Donegal Wind Break




Yes it was Donegal time again. In my case two glorious weeks of top quality coaching from Phil and Danielle aka the Hobbits in the windy paradise which is Magheroarty, Dooeys et al.

There is nothing like having a break in the wind and that's exactlty what we got. A break in the wind. We went to holiday in Donegal and the wind packed its bags and holidayed somewhere else. Two weeks and only only one day of proper windsufing....

Now you may think that's a disaster, but not so. It's a fact that you learn the most on the least windy days and we did. We had great waves so it was SUPs either with paddles or sometimes even with sails and a lot of skills to work on.


And we found ourselves in rather mixed company. We had many of the English back again, always a pleasure to see the likes of Sophie and John, Mark and Nicky (now with family!) and Emily and Sean. And we had new 'friends' like Mike who flies air/sea rescue helicopters - now that's the sort of friend you want to keep on the right side of. 

But on the other hand we were also stuck with old faces like Ming the Merciless and his personal man servant and hands on masseuse aka Tim. Two weeks before the course Chris broke - as we've been predicting for years. In this case the bit that went was his back and he had to be driven home from Donegal face down in his van the week before the course began - not sure how he managed this considering how much kit he has in that van. Still, I suppose he wouldn't notice if he lost a board or ten in the name of medicine....

The man who repaired him was Tim, but just to make sure he came up with him for the first week and alternately nagged him not to do stuff and then laid his hands on him when he did it anyway. We often wondered what went on in that room in the Loch Altan late at night - we just heard the screams - but we did wonder....



The good, the bad and ugly. And me. At the Loch Altan. Jarlath and Stuart making up the numbers.

Now, since I mentioned the Loch Altan, I have to follow up on last year's big shock news - they'd added the Loch Altan Korma to the menu. Do these people have no feeling for tradition?

A few days before we headed up we got even more shocking news in the form of an e-mail to say they lost  their chef (possibly to kite surfing?) and they wouldn't be serving any food. We had visions of starvation while we windsurfed. But all was well, they found a new one and he was good.

So we had an all new menu. Some great fish and the steaks were fabulous. However tradition had really gone to the wall - the Loch Altan Burger is no more. Naturally we toasted its demise in the only we could - with 18 pints of Guinness.

We were also joined by our own pet German, Jan. He started badly, coming up a week early he accosted some people in the bar who looked like windsurfers (clearly older, rough looking and talking bollox) but they turned out to be from Harty's course. Not a good start.

Then he met up with Minger and me - probably downhill again. Actually he was great and really enjoyed our craic and rough humour - who says the Germans don't have a sense of humour. He was reduced to near tears as we told tales and he responded with his Maui wave epic sail on 160 ltrs and having to be rescued on one of the big waves breaks with a broken mast. And this before he learned to water start.

The only problem was that he insisted on drinking girlie half pints of Guinness. Oblivious of the looks of horror from the bar staff, he stuck to this for almost a week before our torrent of abuse finally got to him. From then on he drank the slowest pint of Guinness every night we'd ever seen.

The first week was largely windless. A couple of mornings of sail on SUP at Dooeys and the rest was paddles in hand mostly at Magheroarty. Not a bad spot, even when there was no wind.


 Timeless shot - Minger on a wave, could be any year in the last 10 or more.

On one particularly windless day John went off to Mordoor and Mount Doon to melt the ring and bring back the wind. Oh and to save the civilised world. He sent this picture - in reality Errigal. But we did wonder why he undertook this journey without the help of any Hobbits?

Poor Phil was at his wits end. He was determined we should all get lots of great tuition (which we did) but each day he got up and saw almost no wind just made it more difficult for him.

One night he must have been looking at the same over optimistic forecast that Ming always believes ( and thought he detected some wind and waves at Carrickfin, but early. So we all got up early and headed to the beach only to be greated with 5 mph and dropping. After doing some drills on the beach it started to pour.

But at least one of us knew how to carry kit and an umbrella. As I said, you can learn an awful lot of good stuff when there's no wind.


 He may not put his towels on the beach, but here we recorded the first time Jan ordered (and drank!) a proper pint of Guinness.

One day there was a little wind and so Joe decided to get out his ironing board. He had a great sail while the rest of us topped up our tans.


Chris, as you and the regulars in a certain Morocco bar know, is a dentist. Here he is rigging  (don't get excited, it was for a no wind drill) while sorting out a patient. Note the high tech hands free.


And here's the drill (no pun intended Chris).

So, what actually happened on week one (I hear you ask, if you haven't already lost the will to live)?

A few highlights -

  • A big bar debate about the incidence of Sticky Pillows In Donegal. Turns out this is a well known phrase for not wanting to get up in the morning and not a reference to Chris and Tim. It was a close run thing for the title of this article too...
  • Every really big wave had me on it. All this training in waves really pays off and I am getting good (not a phrase you hear very often) at spotting the big ones and riding them. The results were somewhat frightening however for other wave users!
  • The big talking point was my attempt to run over Mike's board at Carrickfin. After doing Heli tacks in the rain we were packing up and I drove on to his board. Fortunately (for my chances of ever being airlifted from the sea) there was little damage done. But I don't think I'm ever going to hear the end of this one.
  • A new sailing technique was discovered when I was caught talking to the waves. You can imagine hanging around on the outside looking for the right wave. "Come on baby are you big enough?". "I don't like you, but do you have a mate?". "You're the one, hit me baby (one more time)". Hey, it worked for me!
  • One day Ming and Tim broke team orders and sneaked off for a little quality time together at Ards Friary. They came back with big smiles on their faces and said it was like a conveyor belt. Not quite sure what they meant...
Now I mentioned earlier that, thanks to my chat up lines, I was on all the biggest waves. Clearly these were mine. The problem was when other wave users were inconsiderate enough to get in the way.


Here's one example and I only wish I'd had a Gopro on so I could bring you the look of terror on his face as I charged down the wave at him.
This one was even better as Mark (who's good on any board in the water) saw me coming and dived off and got as far under the water as he could. I too dived, up in the air and our boards did a bit of a Chris/Tim and mounted each other. But it all ended nicely and no kit or surfers were damaged.
But don't think I was the only one. Here two of us are determined to kill this bloke.
Some people are annoyingly good.
This is Kathy and Mark who took in a week in Donegal as part of a circular road trip round Ireland. I bet they got more wind when they went elsewhere.
Now to the highlights of week two.
  • The big news is that we got a windy day! We went to Dooeys. The morning was light, sail on SUP for some until it really died before lunch. Water starting became impossible and Joe diced with the rocks until until in desperation he managed to up haul Cormac's 120 wave board.
  • Phil commented that the Portaloos at Dooeys were the finest he’d ever seen! Now we know Phil is an expert on many things, but we didn't know until now that Portaloos were one of them. But if a world leading expert says this, well we were all very proud to go and do our business (with renewed vigour) in them.
  • You might have thought that Dooeys would be mental but by good luck Peter Hart led his crew to Carrickfin. So we had the world's best Portaloos to ourselves. And the car park.
  • After lunch it finally came up which for me meant 6.2 on my Naish freestyle wave and finally catching and riding some frontside. Mark and John showed us how to do it while Jack, Mr Looper, missed the best of it as his baby minder had gone home. They were small waves but great fun

Now I have to tell you about Andrew and Joe. They came up from Dublin and Joe immediately got into trouble. It turned out - and you couldn't make this up - that he'd previously damaged his ankle break dancing. Some people on the course are not old enough to know what this is. And even if you do, you'd think you're more likely to break your head. But not Joe, he hurt his anke.

So it was that he stepped off his board in the shallows and jarred his old dancing injury. He had to take it easy for a day or two but commeth the wind commeth the man, or at least commeth Joe. He sailed through the pain.

The other 'interesting' thing about Joe is that he only eats fish. So at the Loch Altan his choice of the menu was somewhat limited, especially when the seabass was off for a few days. So the good news is that Andrew is a keen fisherman and on the day off he headed off to a nice river and came back with a very respectable trout. So he and Joe were able to cosy up with fish and nice bottle of wine.

From now on they are known as the fisherman and fisherman's friend. You know about Fisherman's Friend don't you. That hot sweet you suck for ages. Well, it's nothing remotely to do with that of course.

Even the Loch Altan had had enough of these two - they got thrown out so their rooms could be given to a bunch of German walkers. Jan was delighted.

Joe was manfully trying to catch waves on this lielow (inflatable SUP) - and it wasn't a pretty sight. Then I lent him my magic SUP and his life was transformed. You wouldn't have believed that this was only his second day on a SUP in waves! And he completely forgot about his sore leg. 

Jan neanwhile headed out so far we thought he was off to the USA. But eventually he realised he wasn't going to catching anything out there and came in and got a pile of waves on his surf board.

Meanwhile Ming rang Tim to get permission to sail and then had a great time on the reef.

The final Sunday was notable for Heli tacks etc at Magheroarty in the sun, a nice sail on SUP at the reef and Ming on a wing. Emily did particularly well on the reef too.
But it all ended with something we've never seen before at Magheroarty - topless sun bathers on the beach! And yes, some of them were women. We think it may have been the German walkers. And we also noticed that someone was flying a drone a lot over the beach at the time, however no-one has offered us the footage.
And so another Donegal episode ended with the now traditional photoshoot on the beach - I mean windsurfers, not topless hikers.
However I will leave you with a classic image of a windsurfer getting it wrong. Look closely at Jarlath ...
Yes, we'd have liked more wind. But we learned loads (including which way round to fit a fin) and, best of all, we really enjoyed it.
We'll be back next year, you can bet a lot of Guinness on that