What you need to know before buying a Wet Suit

Get Thick

It is Ireland.  The water is rarely warm.  Choose a wet suit with the magic of neoprene for the chilly Atlantic waves and the icy sting of the Irish Sea. Neoprene has proven itself as maintaining great flexibility under all temperatures.  It is the best option for a good wet suit.  Before purchasing a wet suit, consider the thickness of the neoprene and the protection it gives.  The thickness of a wetsuit starts at 2mm and goes up to a chunky 6mm of protection.  Don’t think that a denser suit will restrict your movements. Designs have improved greatly over the past years and a 6mm wet suit will not impeded your amazing surfing/diving/generally awesome skills in any way.  The wet suit will be thickest around your torso, and then the legs and then the arms.  This is cleverly designed to give optimum warmth to your core. It also makes life easier for wild water swimmers, kayakers and other water sport enthusiasts as the arms keep working, the core is protected. If you are still wondering just how thick you need to be, from a wet suit perspective, then let one our trained staff at Outdoor Adventure Store talk you through the options.  Obviously, if you are navigating giant waves in the North Sea on a chilly November morning, you should opt for the heaviest density of 6mm. If you really don’t take your clothes off for anything less than 21 degrees of rare Irish sunshine, you will be grand with the 3mm. In fact, 3mm is the most popular wet suit as it covers most options for Irish water sports.

A Good Fit

Make sure your wetsuit is a nice snug fit. Chafing is a real problem with ill-fitting wet suits and while the suit should not be cutting off circulation or causing pain, it is normal for this piece of clothing to be the tightest thing you have ever put on. Keep in mind that neoprene stretches when wet and with usage, so If you’re in doubt about the correct size – choose the snugger fit.  Trust us.  It will feel weird at first, particularly as you pull it over the legs and thighs. But, you do not want to be slowed down in the water by folds or air pockets so bear with it.    If a wetsuit wasn’t snug, it would not do its’ job of keeping you warm and improving your buoyancy.  The very purpose of the suit is to keep a very thin layer of water next to your body.  That means that the wetsuit is going to feel very tight, but comfy and touching your skin in the small of the back, backs of the knees etc.

Style.

Wet suits tend to come in the amazing colour range of black, with interesting shades of grey. No one complains about this lack of colour as style in wet suits is really more about the cut and the placement of the zipper.  The style depends on personal preference.  Do you prefer a full-sleeved or sleeveless version?  A Steamer, a Shortie or a Long John.   There are pros and cons to each, but a Steamer, or longer-sleeved wet-suit,  gives more buoyancy and warmth, while the sleeveless versions (a Long John) can be nice for those who don’t like their shoulder range-of-motion restricted, and is particularly used for sailing.  The Steamer design is the most common suit and the one you’ll spend most of your surfing life wearing. Examine the zip before you buy. Back zips run along the spine, making a big opening and so, they are the easiest type to get on.  At Outdoor Adventure Store we stock Typhoon brand, which feature the Storm Keeper Zip, a specialist zip featuring offset teeth that forms a minimum water penetration. The zip can often see water penetration, but this is greatly reduced when you choose a well-made brand.   Some choose front opening zips, but again it is entirely a personal choice.  

Accessories

Gloves, hoods and booties are essential extras which water sport enthusiasts usually add to their kit once they have begun the activities in earnest.   The addition of a good neoprene super-stretch hood with a snug face seal can make facing the winter white water rapids in your kayak a much more pleasant experience.  If you are a hardy wild water swimmer, then you need to have that protection from the brain numbing chills!   Booties not only protect you from the cold, they stop rocks and reefs from damaging your feet. Your feet will stay warm for a longer time. Your hands will be warmer with the addition of gloves, although generally speaking they provide protection from the air and wind chill and not just the water, particularly if you are surfing or canoeing.   Good accessories and the secret to all weather participation in your favourite water activities from surfing to snorkelling,  and just as it is important to buy the right wet suit, you should pick reliable brands in accessories, that will last the test of time and the rigours of your crazy water filled adventures. See our Wet-suit accessories here

When surfing gets extreme along the Wild Atlantic Way

Surfing is one of the fastest growing sports in Ireland.  The upsurge of surf schools and clubs along the Irish coastline is testament to the interest in this exciting and exhilarating pastime. What was once an activity exclusive to tanned, bleached haired hippy dudes, is now a mainstream water sport. From Dublin to Donegal and from Kerry to Tramore, surfers are paddling out and (sometimes very shakily) riding the waves back to shore.  The improvement in wet suits and waterproof gear has contributed to making surfing a more popular leisure pursuit, particularly in the cold Atlantic water. Enthusiasts from any part of the country don’t need to drive too far to find waves on this beautiful island, and even Dublin folk can find surfing down the road in Britta’s Bay.

But, when the ice cream vans have boarded up for the winter, the shoreline surfers change. When the sun umbrellas are packed away and the tourists are confined to tramping over beaches muffled up in scarves, hats and mittens, surfing takes a more serious turn. Yes, there are still some novices in the quieter spots on those rare calm days, but the winter is the season of extreme surfing and Ireland is right up there with the most audacious wave riding anywhere in the world.

Wild Atlantic way extreme surfing is not for the faint hearted.  30 and 40ft waves tower above surfers and spectators alike.  Mullaghmore in Sligo has some legendary waves for the bravest heavy water riders.  Local surfers like Conor Maguire, who grew up surfing the Donegal coastline and always pushed himself to heavier and heavier waves. Irish surfers know the risks involved in heavy-wave surfing, but it has not hampered the rise in brave souls getting towed out to monster waves in Irish waters.  International surfers have started to arrive in their droves too.  From October to March, the chances of a perfect storm of waves tempts surfers and spectators alike. Weather conditions that would  may send most of the population huddling for the fireside and the TV, brings extreme surfers and fans to the clifftops and the beaches, to witness human resilience and wave riding skill at its best.

No wave has the mythical reputation of the great Aileen.  Situated off the coast of the iconic Cliffs of Moher, Aileen is the mother of all monster waves when she appears.  As majestic as the cliffs themselves, Aileen is as beautiful as she is frightening. The thunderous, 12m barrel wave that assaults the Cliffs of Moher is described by scientists at NUI Galway as the nearest thing to a “perfect wave”.

 ‘After the discovery of Aileen’s, many who had seen it were left in doubt as to whether it would be possible to ride at all. But Lahinch surf school owner John McCarthy was undeterred; he became the first surfer to take on the colossus of Clare, and his experience has since pried open a world of possibility and helped put Irish big wave surfing on the map’  

Surfer John McCarthy recalls ‘The wave itself is one of the most terrifying waves in the world that you’ll see,” McCarthy says, “so when you go out and you see a wave like that…your initial feeling is just absolute fear and… you know, you’re scared for your life. It took quite a while before we could ride it successfully.”  After surfing the big waves for a decade, John has ceased tackling these magnificent monsters, citing safety issues. The risk of injury or death is extremely high and these big waves demand a lot of respect from the wave riders. Conor has suffered fractured vertebrae and broken ribs among minor injuries. There is of course, a support team, who tow the surfer out and swoop in on their jet-skis if there is a sign of difficulty.  Extreme surfers go out as a team and return as a team, but it is in that wonderful moment of beauty as a surfer rides a huge barrel wave, disappearing and emerging in the angry surf, that the effort and sacrifice melts away and we are all held in a moment of complete awe and reverence, before it all comes crashing down with the waves.

Extreme wave riders have pushed the boundaries of surfing in Ireland and put the Irish surfing scene firmly on the International map.  Not everyone has the time, the money or the commitment (never mind the skills and complete craziness) to surf heavy water, but they are ambassadors for the unspoiled beauty of Irish coastlines and their complete suitability for surfers of all skill levels. As the reputation of Irish surfers grows internationally and we welcome more enthusiasts to the sport in Ireland, it means a welcome boost to Irish tourism.

Whether you surf for fun and thrills or for extreme adrenaline hits Outdoor Adventure Store can keep you warm from head to toe with winter gear. We have a great selection of wet-suits, booties, hoods and gloves and all the essentials to keep you cosy on the shore and in the water.  Link to water-sport stock

Surfing the Irish Coastline

Hang Ten. It’s big wave season!

“Surfing leads you through life, especially when you’re young and with hope in your heart.”
Tom Blake

Ireland is home to some of the biggest and best waves in the world. From November to February is the most exciting time of year. It’s big wave season.

With some of the most famous waves in the world breaking just off the Atlantic shoreline, Ireland attracts the exclusive and brave tribe of extreme surfers, this time of year. Iconic waves like the Peak in Bundoran, County Donegal and the Aileen in the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare entice the world’s surfers to our wild coastline. The surfing is spectacular, the risks high and the adrenalin even higher.  The wave, Aileen has been described as the nearest thing to a ‘perfect wave’ but she is not for the fainthearted! Described by filmmaker Peter Clyne as “The mammoth waves that Aileen produces are dwarfed only by the majestic, unspoilt Cliffs of Moher”. Aileen’s Wave is somewhat of a mystical surf spot and you have to be extremely lucky to catch this perfect wave – it appears only a few times a year when the conditions are just right. It can reach up to 12 metres and attracts the world’s top surfers, hopeful for the thrill of a lifetime. Clare is not the only coastline promising the ride of your life. The waves at Mullaghmore are not for the fainthearted, reaching a staggering 15 metres when the conditions are right and making them one some of the biggest waves to hit the Irish coastline. With consistent good waves all year round, this incredible reef break off the cliffs at Mullaghmore is amongst the best big-wave surf spots in the world. Last February, Conor Maguire (Bundoran, Ireland) towed into an emerald wall of waves in Mullaghmore Sligo, becoming barrelled and escaping the foam ball monster. This feat makes him a contender for the prestigious Billabong Ride of Year Award. You can experience the thrill of it all here:

Surfing the waves in Ireland is now a mainstream sport but also a fast growing pastime and always an amazing tourist attraction. All along the Wild Atlantic Way and even on the east coast around Brittas Bay, surfing schools are providing hire of equipment, advice and instructions to a growing number of surfers. For a minimum outlay of money, this fantastic sport can be accessed by people of all ages and expertise. Surfing is no longer an elitist pursuit, nor the vocation of tanned hippy types.  Surfing is for all. Lahinch in County Clare has been welcoming surfers for decades and is one of the country’s most popular spots for learners and newbies to begin their life of catching waves. A welcoming town, full of summer fun and lots to do for families and surfers alike, Lahinch has built a tourist industry around surfing. Donegal also boasts fantastic waves. In Bundoran and Rossnowlagh, the surfing waves are only rivalled by the amazing views and unspoilt golden beaches. The Irish Tourist board says ‘Bundoran has been nicknamed the ‘surf capital of Ireland’ in recent years and it’s not difficult to see why. With an abundant choice of beaches, varying swells, varying sizes and with waves coming from every direction, Bundoran is a surfers dream. Watersports fans descend on this tiny seaside town all year round to catch some of the best that the west coast has to offer. Once you’ve tired yourself in the surf, enjoy the town’s pubs and live music venues.’ Sligo boasts amazing surfing too, not just at Mullaghmore, but at both at Strandhill and at Easkey. Strandhill is just ten minutes from Sligo City, famed for its food, music and welcome. Strandhill is one of the coolest surfing villages in Ireland. If you need to check out the waves or the weather, log on to Strandhill’s Surf School and check out their funky live surfcam .

The Atlantic Coast provides the most spectacular places for surfers to enjoy their sport but there are waves for surfing on the east coast too! Brittas Bay in County Wicklow is proving an increasingly popular spot for Dublin bound surfers. Hoards of boards on roofs are racing out every Friday evening to catch a wave and blow off the week’s hard work. Meath is also a growing surf spot for the commuter belt folk who need a surfing fix in between their sojourns to the Atlantic waves.

Surfing is wonderful exercise, but it does seem to call to something more in the expert practitioner. Something more spiritual, more zen which is experienced in the patience of paddling out to deep water, of facing each wave and mastering (or not mastering) and riding out the surf. Fun, spiritual or madness. The waves are not going anywhere and the surfers will keep on coming.

“Surfing soothes me, it’s always been a kind of Zen experience for me. The ocean is so magnificent, peaceful, and awesome. The rest of the world disappears for me when I’m on a wave.”
Paul Walker