The picture in the header is the first wave I rode at The Causeway.  Picture was taken by Conn Osborne

Pioneering Finn MacCools

Excerpt From Surfing Mennie Waves third edition...

Pioneering Finn McCools

Upon arrival at the rocks off the back of the Causeway, the first thing I noticed was how small the bay felt with sizeable surf in it. Normally, when I’ve been out there on small or flat days it feels just as big as it looks from land. This time, however, it felt particularly small. There was surf and a strong offshore wind but it didn’t feel huge, and I was pretty sure sets would appear soon enough.

I was excited to get into the water and be the first person (I’ve never heard of anyone do anything but look at the Causeway, so correct me if I’m wrong!) to catch a wave out there. A set came through and it looked to be about 20 feet on the face. It peaked up and threw out a tube. It was not a deathly tube but it opened up enough to park – maybe not a bus but definitely a black taxi – in before slamming shut and peeling into the bay. That was enough for me.

I jumped off the ski and left Gary to handle it while I put my leash on to my 8’2” and began to paddle over to the wave. I must admit it felt strange to be sitting 10 minutes from my house at Northern Ireland’s – if not Ireland’s – number one tourist attraction about to paddle into decent sized waves. I looked ashore and could see the Causeway staff starting to congregate on the rocks, and the buses which carry tourists up and down the hill from the Visitors’ Centre stopped to see what was happening.



Sometimes on big days at any spot it can take a long time to establish where to position myself and line up for the incoming set waves. Strangely, I paddled over to where I had seen the last set break and within a few minutes a set approached. I paddled over the first one because I saw that the one behind looked bigger, and it was. I couldn’t have been in a better position.

The wave peaked up right in front of me. I was right in front of the incoming peak or, as we sometimes say in big wave surfing, under the hook. I sat up, spun my board towards shore, paddled a couple of strokes and, as if it was meant to be, I caught the first wave of my life at the Causeway. I went straight to the bottom of it and the wave walled up to my right side all the way towards the Granny Headland at the far side of the bay. I almost could not believe it! It was a dream come true to have finally ridden one here!

When I kicked out, I let out that high-pitched girly scream I tend to do after a good ride! Granted, it was nowhere near the death defying waves in terms of size I have been surfing over the years, but it was no doubt a solid 25-foot face or thereabouts and it felt soooo good! I caught a few more good waves that day and also got caught inside a couple of times by sets which got my heart racing.

I knew that I had seen much bigger waves out there and it was just a matter of time before I got it Giant – excuse the pun!

It turned out that in two days’ time an even bigger swell in the 9-m range was on its way. I got ready. It was this sort of swell that I was interested in surfing out there. However, I knew that was going to mean huge closeouts on the inside, potentially trapping either me or the ski between the rocks.

I knew there were high rewards for me if I could ride a few big ones but I also knew there were potential dangers involved. As it was early days out at the spot, I could not lift the phone and speak to someone who had already surfed out there and who had been through the rocks or lost their ski or something.

It was all very new and a learning experience, just like all the other big waves I have surfed alone or for the first time.

On the night before the big swell, I found myself up all night, unable to sleep. I knew this was going to be a tow-in day and I was really concerned about the handling of a jet ski in the small bay at the Causeway. At so many big wave spots, the waves flush a fallen surfer or a lost ski out of the impact zone but, at Finn MacCool’s, there was nowhere for the waves to flush anything. The waves relentlessly smash in to the rocks and do not lose much power between the point where they break and the shoreline.......

(c)2019 Al Mennie

Big Wave Surfer - Ocean Adventurer - Author - Black Belt - Causeway Coast
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