Posted by: smithdavid | July 8, 2012


I’m on site in Tallaght, Dublin. My car is parked downstairs: my board, my bag and my camera are in it. Ready for me to take flight. I’ve an idea of where to go – Rossnowlagh – where else? But I’ve no fixed plan. There is something free and exciting about having things this way.

Come two o’clock I’m itching to get going. It’s quiet day, the sun is shining in the Square. The thoughts that have dogged the weekends on which I haven’t been surfing are a world away. I’m not asking myself if I made a mistake walking away from her or when will there be another? I’m thinking of the ocean and of vast open space.

I phone Catherine – her B&B is on the esplanade in Strandhill, I’ve stayed there before with Emmet. It’ll be good to have a bed for tonight – it is a Bank Holiday. It’s all arranged quickly and I point the car west.

It’s getting near dusk when I arrive. I get my gear inside and have a cup of tea and a chat with Catherine. Out the window of her lodge I can see that there is a wave. I step outside into the cold and stand on the concrete wall. The wave isn’t small and you can see it packs a punch. I remember my last visit to Strandhill – I was freezing and battered and didn’t make a wave in two hours. For a while the adventurer and the conservative in me battle.

At last I turn to my car and take the camera and tripod out rather than the mini-mal and suit. Despite being the day after Paddies (well into spring) I still need the beanie and gloves.

360 turn…

I start with the 90-300mm lens. There are a few body boarders out. They know what they are doing – their turns are sharp and tight. One does a 360 and then resumes in the direction that the shoulder is travelling.

body boarder

Then I see the surfers. A few out towards the setting sun on the left, a couple of young fellas walking down the concrete stairs on the right.

young fellas walking down the stairs

The sun sprays golden light onto the ocean, the surfers on the right are graceful silhouettes against it. Click, click, click, click goes my camera. I feel a sense of knowing – my shots will be good.

Now I train the lens on the young fellas. These guys are really good. They zip along on short boards – they give it air from time to time. Click, click, click, click.

zip along

these guys are really good

they give it air from time to time

graceful silhouette

the sun sprays its golden rays

My mind is clear – there is only the sea and the surfers and the camera. I feel a presence now – it is nothing vivid or fixed, but the sense of her is overpowering. The tears well up, it’s less than a year since we lost her. Something in you goes too when your mother goes.

One of the reasons I started surfing was because she loved the sea, because the sea soothed her, because we laid her to rest in the sea.

The tears are not only tears of sorrow. This moment is perfect and beautiful – the sunset, the relative solitude, the waves rolling in. I feel like you’re not far.

I set up the tripod, I have a vision of the shot I will take. It’s technical and it takes all my limited know-how to make it work. I review one of them – the sea has a dreamy, ethereal quality to it. In the corner a ghostly surfer is emerging. Now he is standing beside me, looking at the shots taken with the zoom lens.

a ghostly surfer emerges…

‘That’s Cilliain,’ he says of the most perfect photo. We talk surfing for a while and then he goes in to the warmth. I stay a while longer in the universal, soothing, fading light.



  1. These are great images! Following your journey is such a pleasure for me.

    • thanks tom. it was one of the most moving sunsets i’ve experienced. the photos still don’t seem to do it justice.

  2. Glorious… the last image is just stunningly beautiful.

    • thanks. it took some time to get that just right so i’m happy you like it. dave.

  3. Great pictures! 🙂 stoked!

  4. Amazing pictures, really capture the peace and solitude of surfing. S

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