Posted by: smithdavid | September 2, 2012

No Expectations

I break into a run as I get near the cliff top. From the vantage point I’m at now, I can’t see what it’s like on Tullan Strand. Further out the swell is visible, but where it counts is hidden.

I’m here because earlier, as I was eating breakfast in the Gas Light, I could see there was nothing happening in Rossnowlagh. Driving around to the beach confirmed it. It was so flat that not even a Finn McCool’s long board would help.

I can see the break zone now. It starts at the beach and goes a good few hundred yards back. There is no defined area where the waves are breaking – they jack up randomly and leave a wake of white froth. Tullan is living up to her reputation of being messy. But I see a surf school in and at least there is some kind of wave.

messy slop at tullan strand

It’s a long walk around to the beach once I’ve suited up. The path from the car park is littered with sharp stones – I have to tread carefully. When I get to the beach, I go in to the left of the surf school, figuring that as it’s my first time here, I shouldn’t stray too far from them.

There is never really a break in the sets. Wave after wave after wave keeps coming at me. I paddle and manage to get sort-of out-back. But there is really no out-back here. Unless I paddle another few hundred meters out. And then the waves might not pick me up at all.

I look back to the surf school – already the current has pulled me away from them and towards the cliffs. I’m conscious not to let myself go too far this way. There is apparently a strong rip at the cliffs and I’m not yet confident enough to let it take me.

In amongst the mess I see one and I turn quickly and it takes me. Without thinking too much, I’m up quickly and there is a short ride. I don’t paddle out again as I don’t want to be taken to the cliffs.

but someone gets one…

But there is as good a chance as anywhere else of catching a wave from where I am. They’re coming from all angles and you have to be really quick. But if you persist there is something there for you. After a short while a swell jacks up at forty-five degrees to the shore and I turn quickly and I make it.

There is little time for calculation before a wave and reflection afterwards. It’s not like Rossnowlagh, where you see them coming long before you need to turn. I have no expectations in this time of rapid flux.

I get talking to a guy I saw earlier in the car-park. He’s trying a new 7’ short board. I make a wave or two and see that he is faring not better or worse than I. A girl beside me is just back from Uganda – we talk a while about the way Africa get under your skin and how you can never turn your back on her.

At last I go in – the long climb back to the car park claims the last of my energy. The session was like no other before. And because there are no comparisons and no judgements, I view it with a remote satisfaction that I might not otherwise have been capable of.



  1. Dave,

    I sometimes think it would be nice to live in Hawaii and have consistent breaks out the door, whenever I wanted. But your post reminds me that surfing in places where the waves are inconsistent, like the SE coast of the US, has its own quality. The drive up to the beach is always filled with a sense of mystery. What will it be like?

    For everything lost, something is gained, I guess.

    Keep surfing- and keep appreciating the unique quality of each experience.

    Great post.


    • thanks tom. yeah, driving to any surf spot in ireland is the same. the predictions can say what they like, but you never know…if you manage to apply ‘no expectations’ to every trip, you tend make the best of what’s there…

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