Boffins and dudes agree Aileen's is the perfect wave


IT IS a magnet for surfers, a nightmare for rescue agencies, and now it has attracted the attention of NUI Galway (NUIG) researchers.

A team of geoscientists at NUIG have found that north Clare’s infamous surf break, Aileen’s, is the nearest thing to the “perfect wave”.

What’s more, the NUIG team has applied computer modelling and physical analysis to determine how Aileen’s regularly reaches wave heights of over nine metres (29.5 feet). National seabed survey data shows the full extent of the jagged shallow rocky reef that helps to create it.

Aileen’s, which breaks below the 200-metre-high Cliffs of Moher in north Clare some four kilometres southwest of Doolin, has become a key location on the world surfing map, and was captured in the award-winning Waveriders film documentary by Joel Conroy in 2008.

Local surfer John McCarthy is credited with naming it after the nearest headland Aill na Searrach or “leap of the foals” – named for the seven Tuatha Dé Danann who transformed themselves into young horses and bolted over the edge of the precipice.

The steep face that Aileen’s is best known for allows for high surfboard speed. It also creates a vortex or “barrel” in which the most experienced surfers love to ride – using the tow-in surfing technique where a surfer on a lead-weighted board is towed behind a jet ski and whipped into the wave.

The Californian Malloy brothers, featured in Waveriders, have compared it to “Jaws” or “Pe’ahi”, a surf break that is reported to be able to reach heights of 36 metres off the island of Maui in Hawaii.

Keen surfing “dude” and NUIG earth and ocean sciences undergraduate Alexander Hart initiated the research project, working with supervisor Dr Martin White of the earth and ocean sciences department, PhD students Siddhi Joshi and Damien Guihen and post-doctoral researcher Garrett Duffy.

Dr White says mapping with the multi-beam acoustic seabed profiler on the Marine Institute’s research vessel, Celtic Voyager, was combined with Mr Hart’s own wave modelling – a single-beam system mounted on a raft which was towed out in a small craft.

“It is the first time that Aileen’s was studied in this way, though we have the evidence from surfers who recognise it is one of Europe’s top locations,” Dr White said.