Through the winter months, Ireland’s west coast is barraged by weather, and waves. There are windows of opportunity though, for those in the know, and when they open the local surfers like C-Skins team rider Ollie O’Flaherty don’t let them go unridden. Despite the numerous storms this past winter Ollie had numerous days to choose from when we asked about his session of the season from the last three months, and picked this tow-day at Riley’s, the famous slab that he’s put so many hours getting to know over the years.

Date: The Depths of Winter

Swell height and period: I can't remember

Wind direction and strength: West-Northwest

Location: Riley’s

Board: 5'9" Slab Special by Coded Surfboards

Wetsuit: Wired 5:4 LQS Chest Zip Hooded Wetsuit, Wired Split-Toe 5mm Boots, 3mm Wired Gloves, C-Skins Neoprene Jacket for jetski ride

irish surfer surfer ollie o'flaherty dropping into a big wave in front of photographers at riley's surf spot

Can you tell us about this run of swell...

This particular swell originated as one of those remarkably potent lows tightly coiled in the depths of the Caribbean, steadfastly retaining its ferocity during its track across the Atlantic. Whenever I encounter such lows, a peculiar mental ritual unfolds within me. Initially, there's a flurry of nerves, pondering the potential intensity of the conditions. Then, a cataloging of my bodily aches and twinges, questioning my physical readiness. Will I measure up? All these musings invariably culminate in a potent brew of fear, for, at its essence, tackling such surf is undeniably daunting. Yet, this trepidation is counterbalanced by an overwhelming desire to be present, to harness the raw power of those waves. I've trained and prepared meticulously for moments like these. And when push comes to shove, despite the doubts, I unfailingly find myself drawn to the ocean, embracing its challenge with an open mind and a fierce determination.


surfer ollie o'flaherty dropping in to a big wave at riley's in ireland

And this particular day?

Upon arrival, the scene at Riley's mirrored its customary chaos during eight to 12/15-foot swells - utterly surreal. The thunderous roar of the waves reverberated through the air, a constant reminder of nature's unbridled force. With just one glance at the towering sets, we wasted no time in swiftly towing our skis to the harbor to kit up and launch. Riley's, with its unique character, offers a consistent shape, whether it's at 3 feet or a bone-rattling 15 feet. Shallow and formidable, it boasts some of the world's most exhilarating slab tubes. On this occasion, my partner on the ski was none other than Steve Thomas, a seasoned veteran and arguably one of the country's finest ski drivers.

After a brisk 20-minute ski ride, we arrived at the wave, greeted by flawless, slabbing barrels, with only one other ski team in sight. For the next three hours, we immersed ourselves in the thrill of riding giant tubes, occasionally tasting the sting of a heavy wipeout. Thankfully, Kev Smith was on hand to capture the essence of the action, freezing those exhilarating moments in time. It's often the wipeouts that linger most vividly in memory. On this day, I found myself caught by a rogue one-foot wave coming at me from a dry slab in the tube, abruptly ending a promising ride. Yet, such humbling experiences are integral to the pursuit of our craft.


surfer ollie o'flaherty in the barrel at riley's in ireland

As we prepared to depart, I donned my C-Skins neoprene jacket to provide some much-needed protection against the biting wind and add an extra layer of insulation. Casting a final glance at the reef, now nearly exposed by the receding tide, we marveled at the sight of 10-foot tubes spitting with relentless fury. Despite the looming journey back against the wind, there was an undeniable sense of satisfaction, mingled with anticipation for a hearty meal and a well-deserved pint of Guinness, as we reflected on yet another epic session at my cherished slab, just down the road!


Screengrabs from footage shot by Kev Smith.