Surfer earns award nomination for catching Sligo wave

Andrew Cotton describes ‘exceptional’ week of surf at Mullaghmore

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout . . .

While coastal and island communities were seeking respite from Storm Rachel, several of Europe's top surfers were invoking Shakespeare's King Lear this week as they rode nine to 12 metre-high waves off the Sligo coast.

Devon-born professional Andrew Cotton, Portuguese colleague Hugo Vau and photographer Finn Mullen described it as an "exceptional" week at Mullaghmore, with a rare run of consistently strong swell over a five-day period.

“The waves have been the biggest and best, [possibly better] than the Viking storm almost three years ago,” Cotton told The Irish Times. “It’s the fact that we got out so often that made it particularly good.”


During that storm in March 2012, Cotton was nominated for a global surfing award for catching a 15.2m (50ft) wave off Mullaghmore - having waited three months in the Bundoran area for the right conditions.

He received another Big Wave nomination at the 2015 Billabong awards for catching a "barrel" at Mullaghmore on Monday.

The father-of-two escaped with minor arm and shoulder injuries last month after he was pummelled by a series of four waves off the Praia do Norte beach in the Azores.

“I was meant to be at the chiropractor, but I saw the storm coming in and had to get over here,” Cotton said. “We’ve been out most days since last Friday, but Monday of this week was particularly good, with terrible conditions in the morning, and the wind then switched at 3pm.”

“So while everyone else had written the day off, myself and Hugo had the waves to ourselves.”

The pair are involved in making a documentary, entitled Behind the Lines, and the north Sligo coast provided the backdrop for filming throughout this week.

The pair set their alarms for Thursday morning, when winds of 80km per hour with gusts of 150km per hour were forecast. The “apocalyptic” conditions were just a bit too risky, and they packed up their boards and jetski to take the ferry to Britain.

Mullen explained that the series of depressions had been triggered by exceptionally cold weather in the US. As he explained, it is swells created from storms far from shore, rather than close to the coast, that creates the best surf.

“Ideally, surfing takes place in little or no wind, and offshore in direction to hold the wave faces up and groom their shape,” he explained.

The best tide is normally an incoming tide as it helps “push” the swell, while wind against tide normally creates surface chop which roughens the wave face, Mullen added.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times