Inspired by Travel, Music & Salt Water.
I was born in Cape Town, South Africa and I lived a little inland from the coast until I was 18.
Growing up in the winelands of the Cape, was pretty cool. It was always a mission to get to the beach for my friends and I, as it was a 45 minute drive away from home which meant we would get dropped off in the mornings and picked up again in the evenings, or we would camp out for a few days in a row. Our stomping grounds were right where Cape Towns urban sprawl ended and gave way to the wild west coast, a largely uninhabited, desert landscape that stretches for hundreds of kilometers up to the Namibian border. Tarred roads are a luxury in this part of the world, and as a surfer success is hard won.
The coastline is as wild as it gets, the surf spots are fickle and often swamped with swell and with towns being few and far between its a question of bringing everything you need with you. Being self sufficient for days or weeks is a challenge, and one I grew to love. To be surfing virgin waves with your friends, camped out under the African stars hundreds of kilometers from civilization is something few people get to experience nowadays so I was very fortunate.
As soon as I finished high school I sold my car and bought a plane ticket to Europe with the money, I had read about amazing waves and landscapes like the Scottish Highlands and the Irish coastline which sounded so far removed from the dry, dusty landscape I was used to back home.
I was itching to get away, to see the places I'd read about in surfing and climbing magazines.
I came over to Ireland in 2003 surfing and exploring the coastline with my brother, and pretty much from the day I got here I knew this was a special place. We based ourselves in the NW, in a town called Strandhill and found jobs, and slowly started getting dialled into the craggy coastline. There weren't many surfers around then, and we were tripping on how many unridden waves we were driving past every day on the way to the named spots. I suppose it was just a matter of looking at the coast with fresh eyes that kept us busy, but for a few years we were known as the guys that always drove away from good waves to look for something new. It became a bit of an obsession and before I knew it the years were ticking by in a haze of swell, road maps and sleeping in rain soaked tents in muddy fields.
I travelled abroad too, did my best to get to Indo every season for 3 or 4 months and travelled it from one end to the other, then moved on to the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, and more, always looking for the quieter places away from the known surf zones. In the end I realized what I had been chasing was right under my nose back in Ireland, and I focused on just spending my time here and just trying to live my dream.
Over the years I've done everything from pulling pints in the local pub to forestry to labouring to surf instructing but in April 2014 I set up my own business called Sligo Kayak Tours. I run guided kayak tours of the coastal estuaries and inland waterways of the County Sligo area. Its the first of its kind in the area, and is going really well. People get to see our amazing coastline and mountain ranges from the water, we paddle past huge seal colonies and explore megalithic tombs, ancient shell middens and hundred year old forests.
Its an incredible job, and its a total lifestyle choice for me, its the only job I've ever had that I love. Its mine, and its growing and thats a really good feeling.
I suppose growing up on the west coast and having the mission associated with going for a surf planted a seed in me to keep exploring, and enjoy the journey as well as the destination. Years spent driving the Irish coastline looking for new surf just felt normal, and during that time I met an old Australian called Paul O'kane who was one of the first guys to Tow Surf giant waves over here. He was in his late 40's at the time, and had the enthusiasm of a kid and we just clicked straight away. He taught me everything he knew about jetskis, and how to read big seas, how to control your fears, and how to be prepared for anything. We teamed up on big swells and started to ride the regular spots like Aileens and a few others when they got huge.
I live about 20 minutes down the road from a wave called Mullaghmore, which I had paddle surfed quite a bit at that stage. We decided to start towing together out there on the big days, and made up a small crew of regulars who would meet up in the gloomy harbour when winter swells combined with favourable winds. Its one of the heaviest waves on the planet, and it really scares me. It scares everyone who surfs it, no matter who you are. Its also a very technical wave, and locks you into a huge tube from the start which is unique compared to other big waves. Theres not a day that goes by that I don't think about surfing Mullaghmore. Shes moody, and shes angry and shes beautiful, she'll let you away with murder once and snap your knees and nearly drown you the next time.
I'm passionate about exploring, and about getting off the beaten track, doing things differently. I reckon you're only here once so do everything you can to live your dreams out, or you'll regret it one day.
Theres loads of places I want to go still, I'd love to surf through British Colombia, Patagonia, India and sail a yacht through the pacific stopping in Melanesia and Micronesia for a few months.
Chile looks amazing too, big, cold swells that have deep energy get me excited, and the landscape in Southern Chile looks outstanding.
Photos by Christian McLeod