Our second year in Brandon Bay gave us a huge range of conditions; from storm chasing to wobble and ride, perfect clean waves and even a day of flat water. This 15 strong group of men and women, who were ready to get stuck in and enjoy any conditions that were offered, really made it a joy from start to finish.
Saturday Night – The group met for a welcome meal at the famous Spillannes pub. With a banquet table spanning most of the length of the restaurant managing to squeeze some 26 people round it. It was a great opportunity for the gang to meet and was immediately clear that we were in for a really fun packed week. The atmosphere was buzzing as everyone exchanged past stories and anticipation for the week ahead was running high.
Scraganne Sunday - Sunday morning we met in the car park of the pub (The chosen accommodation for the van camping contingent). Having checked the forecast and taken some sound advice from local legend Jamie Knox it was decided that we would set up at Scraganne as the lack of swell and light westerly wind made the rest of the bay unsailable.
The flat water of the bay gave us a great chance to run through the all important kit setup for waves and have a good look at the level of sailing. Andy was super keen and happy to be our test dummy, he had rigged and got himself out there while everyone else was still putting fins in boards. The wind was a good 18-20 knots and everyone was comfortable on 5.7-5.2m, core wave sailing skills were tested which included upwind sailing, tacking and gybing.
Special mention to Ian who coped unbelievably well on a thruster set up with a very small quad fin as his center piece, how truly difficult this was to sail cannot be understated, neither of us or Jamie Knox himself managed more than one run on the board before politely handing it back branding it unsailable. As always in windsurfing the rest of the group hunted through their kit lockers and a decent pair of central quad fins were found to save the rest of the week. With the sun setting and the tide high we called it a day, Pekka proved himself to be the bravest of the day as he casually sailed over the back of a wave to drop in on the inimitable Jamie Knox……….with the forecast looking really good for Monday an early night was had by all.
Mad Monday – Moody, rainy skies greeted us on Monday morning with a fairly sizable northwesterly swell sweeping into the bay, after our usual consultation with Mr Knox it was decided we would head far down the bay to Killcummin. When we arrived clean lines of 2-3 meters were peeling cleanly, with bigger sets regularly rearing up on the horizon. Twenty minutes later the wind had strengthened but was fully offshore making the waves spectacular but fully un-sailable. The only thing to do was to move up the bay where the waves would be bigger but we could find the perfect cross-offshore wind we were hoping for. The call was made to head for StradBally. After we had managed to squeeze more vans and cars into the small carpark than seemed possible, the conditions did not disappoint. The wind was nuking with around 35-40knots whipping up a frenzy of spray and whitewater amongst the 3-4meter monsters rolling into the beach.
As the rigging began it became apparent that one or two of the group, who shall remain anonymous (Ian and Nic), seemed to be procrastinating somewhat on the beach with fear and doubt clearly written on their faces, it took a few gentle words of persuasion to spur the boys into action. With a clear plan on how to best handle getting out in those conditions the whole group hit the water. As anticipated, the action was intense with mast high sets happening regularly, everybody made it outback and the high from sailing such extreme conditions was clearly visable on everyone’s faces. No kit was broken (although everybody took a few waves on the head) and there were stand out performances from Jason (who looked clearly at home in the Gwithian-esq conditions) and Andy who both sent it big trying to hit some of the bombs nice and late and getting the odd swim for their trouble. Big respect for Svetlana, who with no real wave experience, made it out back and rode a wave in.
As the day drew to a close one by one the sailors packed up all except for Rosie, Conrad and Paolo, I don’t know what they served for breakfast in that house but it clearly worked as they outlasted everyone. Rosie had a epic 4 turn wave and was full of energy right until the end. The day was unbelievable and the chat in the pub that night showed how much everbody had loved it.
Technical Tuesday – Tuesday was forecast to be light, with a variety of options including Foiling and Sup/surfing the call was made to head down to Gowlane. The wind was really light but the direction was good and the waves were a clean 2 meters so we rigged big and took to the water on a mixture of big wave boards and wind sups for a bit of technical wobble and ride. The wind sups clearly had the edge in the light conditions, making it out easier and catching more waves. Grant and Conrad showing good Sup style; cruising the sets and getting some nice long rides. It was a day for the whole group to practice floating out and getting over waves, which they all did with increasing skill and belief.
Windless Wednesday – With no wind forecast for Wednesday the decision was easy; surf or Sup all day. With a few extra toys picked up from Jamie Knox Watersports we all headed to Fermoyle beach where the dawn surfers were just getting round to breakfast. The waves were perfect; a really friendly 1-2 metres, making the paddle out easy and the rides really good fun. Most of the group managed at least 2 sessions and the atmosphere out back with such a large group was like an on water party. First time wave supper Paolo finished the day looking like Kelly slater and took to the sport ridiculously well, he was, for sure, surfer of the day and even managed a party wave with the waterman Jason including a lovely cross over mid wave.
Take down Thursday – With the prospect of another light wind day and the tide ruling out foiling for the day, we opted for a good morning of land theory while we waited for the wind. We met at Killcummin and waited for the wind to arrive. Sadly, the forecast wind did not really happen, but we chose to wobble out as the waves looked really, really good. You should always be aware that on a beach that size at low tide with no points of reference the waves often look small…… as soon as everyone launched we realized that the sets were a good 3 meters and the swell was more powerful than the previous days. With few breaks in the waves and up to 7 walls of whitewater alone to navigate the sail out was tough, often the big sets would break a further 60 meters out making this a day to bring your snorkel.
Having already had some light wind action on Tuesday it was really good to see how much everybody was improving at handling the tricky conditions, with the ‘never give up’ attitude and some key tips on getting through the surf, everybody was able to get on the water. No kit was broken in some really heavy waves, which is also a testament to the groups improvement in their submersed kit handling skills. The real joy however, was watching as the level of wave riding really began to improve, with Vincenzo, Mauro, Jurgen and Jason leading the charge. Blistering down-the-line speed combined with later and later top turns saw the first few aerials beginning to take shape.
Finale Friday – The forecast for Friday looked much the same as Thursday, so we once again headed to Killcummin to set up for the day. The wind was non-existent and the waves had backed off a bit from Thursday. The morning was spent going through the last few nuggets of coaching gold, before the forecast wind arrived. In truth, it didn’t really materialize but it did once again offer some light wind wobble and ride, in slightly more cross shore conditions with a gusty wind anywhere from 6-15 knots. As the day unfolded it was amazing to see how the level of everyone’s sailing had improved. Conrad was sending it, getting some serious speed and cutting nice wedges of spray, Rosemary was on a SUP, but this didn’t stop her dropping in on some absolute bombs. Ian also opted for a SUP and looked completely at ease as he really carved up some waves. Tero was looking way more radical as his top turns continued to improve and his confidence to get into that critical position grew considerably.
The difficulty of the challenging wobble and ride conditions cannot be highlighted enough; the technical skill required to get out without planing wind is much harder to master than blasting out through surf. Some of the guys and gals struggled but finally got the hang of it, they will see vast improvement when they do sail in strong winds again and will go away with the confidence that they can tackle any conditions. A particularly massive well done to Ben who struggled in these conditions but never stopped trying and it paid off, he finished the week on some really good waves.
The last night ended in the Green Room pub, where we debriefed for the last time and had a delicious Chinese meal while sipping Guinness and listening to the very talented musician playing away in a quiet corner.
The week was amazing, offering a real variety of conditions which gave an insight to just how magical a place Ireland can be. While the conditions were not classic Brandon Bay, we windsurfed 5 days out of 6 and had an unbelievable day of surfing on the other day. The beauty of this location is breathtaking, the beaches and waves are undisputedly world class and for this week we shared the entire bay with only 3 other windsurfers. Brandon Bay is one of the most unspoilt windsurfing locations in the world, if you have never been, you should.
We love it so much we’re back in Brandon Bay for 2 weeks next year!
For more information on our 2019 Brandon Bay clinic, click here