What's Happening in Belfast blog

Biggest swell found by top surfer

Al Mennie, one of the world’s top big wave surfers has found two spots off Ireland where he believes there could be waves up to 120ft high.

The thrill seeker has surfed in some of the world’s most extreme conditions, but he is still looking for perfect conditions where he can take on the largest swell on the planet.

“This is my mission. The good days are few and far between – 90% of the swells are unrideable and we’d reckon that only two days each year are rideable,” he said. “We’ve been out and ridden them. They weren’t enormous but we are waiting for the right conditions.”

Portrush local Mr Mennie and his Devon based right hand man Andrew Cotton will not disclose the exact locations of the waves because they do not want amateur surfers to attempt the virtually unrideable waves.

One of the waves is off the coast of Co Antrim the other is off the west coast of Donegal. The waves are dangerous because they crash down onto rocky reefs and the water can be as shallow as five feet.

“One of the biggest concerns we would have is that someone inexperienced would turn up and try to get fame and glory,” he said.

“Because of the very specific bottom contours on the seabed and the weather, that’s what makes these waves. We have to understand how the whole place works for safety – what happens if something goes wrong, access, getting to hospital. A number of these waves that we have around the country could be the biggest in the world. There’s no doubt about that at all, 100%. It depends on the storms coming across the Atlantic.”

Mr Mennie has already surfed the notorious Mavericks waves off California, Aileen’s below the Cliffs of Moher and 90ft waves off Portugal.

“I looked for the same characteristics in Ireland as in the US and Hawaii and now we’ve found waves in Ireland bigger and better. The tables have turned,” he said. “We are doing the same as Hawaii but they’re in board shorts and sun cream. This is the extreme. We’re wearing six millimetre-thick wetsuits in water 10C and near freezing air temperatures.”

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