Mullaghmore Mad Men

Shambles and Flanagan take us through their latest Mully paddle session

When the one-in-20 year storm dubbed ‘Hercules’ lit up the nothern hemisphere’s charts last week, all eyes were firmly on renowned Irish big wave spot Mullaghmore in County Sligo, Ireland. Seamus ‘Shambles’ Mc Goldrick and Conor Flanagan made the most of the slightly more southerly swell direction and chose to paddle into some of the biggest Mully yet. Here is what they had to say:

“Seeing these two guys run past me downhill, I called out to Shambles (right) and the two lads stopped,  turned and posed for me giving me only seconds change a lens and shoot a few photos as I was actually holding them back from what they were rushing towards… I remembered looking at their faces and thinking and feeling proud. Here these two guys are… about to paddle out into this massive swell and really to them its their back garden with Hercules waiting at the bottom… Their smiles said it all…they were looking for this and they took it on.” PHOTO Colin Gillen


Seamus ‘Shambles’ Mc Goldrick:
Age: 28, Lives: Strandhill, Co. Sligo, Ireland
Years on the foam: 16. Sponsors: Science bodyboards, Rapa Nui clothing

Conor Flanagan:
Age: 23, Lives: Cyprus Hill, Co.Sligo, Ireland
Years on the foam: 8. Sponsors: None

Well, that was quite a session! just to begin, what was your introduction to bodyboarding?


Shambles: A bodyboarder from Strandhill named Ross Mc Dermott had some Underground Tapes, and when I saw Mike Stewart at Shark Island and Pipe I was pretty convinced I wanted to be a bodyboarder.

Conor: I first started Bodyboarding because I seen two of the local guys Rory and Oran who were even younger than me doing it and it looked really exciting and new.
What is the fascination with surfing big waves and where did it come from?

S: Well, I love surfing. I surf all summer on beginner boards because I love the thrill. I started young and began to seek the thrill of bigger waves, 5ft, 6ft, 8ft, and 10ft. We get a lot of big surf in Ireland and the waves to test yourself out in too.

C: To tell the truth I don’t know were it all came from. Ever since seeing the Roam DVD’s and all the No-Friend’s series I’ve wanted to progress to the slab kind of scene and Ireland is the perfect training ground for it. So I gradually just went bigger and bigger seeing how far our little piece of foam could take me.

Tell us about the latest session. How long were you watching the charts for?

S: I saw a 20 second period pop up on windguru, and I don’t think I had ever seen a 20 second swell before, 18 or 19 sure. And sure enough the 20 sec period swell hit, about 6.5-meter swell height, maybe 10 – 20 ft Mully if you were lucky. And that’s pretty much what happened. But 5 million Euros worth of damage was caused in Lahinch and the Irish newspapers need a good news story, so they wrote about the surfers reaping the benefits of the big waves and the local economy’s blah, blah, blah. It got pretty out of hand.

C: As with all the big swell’s that come our way, there’s a lot of things that can possibly change on an hourly notice so a few mates and I were firmly fixed on this big swell for a week or more hoping the conditions would not change and hopefully shape up for a big day

How do you prepare for a session like that?

S: I’ve no idea.

C: The best preparation for Mullaghmore is time spent in the water. It can be a hard wave to get your head around on bigger days so watching for wide set’s and practice is key.

PHOTO: Colin Gillen

What was it like getting there in the morning? Was it as big as you had hoped for? What’s the feeling like heading out to the wave?

C: It started of like the usual morning routine of calling over to Peter Clyne for a cup of his home coffee and setting of the days mission in the early morning darkness. There was huge hype about this swell, which was strange to see in Ireland as most swell’s pass under the radar. Everyone thought it was going to be bigger than it was but after seeing the scale of thing’s for myself the butterflies really set in. The realization of catching one of the set waves got us excited. It’s a weird feeling suiting up in your warm safe car before making your way down to the water’s edge. To put yourself in these wild conditions and to see these huge waves roll past you as you paddle out is as exciting as waiting on a take-away. The only thing that helps you relax is knowing the guys on the ski’s are there if anything goes wrong.

Then Fergal Smith runs by with his 8′ 4” and says, “Yo boys, lets go paddling.” I looked at Flan and he was like, “well, I’m keen”.

S: There were so many people. It was not as big as I had thought it was going to be, it must have been too south. But I didn’t want it to be big, if the swell was northwest and it was 30+ foot I don’t know if I would have went out. We take it seriously and build up to the big sessions. It’s dangerous out there.

Conor and I were getting changed to go out and get one of the boys (big props to the epic Mullymore crew, love you all dearly, Barry, Paul, Peter Conroy, Dylan, Kurt, Pete, Neil, Mikee and more) to whip us into a few. Then Fergal Smith runs by with his 8′ 4” and says, “Yo boys, lets go paddling.” I looked at Flan and he was like, “well, I’m keen”. Me too. let’s go.

Man it was the best fun, or ‘craic’ as we say here in Ireland. Me, Ferg and Flan were sitting out there giggling to ourselves, waves were coming through, it was windy, there were 16 skis in the water, 500 hundred cars and vans on the headland, truck-sized barrels everywhere, horrible mutated beasts. Flan got pinched on his first one and got kegged on his next one before I had even paddled for a wave. Ferg was having difficulty getting one and sat outside waiting patiently.

I got one that I probably should have made. Kurt told me the lip was inches from my head. I got another one and was just loving it. As I was paddling out I saw a 15ft Cloudbreak-style wave coming through the lineup and Ferg floats over it and I see Flan scrambling for it. I yelled “Gooo Flan”, not because I thought he should go, you understand, I was scared for his life. I just figured he might need the morale boost. He muscled his way into this thing and scooped to the bottom and scorpioned, his fins hit his head and he crawled into the fetal position and got flogged bad. I asked him when he came back out, ‘did you here me screaming go’. “No man, I was just going for it”. Mad man, gotta love it.

I went for one more and, I don’t what happened, but I dropped from the top to the bottom. Ouch. Still, made for a good photo.

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Shambles and ‘That’ Drop. PHOTO Christian Mcleod Photography

Another angle thanks to photographer Mark Capilitan

Conor Paddling into a solid one. PHOTO Mark Capilitan

You two were the only bodyboarders in the lineup and, Seamus, you’re often out there solo. What’s the relationship like with the stand-up guys? Do you prepare for the sessions with those guys?

S: Some times I may be the lone bodyboarder out there but I’m not alone, I’m surfing with my friends. There is no animosity except friendly animosity between people who own surfboards and people who own bodyboards in Ireland. And the travelling surfers who come to our shores usually adopt that, particularly if they have been here a long time.

The more I travel, the more I realise the surf scene in Ireland is so unique. What is this thing between surfers and bodyboarders? It is not surfers and bodyboarders riding waves, it is people riding waves. It doesn’t matter what you own, you are not your possessions. I own bodyboards and surfboards. I can standup surf. What am I? Most surfers are able to bodyboard. Surfers bitch about bodyboarding, but when they tweak a knee or a foot they go straight for the boog because they have an itch for the salt.

The only matter in my mind is the animosity between novice and advanced surfers, pros and the average Joes. And in that regard the only thing that matters is respect: for other people and the respect for people who have been doing it longer than you.

C. Yeah, I agree. Ireland, like Tahiti, is unique in that Bodyboarders and Surfers show respect where it is due. Unlike OZ, Bodyboarders are respected by surfers because of the many slabs we’ve pioneered over here. Many of our standup’s enjoy the benefits of the boog occasionally.

Seamus, tell us a little bit about Conor?

S: I’ve known Conor since he was a grom at the beach, always a smile on his face, always keen for a surf, never had a bad word to say about anyone. He is a pretty normal guy, until he paddles out at Mullaghmore. Then he just releases the tiger.

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Conor ‘releasing the tiger’. PHOTO Christian Mcleod Photography

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Shambles digging in his rail. PHOTO Christian Mcleod Photography

You guys were paddling and not towing, do you always just paddle? Have you ever towed?

S: I’ve probably being surfing at Mullaghmore Head for longer than anyone out there that day. I was one of the first people to surf the inside ledge to my knowledge. But when the outer ledge began to be surfed it was always tow until last year. Myself and Irish chargers Ollie and Conor (Macguire) and a few others paddled Mully on a small (8-12ft), beautiful day. We were inspired by Ferg (Fergal Smith) and Tom Lowe because they had done the unthinkable. Those guys are absolutely mental.

C: Up until now I have just been paddling but sometimes the wind that comes along with our big swell’s make it necessary to tow. In the lineup at Mully there is almost always at least one ski running safety. its comforting and help’s you relax knowing that guy’s like Dylan Stott, Paul O’Kane and Barry Mottershead are there for you if shit hits the fan, which at a spot like Mully is fairly likely.

You both copped quite a beating on a number of waves. What’s it like to go down on a big one out there?

S: Well, the most important thing is to remain calm. Mully deals out quite a beating. I did my best to remain calm when I got pitched and I got away with it.

C: Yes it’s fair to say Mully can hand you your ass on a silver platter when it wants. But after a beating like that popping up unscathed only gives you more confidence. The added benefit of having guys like Dylan, Paul and Barry watching your back whilst running safety on the bigger days is a lifesaver.

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Conor pushed himself to his limits. PHOTO Christian Mcleod Photography 

Mully seems to get it’s fair amount of big swells, why do you think this session received a lot more interest than perhaps others? Is it the biggest Mully you’ve surfed?

S: It was big, it was what most people were calling a tow day, with the wind and everything, so I am so stoked I paddled that day. But it definitely wasn’t massive Mully. The swell made the waves nice and thick, and not really tall. Man, I’m telling you, Mully will handle whatever the sea throws at her. It’s not like Teahupoo that runs into a close out. If it’s offshore, it’s on.

The media got into quite a frenzy over this swell and that day was the most packed I had ever see the headland. There were cars everywhere. I was hard to take in. I just wanted to go surf.

C. I can say for sure the wave’s I caught were amongst the biggest and heaviest I’ve ever caught.

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Conor on a frothy one. PHOTO Christian Mcleod Photography

How is the bodyboard scene in Ireland at the moment? Are there any other riders we should be keeping an eye on?

S: The bodyboard scene in Ireland is amazing, I mean, it’s not growing, there is no industry, no sales, hardly any groms. Still, I love being a bodyboarder in this country. Conor is one to watch for sure, he has a clip coming out soon that is going to blow up. Flan has done the most amazing scoops into Solid Mullaghmore yet. Respect.

C: The scene is small but strong. Guys like Shambles, Tom Gillespie, Shane Meehan, Dan and Stef Skajarowski are always charging.

Two stoked chargers.  PHOTO Mark Capilitan

Finally, any shout outs?

S: I would like to give a big shout out to Mike Stewart and Matt Daniels who are rocking Science bodyboards like never before, Mum, Dad and family and all the Strandhill Billies SBNPO (Strandhill boys never pull out) And to Fergal Smith for arriving out of nowhere that day and making it all happen.

C: A huge thanks to Mr. Mullaghmore Peter Clyne who is always keen to shoot our sessions. Big shout out to Conor Maguire and Shambles who inspire me to get amongst it. Lastly, thanks to the legendary Mullaghmore crew for being around when things get hairy.

Cheers! RT.

Michal Czubala / Offshore Watersports Mullaghmore
Christian Mcleod / Christian Mcleod Photography
Colin Gillen / Framelight Studio 
Mark Capilitan / Mark Capilitan Photography