Posted by: smithdavid | July 15, 2012

On the Clean

It’s breakfast the next day. There is a young fella at one of the tables, shovelling cereal down. I gather it’s Cillian, the surfer who featured in my photos yesterday. Catherine told me she lets him stay here for next to nothing when he’s down.

‘You’ll be in today?’ I ask him.

‘Oh yeah, it’s junior champs…’ he says. It makes sense now – the stylish surfers in the water last evening; the Irish Surfing Association mobile the car park. Maybe he’s nervous or shy, but he’s in no mood for talking. ‘Good luck with the champs…’ I say as I leave. He smiles politely.

Outside a tarpaulin canopy has been drawn out from the ISA mobile, campers have gathered in empty spaces. People are in motion, looking out to the sea, moving to and from the mobile. A loudhailer announces names for heats.

Any lingering thoughts I had of surfing Strandhill take flight. There’s no way I’m putting my amateurish efforts on display in this company.

stylish surfer from last night

I’m in the car, heading to Benbulben and then Rossnowlagh beyond.

Things are calmer in the car park here. I take my time suiting up and waxing the mini-mal. Beyond the sand there is a wave.

I get in and quickly I’m out back. I see one rising, I’m breathless from the short paddle but when you see one come you should take it. I turn, I feel the pull, I’m on my knees and finally I’m up. The white water is all around me but I have momentum. I’m not quite weightless but I’m close. Then it’s all over.

I turn the board back to the ocean and begin paddling. It’s warmer today – there is no hardship in being in the sea. It’s easy to get out back once more. There are others about but I’m enjoying the solitude – it’s similar to what I felt last night as I clicked away on the camera.

There is another as soon as I’m out back. Again I don’t want to miss it so I turn and it’s taking me in. More white water, another easy paddle back out.

This time I don’t take the first on offer. Later I’ll claim it as good judgement but really it’s tiredness. One, two, three come through and I wait.  The waves look different from behind – you see a precipice of water and you don’t know what is happening over that lip. The unknown stirs fear an excitement.

Now one is forming that is bigger than the rest. It’s like nature has conspired to create this moment for me. I turn and paddle, I feel that pull. There’s something more powerful and true than those that have gone before.

someone gets one on the clean in rossnowlagh

Without thinking I am up – almost no time on my knees. There is no white water around me, only behind. The sea beside and in front of me is as clear as glass, it seems as if I’m moving far quicker than before. I’m weightless – properly weightless – the board is caressing the water.

I’m no whooper but I’m whooping, again without thought. It doesn’t matter if someone hears or not. I want this feeling to last forever.

But then the board stalls and I’m in the water. When my head breaks the surface I’m laughing – there’s no reason to laugh but it doesn’t matter.

For an instant I feel my Mom’s presence again. I think you’re laughing too.



  1. The sheer joy shines through.

  2. Lovely… nothing evokes whooping quite like a good wave even without a board!

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