Musings

Indecision

Ben Bulben across Sligo Bay

I like those spots you turn up so where you can’t see the breaking wave from where you kill the engine. Park up on the cliff, at the end of the lane, under the mountain, at the gate… sometimes you can hear it as soon as you get out of the car and sometimes, before you get out of the car.

Park and ride; Northwest Sligo, Ireland To check it or just commit and suit up. The latter is often more fun, throw the gamble in there. Though the days are only now starting to stretch, winter is for the gamble – suit up and get what you can before the darkness again envelops the moist with murk.

Someone has been counting and the figures make sense. It didn’t make me feel better to be told that prior to those few glory days of sunshine and clear skies last weekend, it had rained for the last 90 days. Ninety? Yes. Vindication. The bewildering sense that for so long, for reasons forgotten, something has been amiss. That said, the rain and gale-force winds had been back all week and I wasn’t sure if the had had actually come…

The arrival of the Mc-25, a custom surf mat build by Matt Fedden, opened a new world of wave riding. I’ve been riding the mats for a little while now and hope the consequent grom-revisited phase is an inescapable black hole from which there is no return. The Mc-25 had seemed to be rapidly approaching full qualification for integration into my ultimate quiver – a 5’10 Dain Thomas-shaped (Steve Lis shape) keel-finned twinny and the Rooster-shaped, 9’6 BeachBeat Pacer – the go-to craft for any conditions.

But. Now she’s gone.

This was a few days ago at a horror spot I’ve not surfed (for good reason) since 2006. The bomb sets you wanted nothing to do with. It was getting dark so finally I decided to make a break for getting out – paddling the five or so metres in from the take off spot to where the dry rock shelf first tilts into the sea. With just two metres to go a sneaker appeared from the gloom. It’s a hectic spot – one way in, one way out – right where the sets drain the water off the slab before pitching back onto it, barrell down in a few feet of water before, if you’re rather unlucky, squashing you into a cliff-face, tossing you up onto a conveniently positioned operating table where you’re set to work on by subsequent sets.

I let go of the mat for fear of getting pulled back and over the falls into about a foot of water. After I popped up I swam down along the cliffs dodging further sets searching for it. Scrabbling up onto draining shelves and across slippery boulders under 30 foot cliffs as it was going black… no sign. At that stage it was going to be a rather sketchy walk in the dark down around the cliffs through the intertidal to the harbour or an even sketchier scramble back around the cliffs, timing various steps and shelves with the lulls between sets so as to not get washed off in the dark, before finally legging it across the algae slimed shelf to the only entry/exit point.

Where she is now I don’t know. Hell of a wave though…

No Laughing Matter from Ian Jermyn on Vimeo.

I’ve been in touch with Matt Fedden and two new surf mats will be built. Magic mats? I’ll have to wait and see…