Magnificent video of surfing 50 footers off the coast of County Sligo, Ireland
Mullaghmore is one of the best big wave surfing locations in the world.
On 8 March 2012, big wave surfers from all over the world were ready and waiting to ride the waves which were up to 50 feet (15 m) high off Mullaghmore Head. These waves were about five metres less than the tallest wave ever recorded in Ireland in County Donegal on 13 December 2011 – a whopping 20.4 metres (67 ft) high
Some riders suffered bruising as well as broken bones and surf boards.
“We’d been tracking that swell for about a week,” said Cotton. “All these swells that hit Ireland can be hit and miss with wind and this one couldn’t make its mind up. I’ve spent so many swells on that headland with the wind howling but not quite in the right direction and I honestly thought that this was going to be another swell like that. Al Mennie and myself camped out at Mullaghmore the night before and couldn’t believe our luck at first light the next day.
“It had been a fairly disappointing winter compared to the previous year and it was far from perfect that day,” continued Cotton. “After watching for about 30 minutes and deciding to pick a few off, Al towed me into an absolute bomb. It was my first wave of the day. It felt like a reminder of how good it can get there and why I put the time and effort in.”
So how was the swell created?
A North American low pressure system moved east and combined with another cyclone in the Western Atlantic. This system moved into an area off the coast of Ireland that already had high waves owing to a series of strong systems the previous week. In addition, a strong anticyclone over the Azores created a large pressure gradient in the North Atlantic that directed a strong fetch towards Ireland. There was also an extended fetch length in the North Atlantic in the direction of Europe while the swell was created. These combined conditions produced waves that were confirmed by satellite data on 7 March 2012 to have exceeded 50 feet (15 m) in height.
As the swell passed Ireland it filled into the Bay of Biscay, producing big waves in Portugal, Spain and France.