Belfast Telegraph

Will huge waves scare off surfer Alastair Mennie? Don’t hold your breath

By Chris Kilpatrick

Alastair Mennie is a daredevil surfer who revels in going toe-to-toe with the awesome power of Mother Nature.

So it’s no wonder Alastair, Northern Ireland’s best-known surfer, has to be in incredible shape to take on some of the biggest waves on the planet. As these pictures show, the 31-year-old has to undertake an intensive training regime as he prepares for the might of ‘big wave’ season.

But there’s no need for him to travel to the likes of Hawaii and California to catch monster waves, the Portrush man says there’s no better training ground than his own backyard. Indeed he says surfers from across the world are increasingly opting for the north Antrim coast over dream locations to ride “the biggest, scariest waves on the planet”.

According to Alastair, whose exploits in mastering waves twice the height of most houses are renowned across the world, Northern Ireland is a Mecca for watersport-loving thrillseekers.

The surfer, who took up the sport aged nine, said waves in excess of 40 feet are a regular occurrence over the winter, with some storms producing towering walls of water over 60 feet tall.

While the thought of thousands of tonnes of water hurtling landward at breakneck speed would have most people making for the hills, Alastair revels in the power of Mother Nature.

In doing so, he has felt another mother’s wrath — that of his mum Jenny who cringes at the thought of her son doing battle with the elements in one of the world’s most dangerous sports.

“My mum won’t even look at it, she’s terrified by it,” he told the Belfast Telegraph. “She only trusts me because I train so hard.”

While widely regarded as a summer sport, surfers here count the days until the winter hits and the biggest waves of the year race towards our shoreline.

Over the past decade the scale of those waves has increasingly drawn surfers from further afield, with participants from across the globe jumping at the chance to be in freezing Irish waters.

Alastair said: “Because I’ve been surfing everywhere I know the waves in this country are among the best in the world. We have some of the biggest, scariest waves on the planet. We’re very lucky.”

Alastair, who makes a full-time living from the sport, says it is vital he is in tip-top shape.

“You have to be fit and strong. We do things as safely as we can and I don’t take risks — everything is calculated. That includes following weather charts and studying weather systems. That side is half the battle,” he said.

Background

Alastair Mennie from Portrush, Co Antrim is one of the world’s top surfers. He has been surfing for over 20 years and has taken part in competitions across the globe. According to the 31-year-old, Northern Ireland now ranks alongside Hawaii and California as a surfing hotspot with waves in excess of 60 feet becoming more commonplace off our coastline.

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