I arrived @ Belfast International on thursday afternoon after a few shenanigans at the Cardiff end - plane taking off and then landing again with an emergency stop thrown in for good measure, due to a technical fault!
Half an hour later it was business as usual and we were off again. My schedule was tight as I meeting local media mogul/radio Foyle DJ/surfer Mark 'scooper' Patterson at a designated stop at 7.15pm on the dot. The aim was to get in a dusky before dark...
We were a bit late landing, so I ran like a banchee for the bus stop. My instructions were simple - get on the airport shuttle bus for Derry!
With no bus in sight and the clock ticking, a bus finally came into view - airport shuttle bus, "You going to Derry?" I asked the driver.
"Yes, hop on" he replied...
Thirty mins later I recognised Belfast and began to wonder...the bus pulled in at a depot and I realised this bus definitely wasn't going any further.
My connection was at 7pm and Derry was a good 1.5hrs drive away so I wasn't going to make the dusky after all. I got my board on for free though and the baggage handlers had decided to spare it this time so it wasn't all bad.
Arriving at Derry that night I grabbed a taxi and headed off to my host's house. On the way the taxi driver who spoke the fastest 'oirish' I've ever heard (he may as well have been speaking 'Swahili' for all I could understand!) began his banter!
From what I could gather, he was telling me about his previous fare, who had just been hospitalised after being set upon by a bunch of guys with hammers in town. They'd broken his legs & arms etc, so was a nice little introduction to life up North!
I took it with a pinch of salt but it definitely made me more aware of my surroundings, the history and the troubles this area has had over the years - you didn't walk down 'certain' streets a few years ago for fear of a beating or worse. Things have definitely calmed down but there are still lawless parts, best avoided. You certainly don't call it Londonderry either, it's DERRY!
Mark got back about 10pm and was raving about cross-shore double over head waves that he and few of the local crew had just surfed.
His buddy Mick, who is without doubt the funniest dancer I or anyone else in Derry had ever witnessed had gone in, (after a few months absence) in a summer suit with no hood or boots and suffered badly!
It didn't seem to curb his drinking ability though but he was definitely 'affected' by his traumatic cold seas experience! ;)
Irish seas are a few degrees warmer than ours but they aren't that warm. I did spy a couple of girls learning one day with no hoods on and some of the boogers didn't bothering wearing boots or gloves but I kept mine on - better to be safe than sorry!
With a big swell running and predominantly N/NW winds I knew we were in for some good waves if we could only find shelter...
Thurs night we went out for a few 'light' stouts and rolled in at 3am having seen a remarkable Russian Gypsy trio named 'Talisman' at 'Sandinos', a local South American bar/venue.
I swear I've never seen a fiddle played so darn hard and fast in all my life. They were quite unique, to be sure!
The next morning we'd decided on a dawnie. I managed to drag my host out of bed by 7am and we met Josh - a towering surfer from Oregon and hit a local sheltered spot - C bass.
This beach like most in Ireland was spectacular, mountains and rolling hills and pristine water. It's one of those places that are norm flat but due to an 18ft swell running it was producing lovely, glassy offshore 3-4ft.
The beach here was very deep, it was odd for me surfing a beachie at low tide and having an easy paddle out and waves which were definitely backing off?
We're used to the full force of a wave or closeouts at low tide but here it seemed to be the complete opposite.
The far right had fun little barrelling peaks with a small reef in the middle of the bay with more waves to the left of it, where we surfed.
I had a couple of nice rides early on and the stoke was high! The sun was out and there were only three of us in the water surfing.
There aren't many surfers in the north. You can basically struggle to find a crew to surf with unless you live in Port rush and the surfing is very localised - not in an aggro way but they just don't seem to travel. Like many surfers, they stick to their local beaches leaving miles of coastline unridden.
Dawnies are normally about midday, if you're lucky! Alot of the crew seem to prefer their 'bed pits' rather than the watery ones!
There doesn't seem to be a need to rush and the tides don't seem to affect the breaks quite so much as they do in Wales.
From what I could gather, the Irish seem to think we're all fat and lazy and that all welsh girls are ugly. We live in a "wee country" with no waves, don't have any sort of cuisine and some of us speak funny!
I did my best to try and educate them a little but it was tough going!
That night we went to another gig - a local folk singer/superstar in Ireland - Cara Dillon.
With a cracking set of musicians and the voice of an angel we stood and listened until thirst got the better of us!
I don't think I've ever seen so many different instruments being played. Pretty much everyone in the entire band played at least 4 different instruments, from guitars to pipes and weird flutes.
That morning mein host Patterson treated me to some Irish 'Nouveau Cuisine', simply known as egg in a cup. What is that I hear you cry? Well, basically it's an egg in a cup...
You boil an egg, chuck it into a cup and add butter and black pepper. Best served with a cuppa.