Surfers take to waves for winter


WATER SPORTS:While some people are wrapping up warmly in their winter woollies, Ireland's surfing enthusiasts have been taking to the waves in the Northwest.

Rossnowlagh in south Co Donegal and Streedagh Strand in Sligo saw plenty of action last weekend with surfers donning wetsuits to enjoy the good swells brought in by a westerly gale.

Winter is a popular time for surfing in Ireland, with more consistent swells than in summer months and water temperatures still not too cold, thanks to the Gulf Stream.

Last winter, big-wave Irish surfing was put on the international map when a group of extreme surfers rode exceptionally high waves off Mullaghmore Head in Co Donegal in early December. The monstrous swells were caused by low pressure systems forming in the Atlantic, and some days later, a record wave height of 17.2m was recorded by a Marine Institute weather buoy off the west coast.

It's not just the professionals who surf at this time of year - many beginners take to the water in winter, too. Surf schools are busy at weekends right up to Christmas with bookings for company and college outings, as well as from individuals, all keen to learn.

Surfing has extended the Northwest's holiday season in recent years - resorts such as Bundoran and Strandhill, which used to quieten down at the end of August, now enjoy an extended season with surfers checking into BBs and holiday homes.