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Surfer Andrew Cotton takes on the Wild Atlantic Way


Renowned big-wave surfer Andrew Cotton’s latest adventure brought him to the Wild Atlantic Way, which he spent exploring for seven amazing months. The trip was filmed by RedBull.TV, and the resulting short film, Beneath the Surface, follows Andrew as he seeks out the most exciting places to surf along Ireland’s rugged and beautiful west coast.

Andrew Cotton Beneath the Surface | Wild Atlantic Way

Andrew Cotton, via Olaf Pignataro (RedBull.TV)

Waves on a world stage

Born in Plymouth in the UK, Andrew has travelled the world in search of the best waves, and first arrived in Ireland back in 2005. Since then he’s noticed how popular the sport has become here. “The amount of people surfing in Ireland has quadrupled”, he says. “The surf season is September to April, and those are the coldest months as well. But with the technology of wetsuits, there’s a lot more hunger out there for adventure, and surfers don’t just want to go to the same spot – I think Ireland really lends itself to that.”

The Wild Atlantic Way has a great offering when it comes to surf, according to Andrew. “You’ve got wind and weather that the rest of Europe just doesn’t get in the same way. It’s had some of the biggest waves on the world stage, and definitely has the possibility of more, it’s just a matter of time.” 

Big wave surfing Andrew Cotton | Wild Atlantic Way
Andrew surfing the waves, via Olaf Pignataro (RedBull.TV)

Northern Exposure

Andrew kicked off his recent visit in Donegal, home to the famous surf town of Bundoran. He’d spend the day surfing at Mullaghmore (you can see him chasing big wave bombs there in this amazing clip!), where he says the biggest waves can be found between October and January. And after the sun set? “We’d warm up in the local hotel, and have a pint in Brennan’s, an old pub in Bundoran with really great Guinness!”

Scene from Andrew Cotton: Beneath the Surface

While there, Andrew also took the time to explore his stunning surroundings, and was blown away by Donegal’s wild and expansive beauty. “We went to Slieve League, the highest sea-cliffs in Europe”, he recalls. “It was January and there was glorious sunshine. The views from up there of the neighbouring counties were insane! We did some hikes up the mountains behind Mullaghmore. There were amazing views of Donegal Bay, and you can see the whole of Sligo too. Just stunning.” 

“You don’t have to be the most serious hiker to appreciate those places either”, he adds. “That’s the sort of place surfing takes you, up and down these small coastal roads looking for waves. Ireland’s full of nooks and crannies, and hidden gems around every corner; you never know where you’re going to end up or what you’ll find.”

Cliffs of Moher | Wild Atlantic Way
The Cliffs of Moher

Idyllic Cliffs, Iconic Waves

Another highlight of Andrew’s trip was the majestic Cliffs of Moher. “It’s definitely one of the most interesting places anyone can surf”, he notes. “The setting is amazing. When you’re surfing at the bottom of the cliffs, there’s just nowhere else like it, especially on those days when the sun’s shining.” Sounds thrilling, right? Why not experience it for yourself, by checking out our incredible 360° footage of champion surfer Ollie O’Flaherty battling those same waves! 

Lahinch, a renowned surf town in Clare that’s home to the iconic ‘Aileen’s Wave’ – “one of the craziest waves in the world!” – is another of Andrew’s favourite destinations. The town, he says, is one of the best places for beginners too, as it’s full of surf schools. To anyone looking to try the sport for the first time, Andrew recommends going to life-guarded beaches and using the surf schools there. “Don’t be afraid to get advice from local surfers”, he adds. “It’s about safety as well – the ocean is amazing and beautiful, but you have to respect it. Everyone in the surfing community, especially in the west of Ireland, has first-aid and water-craft training. It’s a community; we’re looking after our friends.” 

“The best places for beginners are places like Lahinch and Dingle”, he continues. “There are some amazing beaches to learn on, just sign yourself up to a surf school and do it safely. They’ll provide the right equipment, and the great thing is you can do it year-round, it’s not just a summer sport. It’s great for kids to get in the sea and develop that skill too. My daughter Honey surfs a bit, but my four-year-old doesn’t like the cold in the winter!” Once you’ve picked your surf destination – and here are some more great options –  the world’s your oyster. “If you’re prepared to travel, you can get some amazing waves here, which is exciting,” says Andrew. “The Wild Atlantic Way is one of the most breathtaking, beautiful roads you can drive on. Be prepared to expect the unexpected!”

Surfing at sunset on the Wild Atlantic Way
Surfing at sunset on the Wild Atlantic Way

Watch the full Andrew Cotton: Beneath the Surface film at RedBull.TV or learn more about the best surfing spots along the Wild Atlantic Way.