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The ‘Motley Crew’ of John Carter and Timo Mullen have had their anchors down for a while due to Covid, but with restrictions easing and Timo’s van kitted out for #vanlife, the crew were ready to hit the road again – destination Ireland! 

Words: John Carter // Photos: John Carter 


John Carter – “Until the pandemic hit, windsurfing missions to Ireland were just part of my normal annual schedule and something I would almost take for granted. Then the world stopped moving, we all stayed close to home and travel, even within the UK, became far more complicated. Over two whole years had passed since I was last in Ireland for the Red Bull Storm Chase in March 2019 and it was even longer since a good old-fashioned road trip there.

Looking back over the years, I have done so many crazy last-minute missions with different crews to Ireland, with lots of adventures and many memories gathered along the way. With the arrival of Autumn and most restrictions lifted, Ireland was finally back on the radar and it did not take long before Timo spotted a tasty forecast in late October that was enough to trigger a hit and run trip. Normally we would wait for the biggest storm to give the green light, but this time round we just opted for a solid forecast of wind and waves, nothing massive, but most likely some sweet wave riding conditions!


The initial plan was to head to Dublin from Holyhead on a Sunday night and return on Wednesday morning, so I planned my weekend accordingly. Over the lockdown, Timo had been busy converting his van to a liveable home on wheels, especially designed to make hit and run missions like this much more doable. With his converted van, we would have our own comfortable base that would allow us to be much more mobile and allow us to sleep inside without having to bother about booking accommodation and all that nonsense. 

I was actually looking forward to re-visiting some of the classic spots that were all part of the norm a few years ago pre COVID, and of course sampling a few pints of Guinness après session. Of course, knowing Timo, you have to be prepared for a curveball at any moment and sure enough on Saturday afternoon he announced that we would need to leave imminently as the forecast had just changed for the swell to kick in late Sunday afternoon.      


Despite a few protests from myself, we hit the road from Southampton at 11.15 p.m. on Saturday night, with a mere six hour drive to Holyhead in northwest Wales ahead of us to catch an Irish Ferries crossing due to leave at 8 a.m. As I loaded my bags, I could see that Timo had been busy making the van more luxurious than any previous missions, with two camp beds complete with mattresses installed into the area behind the front seats and all the damp windsurf gear blocked off separately in the back. There was even a heater, plugs and USB adapters to charge our phones. This was as close as it gets to Motley Crew glamping! Van life has certainly become more popular since the pandemic and I was quite looking forward to a bit of back to basics style road tripping and the spontaneity that the van allows. We arrived two and a half hours early for the ferry and the new setup immediately showed its advantages, as we were able to score two hours decent sleep in comfy beds.  


There were a few COVID forms to fill in on entry to Ireland, as well as showing proof of vaccinations, but it wasn’t too much drama at check-in. After a rocky sailing across the Irish Sea, we arrived in Dublin around 11 a.m. and hit the road bound for the fabled breaks of the west coast. The obligatory bacon and sausage baps were eaten at the first fuel stop, as well as a coffee fix for the road. By late afternoon we were at the west coast, driving down a muddy track where Timo had dragged me many years ago for one of our first ever Irish missions with Ian Black.  


The wind was light, but perfect emerald waves were peeling down the reef and it looked like Timo’s call to leave early was spot on. We were joined at this remote spot by Danish wave sailor and cameraman, Lars Peterson, who had been road tripping in Ireland for the past two months! Typically, the Irish weather somehow changed from glorious sunshine and cross-offshore winds, to cross-on and driving rain in the space of half an hour. That is all part of the game in Ireland and we knew the score from many years of experience.

Timo did manage to snag a few waves before the weather turned, so it wasn’t all bad. Just as we were packing up the wind switched back to side-off and the swell started to really kick in, but it was getting dark and was too late for another session. The beauty of having the van and living the ‘van life,’ was that we were in no particular rush to move on at the end of the day. There was no pressure to go find accommodation and we could just hang at the beach and enjoy the moment.  

We headed out to grab some food and scored a decent meal as well as a few pints of Guinness to cap off a rewarding first day on the road. With the freedom of the beds in the van, we could spend the night wherever we wanted; in practice though, we were so tired, we ended up crashing in the first quiet spot we could find!


We had been banking on the second day to be epic at Magheroarty, but typically the forecast changed and we had to head in the completely opposite direction! We were greeted at our next spot by awesome looking surf, light offshore winds, blue skies and quite a crowd in the water as it was a bank holiday in Ireland. Looking to escape the crowded surf and find some wind, we headed further west, banking on the fact the breeze was forecast to pick up in the afternoon.

The beauty about some of the reef setups in Ireland is that with cross-offshore winds you don’t need too much wind for epic sailing. A few knots can be just enough to head straight upwind to the peak and pump onto the waves.

Once you’re riding, then the power of the wave is enough to produce speed to hit the lip and boost some aerials. Sure enough the wind kicked in, not strong, but enough for Timo to float out on his 100-litre board and catch some of the beautiful looking waves that we had been drooling at all morning.  

Timo and I cruised back along the coast road, checking out a few more breaks for possible future missions. We headed out for food again in the evening and Timo was frothing when we bumped into a bunch of pro surfers, including Aussie legend Mikey Wright, who had all flown into Ireland chasing the same forecast as us! 


For the final day of the mission, the wind was forecast to be over 30 knots SSW, combined with a solid 3-metre swell, so we were confident that we would score some epic conditions but Ireland being Ireland you just never know.

In contrast to the previous day the clouds had rolled in along with a light mizzle of rain. We returned back to the spot we hit on the first afternoon and weirdly despite reports of 3.3m weather a few hours away, we were faced with light offshore winds. At least we had the comfort of the van to hang out in while the conditions would hopefully improve. Lars joined us again, as well as Irish sailors Katie McAnena, Finn Mellon and a few other locals.

It did not take long before there was enough wind to play in and with the tide receding, the waves were clean and shaping up nicely on the upwind section of the reef. Despite the misty weather, the action was hot with pure down-the-line wave riding the order of the day.

Timo was showing his class hitting some awesome late aerials on the heaviest sections of the wave, despite the fact he was suffering with a hip injury that has been holding him back for the past six months.

By early afternoon a small crowd was on the water, scoring wave after wave, as Ireland well and truly delivered the goods.


Our ferry was due to leave at 02:05 a.m. the following morning, so we were in no rush. After Timo had finished his second session around 5 p.m., we had a call from Stena Ferries informing us that our crossing had been cancelled due to the forecast high winds in the Irish Sea and that we could catch the 8 p.m. boat from Dublin if we could make it in time.

Being miles away on the west coast, there was no chance of that, so we moved to plan B and headed to Belfast to hopefully make the 10 p.m. crossing and take our chances there, even though it was fully booked!

Somehow we made it after a mad dash across Ireland, including a quick pit stop at Timo’s parents to pick up a takeaway dinner. After some begging and pleading, we scored the very last spot on the ferry and were on our way home. The only part we had not really considered was the 50-knot winds forecast blowing up the Irish Sea!

I have been on a few dodgy crossings in my time, but this was one heck of a ride! In the darkness we could make out waves crashing over the whole boat and during the night there were some tremendous slams as the ferry’s hull crashed through the swells.

Needless to say we didn’t get too much sleep, and were somewhat relived when the ferry pulled into Liverpool in the morning! No one ever said road trips were easy, but for this one, the pleasure was worth the pain!” 

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