Satrurday the 20th of September saw the annual running of the Paddlesurf Irish open in Co. Sligo. This is a fantastic even which see's the best of Irish and British surf kayak and wave ski paddlers battle it out on Ireland's famous west coast Atlantic swell.
This year was my second time competing in the Open. Last year seen amazing conditions and solid 10ft~12ft swell all day. This year the forecast was not so good. Earlier in the week it was looking like the event may have to be postponed but by Wednesday some swell had appeared and the green light was given by the organisers for the competition to go ahead.
Arriving in Easky on Saturday morning at 8:30am to a dark sky and a cold northerly onshore wind was not pleasant. After the last few weeks of sunshine and high temps this was a shock to the system and a reminder winter is on the way. Easky was flat!, so a back up plan was in place and a phone call from the judges confirmed that the comp would be moved 15 minutes up the road to a beach break called Trawee.
Here we found waves, sloppy and messy ones but it was enough to get the competition under way. The forecast was for conditions to improve during the day. I was in the 3rd heat of the morning the high performance (HP) class. My surfing was not high performance! It was conscious and reserved, and I knew by the standard of the other competitors in the heat that I had not done enough to impress the judges. I have done very little surfing this year and only got out last week for the first time in months. Not an excuse I know.
With only the top 2 from heats proceeding to the next round I had one last chance in the reps(short for repotage?) to go further in the competition. I had used my river paddles in the first heat and knew they were way to long for the surf kayaking and that a change might help my next run. Wave ski legend Marty McCann kindly lent me a set of his Micthell Blades, the improvement was instant. In this heat i really just enjoyed myself and surfed the way I would if I was out for fun. I seemed to work as I won the heat and was now in the quarter finals. As you get near the pointy end of these competitions you really see the top surf kayaker's up there game. Lots of aggressive turns, cutbacks and a constant hunt for aerial moves. The quarters were the end of the road for me but I didn't mind. It was great just to be surfing along side some of the best kayak surfers in Europe and the world.
By now the sun was shining brightly and the waves had improved for the top paddlers to battle it out for the silverware. Watching the likes of Chris Hobson a former World & current European champion rip up the waves is truly spell binding.
Well done to Aisling Griffin and Mike Barry from the Paddlsurf Ireland committee for organising a great event and to the judges and everyone else who made the day run so smoothly.
I must give a special mention to masters newcomer Bernard Walsh who came to me last week for some coaching and his first surf at Easky. He surfed really well all day and to his surprise managed to reach the quarter finals in his first comp! Well done.
Results on the Paddlesurf Ireland facebook page HERE
Kayak instructor, athlete, business owner and outdoor enthusiast from the west coast of Ireland.
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