Cliffs of Insanity – A Winter on Ireland’s Big Waves

A Christmas present landed in my postbox here in Australia a few months back, to some delight. One of the main things I miss about home is the life I had built, obsessed at times, following and learning about the top surfers in Ireland. This book has put into words what I would have loved to do and indeed thought about doing one day… follow these elites on endless days documenting their exploits.

Keith Duggan has a steady reputation as a sports writer… but was surfing too far removed or a different ball game so to speak, one that his previous experience and attitude might fail to accept? answer is no. And to add to that I believe the fact that he was not a surfer or had an in-depth knowledge of a surfers way of life was a positive for the writing of this book.

Duggan dedicated this part of his career to engulf himself in what Ireland’s top surfers do day in day out. He was on hand to catch up with Mikey or Fergal whenever the phone rang, whenever the Atlantic decided to through a jewel to the Irish coastline.

Co. Clare was the playground for the stories and events that unfolded that Winter… a few sprints here and there were included but Clare was the backbone of this story.

The cold, icy book cover sets the scene for what lies within. The photograph on the front cover is a wave that I’ve had the pleasure of taking a few photos of many times; Riley‘s, the notorious slab tucked away in rural Clare, and to say the least it is only for very the brave and talented.

The book gives the reader an insight into the life of a small group of surfers who have made their own mark on surfing in Ireland and the world. Fergal Smith is the centre of attention, his ambition is portrayed in detail with trips to the golden sands of the big waves spots including Teahupoo, Cloud Break and many others in sunny climates such as Australia.

But it is the taste of home that rings through time and time again; Bumbaloids, Aileens and Rileys are the focus of attention and the guys would give up any day in the sunny big waves abroad to have a perfect day on the local slabs.

The cold gets to people, I see it here in Australia big time, but in Ireland as a surfer you deal with it; you know its not going to get any warmer, so you just go with it. Fergal, Tom, Mickey and the rest push the limits of the body to the last… hypothermia is not far off, along with the broken bones and concussion.

Mickey Smiths photography and videography is applauded and rightly so, he is an amazing artist and his work is outstanding.

I could go on and into more detail about the book but I’d rather keep this short and to the point. It’s a different style book than your autobiography of soccer players, different than your discover Ireland adverts, will entice you like a curious child and without doubt provide you with an understanding of these watermen and what they do.

If I was to rate the book, a four out of five would probably suit. I think the end lost momentium and the final pages were a small bit lost with the author not quite finding the right way to end the story.

But hey, I’m going to have some criticism… sure Keith stole my idea without me even speaking of it!

Neil Cooney
Professional: Urban, Regional, Coastal Planner

Personal: Environment, surfing, travel, outdoor.

Co-owner SAI

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