Irish wave-rider and photographer make surfing ‘Oscars’ shortlist

Co Sligo roller competing against monster ‘tubes’ off Hawaii and Fiji for Billabong XXL award

A leading Irish wave-rider and a “big surf” photographer who captured one of Sligo’s infamous waves off Mullaghmore Head have been shortlisted for a prestigious global award.

Co Clare man Peter Conroy (34) from Miltown Malbay and Portrush photographer Roo McCrudden (23) are among the top five nominees for the Billabong XXL "tube" of the year.

Known as the “Oscars” of surfing, the Billabong XXL awards will be presented in San Francisco next month.

Mr McCrudden photographed Mr Conroy riding his surf board in a "tube" created by a large wave breaking over Mullaghmore reef in January this year.

Atlantic versus Pacific
The Atlantic wave is up against Fiji's "Cloudbreak" and Hawaii's notorious Pe'hai or "Jaws" for the prize, worth $5,000.


This is the second time the Sligo coastline’s wave formation has featured in the awards, but the first shortlisting – last year Irish surfer Ollie O’Flaherty was nominated for his skill off Mullaghmore during the “Viking storm” conditions of March 2012.

Conroy, who works as a fireman in Phibsborough, Dublin, told The Irish Times he had no idea how big the wave was until McCrudden showed him the photographs of it afterwards.

“It wasn’t a particularly big swell, and wind was a bit iffy, but we decided to go out and try it,” he said, having studied isobar charts and weather buoy data in detail the night before the surf.

“We were using jetskis to tow-in, and I was with Ollie O’Flaherty at the time,” he explained.

“The wave is usually double the size of you, and you don’t quite know what it will do until it breaks over the reef underneath – sometimes it will throw a ‘barrel’ or ‘tube’, and sometimes it will just crumble.

“The first wave I caught smashed over me, and then this second one created a barrel which I managed to catch, and Roo got the photographs from his jetski.” he said.

“It doesn’t always even depend on the size of the wave, as there were lads who surfed a bigger swell than us the week after, but didn’t get such a good barrel.”

'Out of nowhere'
Mr McCrudden, who is based near Mullaghmore in Bundoran, Co Donegal, and whose surfing images have been published internationally, recalled that the wave "came out of nowhere".

“There had been quite an inconsistent swell, and it was a strange sort of day,” he said.

Mr Conroy is an award-winning amateur surfer and a veteran of Co Clare’s notorious “Aileen’s” wave system. His wave ride shortlisted for this year's Billabong XXL can be viewed on YouTube.

The shortlist is the second international success this month for Irish surfing.

Last week Irish windsurfing champion Dr Katie McAnena of Galway became one of the first women on record to ride Hawaii’s famous “Jaws” wave formation.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

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