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TOW-IN SURFING ON THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY



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In the midst of the churning Atlantic, beneath the edge of some of the most impressive sea cliffs in Europe (the Cliffs of Moher), the relentless sea and easterly offshore winds combine to create an aquatic monster that can be tamed only by a few courageous men and women.

Separated from the ferocious and fast-moving ocean waves by just inches of polystyrene and fiberglass, with skill as their only artillery, the tow-in surfers of the Wild Atlantic Way battle waves rising farther than 3km offshore and rearing as high as 12m. 

 
 

This is not for the faint of heart, nor for anyone except highly practised big wave surfers. And it’s something that’s been off-limits to most people until now.

Tow-in surfing is a surfing technique that uses an artificial aid to allow a surfer to catch faster-moving waves than traditionally possible when paddling by hand. Invented by surfers who wanted to push the parameters of what was previously thinkable, tow-in surfing (as the name implies) happens when a surfer is towed into a breaking wave by a partner driving a personal watercraft or a helicopter with a tow line. Pioneered by some of the biggest names in surf stardom like Laird Hamilton, Buzzy Kerbox, Dave Kalama, Sandra Chevally and Thomas Bernard, it is now hailed as one of the biggest breakthroughs in surfing history.

 
 

And it’s a technique that’s necessary when dealing with waves of such giant proportions. Under certain meteorological conditions, below the dark limestone formations of these formidable cliffs, the sea gives birth to one such behemoth known as Alieen’s Wave. Other notable examples along the west coast include the mighty Mullaghmore in Sligo and Alieen’s slightly more tame sister, Laureen’s Wave. Named and ridden by a few brave souls in the early 2000s, these waves have since attracted several top international big wave surfers to these spectacular spots.

While battling waves this size will never be a reality for most of us, international big wave surfer Ollie O’Flaherty gives us a flavour of what it’s like to tow-in surf, at incredible speeds and with the Atlantic’s fury at your back, in this 360° video. Riding a wave more than 15ft high, you can join Ollie and experience the rush of being inside the barrel of the west coast’s most fervent sculptor.

 
 

If you would like to try tackling more manageable waves, Lahinch Surf School is located a 15-minute drive from the cliffs and caters to all abilities from beginner upwards. For other great surf sites along the Wild Atlantic Way, click here.

For more on how we made this virtual video a reality, check out our behind the scenes video. Experience more 360° videos here

 

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