coote decided to end all that with a chilled one: The Rhino's Wave Charge
It is a truth universally acknowledged that, as far as Europe is concerned, the west coast of Ireland receives the best 'emotion in the ocean'. Swell stats tell no lies and wind stats speak for themselves on an island riddled with ancient myths. There are three sides to the island that all hold the wind and swell very well. A good number of Irish kite surfers are scattered around the coast but a gathering had never taken place, until May of last year.
Since then other 'tribal gatherings' have happened in some of the best waves in the cleanest water and, of course, with the best vibe. From Brandon Bay to Belmullet to Donegal; no contest format, no hype, no bubblegum - everyone's a winner at the Rhino's Wave Charge.
THE BEGINNINGS I had talked about running / holding / hosting (whatever was the appropriate term) a wave event in Ireland for four years. Often late into the night I'd search for a way to come up with a perfect wave event that everyone would be happy with. We never seemed to reach any resolution. This year I finally pulled the finger out. It was a little bit brown and smelly. But it was out. I could see the event happening.
But where would I have it? What to call it? Who was going to run it? Who would sponsor it? Who would we get to judge it?
This all went round and round in my head for weeks and months, and then BAM! We landed it one night at Kenny's house. The
idea was born. Fuck the whole lot of it - I will let the wind and the waves decide. One thing that was for sure was it had to be run
for the riders, by the riders. It was not going to be a competition but a gathering with our own rules that suit the riders not the sponsors. The only rules that I could think of - that I really wanted to incorporate into RWC ? were: if it was windy, everyone would be riding. If there is a wall in front of you, hit it. If your fellow rider is in trouble,then help him out. Pure, clean and simple.
The first event happened on the 2nd and 3rd May in Belmullet, West Mayo. We scored big time. Wave riders from the north, east, south and west turned up with their surfboards of all different sizes, shapes and colours, tuned up to the last and all eager to show off what they could do, and also, to see what everyone else was doing in the waves. This was the first time in Irish kitesurfing history that a wave-riding gathering was held. The coming together of the clans.
As the weekend approached the fever started to heat up. It started on the Monday with a few emails coming in from some riders, wondering what the call was going to be. A few texts, a few phone calls. I did my best not to jinx it. I tried not to look at the forecast until the Thursday morning.
Come on met charts! Come on Windguru! Come on Magic Seaweed! YES! Joy. I even did a small bit of a dance around the table. We have it: waves and wind. The location was posted on the website and all that was left to do was pack the gear into the van and hit the road.
I drove through the night for seven hours from the kingdom of Kerry, three hours of which were just spent navigating backcountry stuff. As I rounded a bend just after Achill I met Lar Boland coming towards me. I could see he was driving along with one hand on the steering wheel and a map in the other. He spotted me. I drove on.
My phone rang. It was Lar:
Lar: 'Am I going the wrong way or are you?' Ryan: 'You are mate'
Lar: 'Ah shit. Okay. Pull over and wait for me there'
The fun and games had started. We drove in convoy from there on. I was following my route-finder on my Nokia N95 maps programme and 25 minutes later was stopped, standing on a road that might well have been a sheep path. Lar got his own back and we were lost again. I had been to the Mullet before but I thought it would be a good idea to just zone out and follow the voice from the phone. Bad idea in rural Ireland. Ah feck.
A local sheep herder set us back on the right track again. Two hours later, as we pulled up behind the dunes, my heart stopped. I could see spray over the dunes. It was blowing 18 - 20 knots from the southsouthwest. I knew the swell was forecast to be four or
five metres, but as I walked up the sandy path through the dunes my heart was in my mouth. It was pretty big and I got a little worried. What had I done?
I had no idea how many riders would turn up. Of course I was a little worried that nobody would turn up. Now my worry was if they would be up to the call? On Friday morning Lar, Darren, Allen, Tom, Howard and I waited...
It was a shame because Elly beach couldn't hold the size of the swell; it was out of control. Because there were no local riders living on the Mullet, we didn't know if there was anywhere else working, so Lar and I went out, but it was only really survival riding with no real ridable walls to carve. It looked like everything was pretty much just big, mean close-outs providing mountains of white water. We moved to another spot down the island, which was a wrap-around wave. The main break at Elly beach is a left - as are most of the waves on the Mullet - but as luck would have it, we found a right. I love rights, the wind was good and there were really clean waves and sweet barrels. We sessionned it until dark.
A local surfer who had been watching came over to us later. He told us that the wave we were kitesurfing was called 'Tit Perfection'. I can see why they call it that as it was nearly perfect every time. Drip perfect, even with 20-plus knots on the face.
Two weeks before the gathering I had sent emails and texts to some photographers around the country that I had worked with before. I got the excuses: the 'sorrys', the 'maybes', the 'I might see you theres', but no 'definitelys'. I was not too worried about the fact that I didn't have a cameraman to cover the g athering. It would have been nice, but the gathering was for the riders and not about shots for articles.
On Thursday at 10.30pm I got a phone call from Stephen Holt.
Ryan: 'Stephen. How are you doing mate? What are you up to for the weekend?'
Stephen: 'Just picked up your text. I'm in Rosslare. I'm just back from Wales where I was over in my forest, see. Is it on?'
Ryan: 'Yeah. It looks really good'
Ryan: 'Belmullet, man. You keen?'
Stephen: 'Shit man, that's at least seven hours plus if you drive through the day. Six if you do it at night.' Ryan: 'I will cover your costs and feed you when get up here. I have some pretty good Organic Sausages '
Stephen: 'Okay Ryan. You better put on a good show. I'll see you Saturday morning. Bye'.
Ryan: 'Sweet. Drive carefully Stephen. Slaine'.
So day one of the RWC gathering was like a dream. Stephen had arrived at 7am and was banging on my van window saying: 'Sausages? Sausages! - It's pumping out there.' The swell had dropped a good bit, but was still nice and big. There were blue skies and a solid 20 knots blowing. I pumped my nine metre Neutron, grabbed my brand new green (very important) custom 5'8'' Underground and hit the water for the first session at around 8am. Second wave of the morning, went for a big aerial and landed out the back of the wave and snapped it.
'Ah balls. I hope this is not going to be one of those days' I thought to myself as I headed in to grab my 6'4'' rounded square tail. This time about ten other riders who had arrived in the night joined me. Stephen was set up on the bank above the path onto the beach. Afterwards he told me that as people were walking up the path onto the beach he could hear them talking and then, as they arrived onto the beach, they all fell quiet.
Soon everyone was on the water and there were lots of smiling faces. Most people were out on sevens or nines. The bigger sets of the day were still closing out the reef, but most had good, solid 12 to 14 foot faces. The bigger sets were pushing 18 or 20 foot faces in and sometimes you could squeeze out a quick turn before the lip came down. But the smaller waves were peeling for 60 or 70 metres. As a result, a good bit of slashing and bashing was done.
Throughout the whole day there was always between five and 25 riders out on the waves doing their thing. There were some broken boards and destroyed kites, but I think that everyone understands that it is the price to pay for playing with Mother Nature, and especially when you play with waves that crash onto rocks.
It was an amazing day with blue skies lasting through 'til about 3pm before the clouds came in with a massive squall. The wind swung on-shore and killed the beauty of the swell. Most people were already more than happy with their lot for the day.
A big thanks to our friends Cully and Sully who fed us with lovely soups both days: just what you need when you have been riding hard for hours on end! The sun started to set and some riders who arrived late were still squeezing the last bit of light out of the day. A great first day made a great start to Rhino's Wave Charge.
The second day brought cross on-shore wind and much smaller swell. So we went exploring and found the most amazing flat-water spot. I know, I know; flat water at a wave event? That is the joy of not being tied to any set structure. It was the first time in ages that I got excited about a flat-water location. The waves were poor and I had broken my board, so twin-tips were put together and we sessionned the mirror-flat water for a few hours. It was so nice setting up on grass and kiting in fresh water.
Sweet, sweet water. I stopped and looked at my feet at one stage and I saw fresh water shrimp. Now that's fresh clean water for you! I really enjoyed riding hard on my eleven metre Hadlow Pro on mirror-flat water for a change. Normally with wave riding we are always just on the edge of being powered up. It took a little while to get back into the groove with the twin tip tricks, but everyone had great fun. Francois was riding hard and he was definitely the most stylish out there, rocking the shorts and even a basktball vest top over his wetsuit. With some nice tricks he was looking pretty bling!
We finished up there at about 1pm and headed back to the beach in the hope that we might get a bit more of a swell coming up with the turning tide. It stayed at shoulder to head for the rest of the day with cross-onshore winds. It was okay, but not a tip on
the conditions of Saturday.
All in all we had a great weekend and a great response to the first of the Wave Charges. Respect to all the riders who pushed their limits. Most of all though, respect to Mother Nature. Catch you at the next one for sausages and super sessions.
Ryan has since been signed to the Ozone team. He also runs a kitesurfing school in Ireland: www.kitesurfireland.ie The next Rhino's Wave Charge took place on the 19th and 20th September. Check out www.rhinoswavecharge.com for more info on the RWC.
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