An Irish Winter

A trip with Passengers Tim Borrow and Barry Mottershead.

“You can hear the roar of the take off peak exploding behind you as you set up the tube section, the whole wave seems to hit fifth gear..”

A large wave breaking off the coast of Ireland

If you were to personify Passenger with one person, that would be Barry. He’s humble, he’s warm, adventurous, and he’s always up for a laugh. Barry Mottershead is an all out surfer and adventurer. Somebody whose mind is always on the waves. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, he now resides in Sligo, Ireland – and we are fortunate enough to have him as one of our Passengers.

Recently, Barry took a trip with friend (and fellow Passenger), Tim Borrow. The two of them thought that our readers here at Passenger would enjoy the tale, as well as some incredible photography work by Tim. What follows is their escape to the West Coast of Ireland in search of the wild, adventure and some mighty swell.

Barry adding logs to a log burner

“The plan was simple, as all the best plans are. There were waves expected at Mullaghmore and we planned to be there when they arrived.”

A couple of days before the swell showed we decided on a little camping getaway to talk photography, surf and life in the west of Ireland. They headed out with Barry’s dog, Fia and as luck would have it, there were no waves to be had that first evening, but it didn’t matter. They caught up, shared a brew or two around the fire and headed back to Barry’s the following day to ready themselves for bigger days to come; the Monster of Mullaghmore was about to stir.

Barry overlooking the breaking waves off the Irish coastline

“The plan was simple, as all the best plans are. There were waves expected at Mullaghmore and we planned to be there when they arrived.”

Upon checking the updated forecasts, the two spotted a large swell marching across the North Atlantic.

“We knew we had two days to be ready. We spent a morning in the forest cutting deadfall from the recent storms, gathering enough wood to see us through the week ensuring we had a fire handy as soon as we came back home every evening. The most important part of my preparation for the big days is heading into the forest before the swell hits to set some goals, push my fear aside and mentally prepare for what is about to happen.”

Barry chopping a tree in the woods for logs

Barry, who is a big wave rider, as well as a kayak tour guide, has taken on some of the mightiest monsters out there, and is no stranger to Mullaghmore. A beast he has devoted over ten years of his life to, yet his perspective is intriguing and humble:

“Riding big waves is mostly a mental thing, guys train in the gym and get very into the physical training side of things but I tend to do that type of stuff for my job anyway, lifting sea kayaks on and off the trailer, paddling long distances, dealing with bad weather and difficult situations is part of what I do every day and I have found that I have become pretty calm in situations that might unsettle others.”

Barry overlooking the waves and irish coatline with his dog

Tuesday was to be ‘the day’ for Mullaghmore. After a day of preparation rituals, ensuring they had their inflation vests, freshly waxed boards and dry wetsuits they settled down with some well received home cooked stew. They talked over the plan one last time and caught an early night as it was a 6am wake up call.

The charts were showing 20-25 ft, light winds, and big tidal differences. Barry and Tim shot up to the headland at the crack of dawn to park up and get a feel for the day. They are the first ones there and sit swigging ginger and turmeric tea to keep warm. Patiently waiting for the crew to arrive, together they will paddle out to the shallow slab of rock that causes huge waves to break off the headland.

The crew arrives and immediately ready their kit, it’s time to get out there and connect. Tim and Barry discuss safety procedures with all the surfers in the harbour, jet-ski drivers and photographers are teamed up, and then they all venture out into the ice cold wintry sea.

Tim is out there, giving it his all to get some hard earned shots. He tells us: “The boys had a couple of tow waves before Barry caught the first paddle wave of the day to get the ball rolling..”

An Irish Witner, Barry surfing a 20-25ft wave in Ireland

"There are big waves, and then there are technical big waves. Mully definitely falls into the latter category."

Hours pass like minutes and as the light fades they decide to call it a day. Both feeling deeply contented after a testing day at sea, they are ready to thaw out by the fire.

At this point we thought it was fitting to finish on Barry’s own words and impressions of the magnitude and awe inspiring beast that is Mullaghmore:

“There are big waves, and then there are technical big waves. Mully definitely falls into the latter category.

Just being able to find the right place to paddle in takes accrued skill and guts, once in and down the drop — where most big waves end — Mullaghmore is only starting. Then you bottom turn and commit into a hundred yard gauntlet riddled with boils and watery steps, where your vision and concentration narrows into such a minute space, it’s as if you are riding in slow motion.

Barry dropping in to a 20-25ft wave

You can hear the roar of the take off peak exploding behind you as you set up the tube section, the whole wave seems to hit fifth gear here and grows in girth and height. Entering the shallowest part of the wave now, you are fully committed and hope the tube section allows an easy entry and stays open to allow you a safe passage to the channel where the jet-skis are waiting.

Barry rests on the back of one of the safety jet-skis

Some carry camera men, others are there to rescue you if you fall and get mowed down and buried underwater. They follow your surfboard, knowing that you are attached to it by a 12ft leg-rope and will eventually ascend to the surface to breathe the air your lungs and muscles crave. They then whisk you out of harms way and leave you in the channel to either celebrate or mentally try and pick up the pieces.”

A jet-ski rides off into the distance as the sun begines to set on the irish coastline
*Guest article by Tidal Digital Marketing