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Seeking to capture the essence of coastal exploration and the thrill of watersports, the Prolimit team missioned to Achill Island on Ireland’s West Coast, for their ‘Follow the Rugged Coast’ mission to shoot their new winter range.

WORDS – Linda van Lakwijk // PHOTOS – Andy Troy

Magnetic pull

When our creative team delved into the next project, they were irresistibly drawn to Achill Island by its unique geographical position and undeniable natural beauty. The island’s proximity to the Gulf Stream made it the ideal location for capturing the essence of our next mission, with wild Atlantic waves crashing against rugged cliffs and pristine beaches – a perfect playground!
During winter, temperatures on Achill Island typically range from around 5 to 10 degrees Celsius. The winter days are generally mild, but the strong coastal winds can make it feel a lot colder. The ocean currents play a big role on the weather patterns on Achill Island, with the North Atlantic Drift, a warm ocean current, bringing relatively mild temperatures. The North Atlantic Drift is an extension of the Gulf Stream, which transports tropical waters from the south to cooler European regions. This process engenders prevailing westerly winds, and understanding the dynamics of the Gulf Stream is crucial for accurate European weather forecasting.

Mission start

With all this knowledge in the back of our head, our trip to Achill Island began and we met up with Henri Kolberg at Dublin Airport, who had come all the way from Chile, where he had competed in the PWA event. From Dublin Airport it’s a four-hour drive to Achill Island. You drive through the most remote places and pass only a few small villages along the way. We arrived late in the evening and were curious as to what the next morning would bring.

We met with Sean Swift (Swiftie) from Pure Magic Watersports at Lynott’s Pub, one of the smallest pubs in Ireland! As a local he could tell us everything about the various spots, and where would work best with the forecast for the week ahead. The next day we decided to wake up early and drive around the island to check out the spots Swiftie recommended to see them with our own eyes. It wasn’t windy, so it was a good day to drive around and get some scenic shots. Ireland is known for its breathtaking landscapes and rugged coastlines and Achill has plenty of both. After some scouting we decided to pick the famous White Cliffs of Ashleam as the evening location where we could make a little campfire for the end scene of our video of the trip.


The forecast for the next days looked promising and we decided to head to Keel Beach for some proper action. After an early morning sunrise shoot we got invited by Francois from Pure Magic to have a good Irish breakfast at their lodge and recharge for the afternoon. In the afternoon we went to Keel Lake to get the wing shots done. With offshore winds the lake is a flat-water paradise and with just a few other (crazy) watersports enthusiasts daring to face the cold conditions, Henri, Stig Hoefnagel and Jeanne Vanderick had a great session and lots of fun with the locals.

During the winter and early spring, it’s very deserted on the island and only at the weekends the island gets filled up with campers and caravans. The island entices you to drive around and keep staring at the beautiful landscapes, however, there are sheep everywhere and they don’t mind taking a nap on the road. Watch out, especially at night! We started to make bad jokes about all the sheep through our walkie-talkies.
“How many sheep live on Achill Island?”
“I started counting the sheep, but I fell asleep…”


Henri heard the wind and waves would be very good for windsurfing the next day around Elly Bay in Belmullet, so we decided to drive the one and a half hours to the North and Henri managed to score some nice conditions. And then something happened that none of us really expected in Ireland, as we (northern Europeans) normally only expect it in tropical destinations… a big group of dolphins passed by a few hundred meters from the shore! Such a cool surprise! It’s stupid I know to think that dolphins wouldn’t live there as it’s the Atlantic Ocean, but that’s how it works in the brains of most northern European people I think. We expect to see dolphins only when we travel to ‘warm’ countries.

Stoked and soaked

The next day we went back to Keel Beach to capture some shots with the stunning cliffs in the background. However it was pouring. Resulting in a soaking wet and slightly grumpy crew. Back at our house we lit the fireplace and tried to dry our shoes and clothes.

That night we got invited for dinner at the Pure Magic Lodge to celebrate the end of another successful Prolimit Mission. There was live music in the village, and we decided to go for a drink after dinner. Live music on Achill Island means a room with 6 locals and their instruments. The atmosphere was super friendly though and we had a lot of fun with the slightly older locals.

Photo shoots in winter conditions are always challenging for both riders and crew and take up a lot of energy. However, they are usually the ones you remember since you can always laugh about it afterwards, remember when?…

Follow the Rugged Coast is part of Prolimit Missions – Follow the Current, an innovative and educative initiative that aims to follow ocean currents to understand how they affect water temperatures and climate. See www.prolimit.com for more.

Keel Beach faces south, so south winds are onshore, southwest cross-on, west cross-shore and northwest cross-off, and these westerly winds give starboard tack sailing in the predominantly port tack sailing of Ireland’s west coast. East winds can give port tack conditions on Keel Beach and being south facing it picks up south swells and wind swells that can miss the rest of the nearby west coast, as well as larger west or northwest swells that wrap round. South or southwest winds are best for the lake for flat water blasting with a small fin. You can sail Keel Lake in a west or northwest as well, but always check there is enough  water in the lake. Northeast, north-northeast or east winds give good blasting at Dugort Beach on the north shore. Watch out for Achill’s famous “Battle for the Lake” (www.battleforthelake.com) multi watersport and music festival that takes place at the end of September, which hosts the Mayo Mayhem wavesailing contest as well as kite, wing and SUP events.


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