Another great Donegal wave course has come and gone. Our tans were topped up, our sailing tighten up and yes - we got some great waves. So here's the brief story.

 

The big change in these courses took place a couple of years ago when we handed the courses over to Get Windsurfing - Phil and Danielle aka the Hobbits. This has really transformed the whole thing as they have the marketing to pull in a much wider range of punters than we ever could - despite our ability to badger locals and to threaten violence or, worse still, Andy. 

 

So the mix has changed with the majority now being not from Ireland, this year mostly from England but some even from Poland via Aberdeen!

 

Another big change is that fewer stay at the Loch Altan preferring instead to stay at the big house the Hobbits rent out.

In some ways the biggest change of all is the range of food now available in Donegal. Much as we all enjoy the legend that is the Loch Altan Burger, there is now a top class restaurant right at Magheroarty and Lizzy's in Dunfanaghy serves up excellent food too. I'd like to that Pat's dodgy pizzas in Gortahork is missed - but I'd be lying if I did.

 

The standard of coaching has also steadily improved with Phil especially rolling out some great sessions on carve gybe/bottom turn entry and tacks. They even covered rules of the waves after some great near misses (Michael and me) and blatant wave stealing - thanks John. Actually on this, one lunch time at Dooeys there were only two sailors on the miles of beach and he still managed to crash in on my wave. Must remember to give him a wide berth when he's driving his van!

 

BTW if you are wondering how two such nice people as Phil and Danielle could acquire the sobriquet Hobbit, it's really down to Phil's diminutive feet which we first encountered just as the Lord of the Rings films were coming out. 

Dawn at Magheroarty - some people are really keen
 
We got warm weather and 2 days out of 7 with good wind, 3 with some wind and the rest, well the surfing was good. 

The first 3 days were at Dooeys. Now if you haven't been there for a while there seems to be a bit of a land war going on. We always believed the dunes and the two carparks were common ie public from ground. But it appears the local farmer had put up fencing and doesn't react too well to people being on what he now calling his land. Mind you when he came to glare at us he took a good long look at our motley crew and decided to buzz off on his quad again. 

Sometimes it's an advantage to look the way we do. Or perhaps he just saw Minger...

 

Minging

But the second car park aka camping ground is definitely off limits and the way to the beach is now down a railed walkway which makes carrying sails difficult in high winds. The other big news about this location is that they came and took the toilets away while we were there. Perhaps they thought they wouldn't cope with the outpourings of our group - shades of the Loch Altan Burger again? Either way they winched them into a lorry as we watched. It was only afterwards that we wondered if any of us had been inside them at the time. When we subsequently didn't see Ming for a while we began to seriously wonder (and hope) but then it turned out he was just out on the water as usual...

 

We had 2 days of light winds when some people managed some float and ride on real wave boards while the likes of me planted a 6m on the SUP and rode waves like a king or a lord. The wind direction was mostly cross off and with small waves made front side riding very nice. Then on Saturday it got proper windy. Dooeys again but now 4.5m in survival conditions followed by a lot of frantic re-rigging down to the smallest anyone had. Danielle was on 3.3 and I was down to 4m on my quad. Even Ming put away his trusted 7m and rode 4.5. The waves were good without being massive and there was some serious down the line going on. Even I got in on the act and that's saying something.

Lord of the waves - well perhaps not quite

 

Proper windy at Dooeys

 

Party Wave Time

 

Backside riding

The wind was a little gusty and most people found a slightly bigger board with a small sail worked best. I was on a 104 quad with the 4m and this worked surprisingly well. I have to say that those Goya quads are a joy to sail and really would make you think you were on a much smaller board.

There were some tired but happy faces by the end of the day and, amazingly, the one remaining car park wasn't totally bunged. Part of the reason for this is that the Harty course inexplicably decided to stick to sail Loinya that day!

Ming in the sun - think that iconic scene in Austin Powers ...

The next 3 days however both courses were on top of each other. We got to Magheroarty first and got out on SUPs with paddles. The waves in the bay were nice and big and soon were filled with crashing Suppers and the occasional great wave ride. Then the Harty crew arrived and there were millions of them. They swarmed out into the bay and pretty soon it was a total traffic jam with big often out of control SUPs everywhere. The best waves were in the middle of the bay and here they swarmed. As someone said it was like flies round a sh***.

 

Fortunately for me a slight wind picked up nicely cross off so I stuck a 6m on my SUP and caught some lovely big waves. I can legitimately claim to have done the only front side riding of the day including one particularly big wave where I managed 2 bottoms and a top turn which were rather more than the usual slight wiggles on such a big SUP. It only takes one wave to make you day.

On seeing this the flies were all called in and told to put up sails. Just as the interlude of light wind died. So we were treated to the flies all wallowing around with no power and a fading wave. All my fault of course.

I should say that no Magheroarty trip would be complete without a visit to the reef. So while the bay was fly-ridden Ming, Simon and Garfunkel and Cormac had a great surf out there. The rest of us topped up our tans in 17 degrees while Phil made us sweat through a series of really good on land exercises to improve our sailing.

The abiding memory of the day has to be a kit carrying race (board and rigs on heads) which got very competitive and which Ming did not win!

And when the tide turned the boys went out to the reef again and surfed until dark.

For our last day we returned to Dooeys but being sure to get there early. In fact Phil and Danielle went out at dawn and had a great sail with that magnificent beach all to themselves by all accounts. I say by all accounts since clearly the likes of me was never going to get out of bed that early!

Dark skies at Dooeys

Still by 9:30 we were all out on the water in around 15 knots in perfect cross off conditions with nice clean waves and some reasonably large sets included. Once the Flies appeared the car park filled to overflowing. We were all parked in up to 4 deep and the local doggers had to park at the top of the long lane. It was quite funny to watch some of them trying and failing to reverse up the hill. In and out of the verge they went before having to drive forward and try again. It was like watching them tack in reverse.

4 deep at Dooeys car park

And talking of doggers Mark Herron-dog appeared having driven up on a forecast. He had a great sail but not perhaps on the sail size he was expecting. Most people were on 5.5+ , I was on 6.3 and Ming of course was on 7m. 

But Mark then showed his dogging side by reversing up the hill really badly in and out of the verge. But we can forgive him because his sailing was so good and he posted some nice photos too.

 

Once again I got my great wave of the day, picked it out really early and my not-GoPro footage clearly show 4 tops and 4 bottoms down the line. I'm rather proud of what is in reality my first proper front side - although I have to admit that the same footage shows an awful lot to improve in my technique!

By lunch time it had swung more off shore and catching waves was getting ever more difficult. I gave up as did many of the Flies but Minger was still sailing as the log jam in the car park gradually unwound and the light started to fade.

It was great to see many old friends back again. Sean amazed us with both his sailing and his cooking. He would bring out a range, table, seats etc and cook for the masses. Frankly we wouldn't have been surprised if he produced silver service and a crop of Latvian waitresses on the beach.

Steve had to take the prize for the most improved windsurfer during the course. From tentatively surfing in small waves he ended up riding everything in sight. Mind you it's going to cost him as he left with a huge list of new kit he's now going to buy. His sons Ollie and Ben had a ball competing with each other in the waves. However for most of us the real highlight was Ben and Jack doubling up on a SUP as a giant surfboard. They would both lie in the board (no paddles) and paddle it out and the somehow get it into a wave and ride it in with one in front of the other. It looks like a tandem windsurfer with the rigs somehow airbrushed out. Fabulous when it worked (briefly) but really funny when it didn't.

 

On the windy Saturday the 3 boys (and mind my ankle Cormac) started going for loops. And in about one foot of water. It sure was windy enough but how they didn't wreck themselves we just don't know. What we do know is that the video footage was hugely funny.  This included mid air attempts to run and starfish face plants.

 

Their friend Emily improved immensely from last year and was to be seen riding a load of waves and now in the straps as she did so. Mind you, her record for securing her boards on roof rack isn't the best....

 

Simon and Garfunkel (in reality Simon and John but Simon looks so like he's about to burst into Bridge over Troubled Water) had some great sails and surfs. One of John's wave rides at Dooeys was so good that Phil just stopped in mid sentence and pointed at it.

 

Rather confusingly we had two Jans, father and son, along with Monika. Jan's sailing was exceptional- but I will not say which Jan I am referring to.

We also had a third father and son with Joe and Seb. Another case of a really good son sailor.

Michael and Cormac are two stalwarts of the wave course. Michael enjoyed some good waves but didn't get as much time on the water as some as he doesn't do SUPs. Mind you, after the way my arms felt after some of the paddling, he may have a point. Cormac of course sailed brilliantly while never ever seeming to be hurried about anything. It was nice to see him enjoying what might be his last wave sailing - he gets married next year...

Andrew too had some great sails and enjoyed the bachelor life shacked up in a rented house with Cormac.

And then of course there were the ever present Ming and Lord. Well somebody has to drink 19 pints of Guinness every night and somebody has to slag off all of the windsurfers. We didn't find it too difficult to divide these tasks between us.

 

So ends another great wave course. For those of you who weren't there, you missed out. But Morocco and then Donegal beckon for 2018. So don't miss out again! There are no flies on us…

Acknowledging that most photographs were of course by Phil and Danielle of Getwindsurfing.