Respect the power of the Ocean? Tim Mullen is chasing storms. With a windsurf. In Ireland. Why?
The short answer? Just because. This isn’t a competition (Tim is here with fellow windsurfer Oisin Van Geldren) and there are no records to be broken. The pair are touring the world as part of Red Bull’s Storm Chasers Challenge, seeking to harness the wildest winds for the most exhilarating windsurf.
And, for Tim, there’s nowhere better than Donegal’s Malin Head: “I’ve travelled everywhere in the world…Australia, Hawaii, Fiji, you name it I’ve been there. And, for sure, the northwest of Ireland is still the best spot.”
Best spot it may be, but while the massive swells, juggernaut waves and 20 feet leaps might be entertaining to watch, beginners may fancy something more modest…
Welcome to County Wicklow – aka The Garden of Ireland – and welcome to the Blessington Lakes. Fringed by acres of forest, a scattering of well-heeled golf courses and split by a stoic-looking bridge, the Blessington Lakes were created when a valley (Wicklow’s countryside is replete with valleys) was flooded to provide a hydroelectric plant with electricity.
Cue the birth of one of the most picturesque and well-known water sport locations on the island.
But, according to windsurf instructor Paul Ashmore at Blessington’s Avon Rí Adventure Centre, the lakes aren’t just pretty faces: “You could do worse than a backdrop of the Wicklow hills and mountains for a windsurfing session. And the valley here, it's just incredibly peaceful. As for learning to windsurf; the lakes are incredibly safe, you take it at your own pace and the craic [fun] between people learning is brilliant”.
Friendly winds don’t just blow in Ireland’s Garden County. You’ll find them elsewhere, too. “Ireland’s a fabulous windsurfing location,” says Alan Watts, from Northern Ireland windsurfing enthusiasts, Mylyst. “You’ve got the combination of waves rolling in directly from the Atlantic with hundreds of beaches.”
Budding windsurfers will need specifics, though, Alan? “Kearney (very south tip of Down’s Strangford Peninsula) is a great beach for waves and southerly winds. And all the way up the Irish Sea east coast to Cloughey, Millisle, Ballywalter and Ballyhalbert, right up to Ballyholme (all in County Down).
For beginners, Down’s Newtownards Sailing Club has probably the largest fleet of early stage windsurfers and a very safe location, along with some excellent craic in the bar afterwards where you can tell the tales of your exploits.”
Humiliation or celebration and a trip to the pub – let the winds decide.