Editing and music choice inspired (or copied) from the “Watchtower of Turkey” video by Leonardo Dalessandri. Sorry if someone is annoyed by the similarity!
After some back and forth we finally decided in the evening of 25th of december to book a flight to Glasgow leaving at 12h the next day. We met at Glasgows airport and picked up our hired Van, a VW T6 that we were able to get for a really good price.
At 3 in the morning we headed off to Oban for a surprisingly calm ferry ride (two days before all routes had been cancelled because of winds gusting at 80kts) and we were able to get some much needed sleep.
With the ferry arriving at 11 there were still a few hours to sail before it got dark, so after docking we headed off to our spot choice, Balevulin. On our way we spotted the Millhouse hostel, where we had planned to stay until we found out that it had closed.
We decided to stop and try to get some tips from a local. We were greeted by David, the owner of the hostel, who gave us some spot tips and offered to help us to find accomodation suiting our budget. With the prospect of maybe not having to sleep in the Van we went on to the recommended spot, the Maze, which was better suited for the ~20 kts than Balevulin, which needs much more wind to work well. After a nice first session we went exploring the island a bit and found the “The Lodge” hotel, where we got a good deal and decided to stay over night. Two days later we found out though that the price we had agreed on was for one person instead of two, so we moved to another place which we had found through David. The owner was really nice and the place was awesome, an entire house with two bedrooms and including a kitchen.
Back to sailing: on the second day we went to the maze again, where Michal did some nice onshore aerials and I did my highest forward loop so far. As the wind was very light on the inside it was hard to pass the shorebreak and at the end of the days I spent 15 minutes continuosly getting washed over and over really close to the rocks, including once losing the equipment and having to swim after it. I was really thankful for the 6.5mm wetsuit which floats like a lifevest.
The next spot we tried was Balephetrish were we had offshore conditions with quite big waves and beautiful scenery, but the wind was almost too offshore and it was hard staying on the wave. Also we didn’t want to risk too much as the waves were breaking about 500m from the beach above some underwater rocks and with no rescue around we didn’t want to try how long it takes to freeze if something breaks.
The next day the wind had picked up so we gave Balevulin a try and it was amazing. Big waves breaking (and sometimes barrelling) close to the beach, rocks only sparsely scattered on the sides so we could fully enjoy the session with being scared only by the force of the waves and not by the surrounding cirumstances. Michal did some nice cutbacks and I also made some wave riding progress, but mostly I remember when I hit a 3m wave late and fell over with the lip. That short feeling of free fall was only a scary hint at how big wave surfers must feel when they go over the fall in huge waves.
The next day was new years eve with wind forecast to stop around 9:30 in the morning, so we entered the water when it was still quite dark. I was first, but on 4.2 I was heavily overpowered so I let Michal have a go and he had an intense session until the wind, as predicted, stopped quite abruptly. We then went shopping for drinks and celebrated early around 8 on balevulin beach with champagne and later with vodka at home.
Then on new years day we got up quite early (without headache surprinsingly!) and went driving around the island to search for a good spot, as the wind direction had changed to north and the swell was now from south instead of west. We chose the maze, which looked completely different with these conditions and had changed to starboard tack instead of port tack. The wind was strong and cold (3.7 for me), the waves were small but quite nice and I did my first cutbacks with spin out during that session. We couldn’t stop and sailed long after sunset as it was also our last session. Later we went to the owner of our house to pay and were spontaneously invited for some food and beers.
The next day it was time to leave. The ferry ride was smooth again and this time the weather allowed to get on deck and enjoy the beautiful scottish landscape. Michal was lucky and had his flight the same evening, while mine was leaving about 24h later from Glasgow to London and then after yet another night finally back home. I still don’t know why I booked this terrible flight.
All in all Tiree really is something special. Beautiful landscape, mostly sailing alone and a great choice of spots for each direction reachable within half an hour around all of the island. Definitely recommendable for anyone who doesn’t mind a thick wetsuit and some slightly cold fingers.