Monday, May 26, 2014

Just a few random shots from the last long month...

The time goes pretty slow when you have the whole day to eat up so to keep me mind busy I often just go wandering, camera in hand. Here's just a few from the last month, some shots have been taken from me facebook so some will have a watermark.


Down the coast I

Me balcony view

Fireworks from me balcony

Experimental shot with 2 filters

Down the coast II

They seem to luv to blatantly drop in on fellow surfers here, have some respect


Sunday, May 18, 2014

The perfect Liquid Storm: 100ft Nazaré...

As a kid I always had a fascination with storms, during a lightning storm I would go outside and just sit and watch memorized by it all. At work lightning struck a high voltage power line pylon 30 seconds after I was on it, my ears were ringing from the instant crack as the lightning hit, while everyone else was freaking out I was thinking that was the most awesome thing I have seen and heard. When ever the ocean would get crazy at our holiday spot at Raumati beach I used to go down to the seawall and watch the swells smashing into it, one year the surf came over that wall and I thought it was the best holiday ever. When I first saw the movie “The perfect storm” in 2000 about a boat being caught in a storm so violent that a 101ft wave was recorded on a buoy off the coast of Nova Scotia I knew that I wanted to see that wave with my own eyes.

For years it was in the back of my mind until one day I witnessed not a particularly huge swell hit Aileens but a swell that created 70ft waves, I sat their for 6hrs in the cold wind hoping someone would turn up and surf it, but no one did and probably best they didn't! It reminded my how much I wanted to see that 100 footer, so when I saw the charts for the “Hercules” swell in January I looked at the places that might be surf-able and could get up to 100ft going on past conditions been surfed. Looking at Nazaré, in November 2011 Garrett McNamara had surfed a 78ft world record wave from a 6.5m@14sec swell, in January 2013 Andrew Cotton towed Garrett into maybe an even bigger wave from a 5.8m@16sec swell. So this was telling me the Hercules swell should be well over 100ft with the swell smashing the Portuguese coast at a whopping 9.8m@21sec. With me mind made up and with high hopes I decided to leave Mullaghmore behind for this one and head to Nazaré to chase my dream.

I'm comfortable in exploring new places by myself but sitting on the wrong side of the car driving on the wrong side of the road by myself was a bit daunting. Concentrating so hard on where I should be on the road in the dark I drove past toll ticket booths where apparently as I found out 50km's down the road I should've got a toll ticket. The lady at the toll booth said you have to have a ticket and I said no I haven't, then she said well that'll be €55!! Fuck me is this road made outta gold, didn't make that mistake again. Getting up in the morning and looking out from the balcony I could see the famous fort on top of that hill where all those photos are taken from saturating the net. Heading out for a look around the town you notice quickly there's pride in this town from how clean it is, sharp white edged walls and terracotta roofs, the footpaths hand paved with heart from small broken tiles. Women on the beach sorting and drying out fish caught by the men earlier in the morning. There's no McD's, KFC or other fast food chains here, all local little pastry and coffee cafés that give money directly back into their families, the way it should be. The fish here is amazing and caught fresh daily, on the menu where ever you dine and the dishes are to die for. So off I went, up to the hill to see the 100ft wave...

Sitting up on the hill watching the swell build going on what I've seen in the past in Ireland it just didn't look even close to big, it didn't feel huge. So I wandered down the steps on the front of the fort to watch it front on which is pretty darn spectacular to be that close to the surf smashing into the rocks directly below you. The mad thing is people from all walks of life are here to watch this spectacle, women with high street super high heels and €1,000 bags, guys in suits, hippies, families and shit load of photogs. It was so good to see this wave that my mate Cotty and his tow partner Garrett have put on the worlds radar has ignited the imagination in them. As dusk was approaching a flow of disappointment was passing through me, the waves were breaking a long way out but even with a set a lot bigger than anything else that come through just on dusk I can't say that I saw a 100ft wave. Cotty said to me beforehand that with the slight onshore wind it could take 20ft off the top of the wave, maybe in the morning with light offshores it might look different.

During the night the boom of the waves breaking were rattling the windows with ferocity. Hearing that during the night my hopes were high as I was sitting beside the fort waiting for the sun to rise. As the dawn broke my heart started to sink and I knew from that moment my dream of the 100ft wave wasn't going to happen. Don't get me wrong, it was big and maybe the biggest waves I've ever seen but it wasn't what I was hoping for. I have a huge amount of respect for Cotty, Garrett and the other crews taking on this wave, it's scary as hell out there. I'm not sure exactly what part they surf but there's rocks that are getting swamped by 20ft of white water then smashing the shit out of the cliffs, a place you don't want to be. Once a wave breaks out the back it's virtually white water all the way to the beach, how Maya survived is a miracle on it's own, and I'm sure she has a big pair for taking Nazaré on, respect. Even though my dream didn't come true this time I was stoked I'd made the call to come here and just watch the random madness of these waves breaking and experience the local culture and food.

One thing that's always been on my mind is how much do you take off the wave height from shooting so high up on a hill, that was something I wanted to figure out for myself. That angle definitely gives the photos a lot of deception of how big it really is, during the few days of my stay I went down to the beach on the south and the north side of the hill and took shots from sea level and 15-20m above to compare the shots from the hill. I kinda worked it out to be that you would may have to take between 25-30% off the height of the wave taken from on top of the hill, so if it looked like 90ft it would actually be 65-70ft but remember this is only what I have worked out and my own personal opinion, without being out in the water you don't know how much the bottom of the wave is below sea level. So personally the only place to figure out the undeniable true height is to photograph Nazaré from the water, this poses a huge problem with the shifting sand banks eating skis and people. You'll need a ballsy ski driver that really knows how to drive out of bad situations and keep calm as the adrenaline runs wild, as I said that'll be one scary place to shoot from.

2 different angles within an hour of each photo, that rock is 15m high

Nazaré is a spectacular place, beautiful and full of surprises. The wave is a freak of nature and I'm sure I never saw it anywhere near it's best, maybe this swell was too big to hit the right banks that warp the wave to great heights. Will I go back, yes, I love the place and next time I'm in Ireland I will be taking another trip down if it looks to be breaking and my dream now for Nazaré is to photograph Cotty and Garrett taking it on, maybe even photograph it from the water...


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I'm back...

   I conducted a bit of an experiment of non epic proportions by turning off me blog to see if anyone was actually following it, and nope no one was apart from family and a good mate in Ireland. So was this randomly thrown together of blabbering's a waste of cyber space? From the point of view of people on a higher mountain gazing down it's more than likely a total waste of time, but for my mate and my family for them to be able to see what I'm up to being so far away it's totally worth it. So here we go again, the random stories and photos in a life of yours truly is continuing on. Here's to my family and me mate in Ireland, thanks for your support. A lot of these shots have already been published on facebook but me family and mate don't have fb so no apologies hahaha

   Since I last wrote I kinda took a bit of a holiday in Ireland, it was so good catching up with mates and making some new ones. What was supposed to be 10 weeks turned into 17 weeks! Funny enough I can't say too much about it as I'm hoping my story of my time in Ireland will end up in a mag, but I can say I had loads of Guinness, fun and photographing big waves. Am pretty sure it was the most consistent average sized season Mullaghmore's seen in it's surfing history, some season to come back to! Think the guys and Easkey got a total of 7 XXL nominations from me shots, stoked for them as they were charging all winter and deserved every bit of exposure they got. And to top the adventure off "Prowlers" broke 6 days before I left, only the second time it has ever been surfed at this size, the first happened 8 days before I left in 2010! Getting one day out there was a dream come true nearly causing a breakdown with a few too many pints of the black stuff, but getting 2 days out there was beyond my wildest dreams. It's every photographers dream to get a break they are so passionate about going off, saying that thou if it wasn't for the crew that ventured out their it would be just another wave somewhere on the west coast. Big thanks to surfers Paul, Barry, Neil, Conor, Dylan, Kurt and the boat crew of Declan and Michal, you guys are legends.

   Strandhill, well what do I say that I haven't before? Pretty much the best place to live, it definitely has an identity of it's own with everyone who lives their embracing all it has to offer especially surfing, the music/pub scene, great restaurants/cafes, the coast and beautiful scenery. The people are still the same awesome smiley people, of course I had to catch up with as many as I could over a decent pint of Guinness or 2! Over the coming weeks/months I slowly caught up with everyone exchanging stories of the past 3 years and with the amount of waves this winter stories of new of the "Great winter of 2013/14" and meeting all the new additions with a mini baby boom. One thing I found a bit oddball though was my photo of Dylan@Mullaghmore that was used for a sign for Strandhill surf school had been ordered down by the good old Sligo council, just found it a bit weird as it wasn't doing any harm up their and everyone loved it.

   For me this trip was about photographing big waves and catching up with mates, I could not have written a script better for how my time panned out, a lot of highs. I've seen more big waves, had more pints, meet with more mates, made more new mates and most importantly have laughed and smiled more in 17 weeks  than I had in the last 3 years! A big highlight for me was meeting John's son, such cool kid, full of life. It was great to be able to hang out with John's wife Deb and their son so much, big thanks to Deb for helping me out with shopping and inviting me to Shells on numerous occasions. I'd also like to say thanks to Paul for involving me in the pumping big wave season, you're a kind person and a true mate. A big thanks to Graham and Claire for putting me up for a few days and letting me borrow the awesome red machine, and yes it would've made a darn funny photo with you and me in the front Graham! I'm still working on the gift I have coming for you, Irish customs sent it back so it'll be another month yet... Cheers John, you're a good mate and thanks for the hangovers!

  Aine and Sylvester good luck with the new addition on it's way and cheers for the dinners, it was totally awesome seeing you again. Bazza, what do I say. You've come a long way in the last 3 years, the confidence has grown in you for big waves and it made my trip seeing how you charge out at Mullaghmore. It's so exciting knowing that you will be out their on most swells in the coming winters doing what you do best, good luck for the coming seasons mate. Katie you're awesome and am so stoked I met you, I wish I had the chance to photograph you charging like a wounded bull windsurfing and wish we had met earlier on getting to know each other more exchanging big wave and travel stories over a few pints. The Strand bar and all it's staff once again cheers, Dave you're a funny fecka, cheers for the laughs. John, Johnston and Neil good luck with it all and I hope the big prints do your shop justice, thanks for everything and screw the feckn council and put me darn sign back up hahaha

   So once again I left, but this time leaving knowing I will be back and when I do come back it's going to be awesome. Thanks to all in Ireland and here's a few shots, what a tripping trip aye



Great music talent in Ireland

  If you're going to have a go at Mullaghmore you will need experience in getting smashed, good set of lungs, knowledge, 6mm wetsuit, skill and big gonads as this is what you should expect to encounter surfing this beautiful monster. Don't be a knob and paddle out their without watching the crew tackle it and having a chat with them first, they're good people and will help you out how ever they can to make your session as safe as possible. Mullaghmore is to not to be taken lightly, it's one frign heaving gnarly wave, here's some shots that might make ya think twice from this last winter...
That's 40ft on the face

Wave in a Wave

Better look up

Barry Mottershead about to be in a world of pain

Sancho getting blasted out of the barrel over a torrent of boils...