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Ireland, like Scotland, is an unlikely player on the international surf scene. Huge rainfall and freezing cold water have served for years to put off all except the very hardiest and keenest individuals. However, with the improvements in wetsuit technology and the opening up of Shannon airport by budget (Irish) airline Ryanair, this 'Emerald Isle' is fast becoming something of a surfing Mecca, uniquely placed to pick up massive swells from huge low pressure systems travelling across the North Atlantic.
Add to this a stunningly beautiful, rugged and undulating coastline that offers a fabulous variety of uncrowded beach, reef and point breaks with predominantly offshore winds and it is easy to see why even surfers from as far afield as Hawaii and California now fly in at least once a year to face down the snow and hail and tackle what are certainly some of the best (and biggest) waves in the world.
Ireland is fast becoming one of the world's premier big wave spots. Indeed, Aileen's, which beaks over a shallow reef at the foot of the famously daunting 800 foot Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, is developing a reputation as one of the world's true monster waves, listed in Wikipedia as one of the tow-in spots alongside Teahupo in Tahiti and Jaws in Maui.
The winter of 2007 brought the spot to international attention as surfers were recorded riding waves with 45-55 foot faces. Bundoran, in County Donegal, is probably the epicentre of Ireland's surf scene, with 30 - 40 shops springing up in the past few years. The Bay of Donegal, in the rugged north-west of the country, is a veritable swell magnet and has hosted both the European Surf Championships and the Quicksilver World Masters.
Aside from the big wave spots, Ireland has a huge amount to offer any surfer. At its most consistent in the autumn and winter the harsh conditions make for a friendly line-up and it is usually possible to find mellower breaks if you are not a pro or a kamikaze, such as Strandhill, one of Ireland's most popular beach breaks. And should all else fail, there's Guinness.