Surfer rescued after being trapped under Cliffs of Moher

Man (26) climbed down face of cliff on narrow goat track to swim out to Aileen’s Wave

A surfer was airlifted to safety after being left trapped at the bottom of a 300ft cliff for almost five hours on Saturday night.

The man and a friend had been surfing at the site of the world famous Aileen’s Wave off the Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare.

The pair clambered down the cliff face using a narrow and treacherous goat track before swimming out to catch the wave.

At 7.15pm one of the surfers, a 26-year-old man, was officially reported missing when fellow surfers alerted the Irish Coast Guard that there was no sign of him.

The Irish Coast Guard marine rescue coordination centre on Valentia Island in Kerry mounted the search and rescue operation in the Aill Na Searrach area just between the Cliffs of Moher and Doolin.

Coast Guard volunteers proceeded to the cliff tops and commenced a search of the area. Within minutes they managed to locate the missing man on a small beach close to the base of Aill Na Searrach.

Rescuers could see the man waving his surfboard at them, an indication that he wasn’t badly injured.

Any effort to climb or abseil down to recover the casualty would have taken several hours so assistance was sought from the Sligo based search and rescue helicopter, Rescue 118. The Shannon helicopter was unavailable at the time.

Search teams set up lighting on the cliff top to illuminate the area and mark the location of the casualty for the helicopter crew.

The man was winched from the cliff base at around 9.45pm and airlifted to University Hospital Galway where he was treated for minor injuries and hypothermia.

One experienced rescuer said: “In all the years I’ve been doing this (job) it was the most spectacular rescue I’ve ever seen carried out by a helicopter crew. It was unbelievable especially in the dark.”

Aileen’s Wave, only discovered in the last decade, has been described by scientists as the nearest thing to the ‘perfect wave’ and attracts expert and professional surfers from all over the world.

Several surfers have gotten into difficulty in the area which is only accessible by jetski or boat or by climbing down the cliff goat track which rescuers have repeatedly warned is deadly.