GALLERY: The Celtic Lands' Raw Atlantic Power Last Week

Jason Lock

by on

Updated 73d ago

Last week, two back-to-back North Atlantic swells rifled waves into parts of Western Europe and beyond. For the British Isles, this meant surf from the Highlands of Scotland, through to the southern shores of Wales and down into South West England (and yeah, you’ve probably already seen this barrel.)

It was early in the week that this first pulse hit, giving Scotland a decent run of it and Wales had a special day on Tuesday amidst the carnage. By the time the second swell hit on Thursday, the Celtic nations weren’t looking so hot, and ended up handing the swell mantle over to fellow Celts in Cornwall, UK. Only in secluded corners mind, this swell came with 40mph south wind – you needed a nose for it and the ability to accept a couple waves on the head for the effort. And yes! We may be missing Ireland from the great Celtic wrap up -- but that's coming tomorrow with its own little package.

Live Cam! Fistral

Let’s pick this up from top-to-bottom.


Scotland – From the Highlands

Thurso is one of the finest barrels around. Just be respectful.

Thurso is one of the finest barrels around. Just be respectful.

© 2023 - Malcolm Anderson

This was a complex mix of things happening up the top of the UK. A few different storms meandered around, south of Iceland and eventually moved south east into Wales. But the resulting pulse meant a couple waves up in the Highlands were fun!

Up on the ‘Norse Shore’, water temperatures are around the 11 degrees C mark at the moment, but it’s the air temp that’ll get you, a frigid 6 degrees C. Somewhere amongst all that, is a smooth, kelp-covered reef, that can convert the power of the North Atlantic (and Arctic ocean) swells into a wild-walling wave.

Iona McLachlan, putting her 'pull into anything' attitude into effect.

Iona McLachlan, putting her 'pull into anything' attitude into effect.

© 2023 - Malcolm Anderson

Iona's lil' bro Craig, in the flow zone.

Iona's lil' bro Craig, in the flow zone.

© 2023 - Malcolm Anderson

Siblings Iona and Craig McLachlan have been surfing here for years. “I really struggle to commit to winter waves,” said Iona. “So my goal is to just pull into anything and see how it goes. This particular session wasn’t actually going too well for me... for most of it. I was jus catching waves, pulling out, out of fear, then Boydy came up to me and said ‘you just need to stay high’.”

“Season’s been slow,” said Mark Boyd. “This was one of those swells we’ve had that there waves right out front. Iona got a sick tube, one of the best barrels out there. Definitely getting chillier up here.”

“Season’s been slow,” said Mark Boyd. “This was one of those swells we’ve had that there waves right out front. Iona got a sick tube, one of the best barrels out there. Definitely getting chillier up here.”

© 2023 - Malcolm Anderson

A few seconds later, Iona did exactly that. “Really stoked. Was a lovely day, not many people out. Craig was out, my younger bro, he was surfing circles around me [laughs], a little frustrating, I’d love to get in the flow of what he does.”


Wales – A Rare Day in a Stunning Land

A hike with a view.

A hike with a view.

© 2023 - Paul Gill

By Tuesday, the south coast of Wales was soaking up a lot of energy from that same swell. “The fraternity woke up to a solid surf that morning,” said our Welsh forecaster Jamie Bateman. “And I was one of them, checking the wind, praying that strong West wouldn’t move northwards.”

"Oscar Howe and his bathroom door model," says Gill.

© 2023 - Paul Gill

Mark Jones, has been golfing for years, made his debut comeback at the Gower reefs undercover.

Mark Jones, has been golfing for years, made his debut comeback at the Gower reefs undercover.

© 2023 - Paul Gill

As the tide dropped though, the swell pulsed. “Surfers were putting in 3-4 hour shifts in the water, knowing this was a rare day, not unheard of, but definitely something to savour,” said Bateman. “Took me three days to recover but the local crew are still talking about it.”

“Surfing in Wales is a waiting game, and it’s all about the long game,” said Paul Gill, legendary surf photog, operating out of Wales.

The kind of mentality needed is a can do one. Like, I can make do with any of that.

The kind of mentality needed is a can do one. Like, I can make do with any of that.

© 2023 - Paul Gill

Louis Woodrow with eyes down the line.

Louis Woodrow with eyes down the line.

© 2023 - Daniel Thompson

“You have to be patient here and your day will come unlike most other places where it happens a lot more often and the end result is usually better. However we live here and like it. You also need to be flexible to travel around the nation in order to have a more fulfilling surfing experience and I’ve done that for decades and caught a lot of classic sessions around the country. It has meant making some life decisions that haven’t led to financial riches - but memories are better.”

Logan Nichol, another stand out amongst the Welsh scene.

Logan Nichol, another stand out amongst the Welsh scene.

© 2023 - Paul Gill.

If there’s one thing to take from Gill’s images, it’s that, this lil’ part of Wales feels like air town. Take Alys Barton here for example. “Yeah I’ve been trying to push it with airs, as something new to try in the water,” the Euro champ said. “Pat Langdon Dark really started it here. But you know, we see what Sierra Kerr and Caitlyn Simmers have been doing and yeah, it’s inspiring.”

Wales is air town! Alys has been watching airs all over the world and then stickin' 'em at home.

Wales is air town! Alys has been watching airs all over the world and then stickin' 'em at home.

© 2023 - Paul Gill

As for the session on Tuesday. “There were some super fun waves, we’ve had bigger swell, which are super fun, but this swell was great. Got to surf with my brother, Elliot, he’s such a great person to surf with. I’ve been away for a while, so it’s always great to come home and surf with everyone. It’s special out there.”

Can you tell their siblings? Eliot and Alys.

Can you tell their siblings? Eliot and Alys.

© 2023 - Paul Gill.

A peep over the ledge... what could have been? Maybe.

A peep over the ledge... what could have been? Maybe.

© 2023 - Daniel Thompson

Patrick Langdon-Dark has been raising the air game in Wales for some time. Here he is, putting action into motion.

Patrick Langdon-Dark has been raising the air game in Wales for some time. Here he is, putting action into motion.

© 2023 - Paul Gill


Cornwall – South Wind and Sheltered Corners

Harlyn, an escape from unreasonably strong wind.

Harlyn, an escape from unreasonably strong wind.

© 2023 - Jonathan Snook

Wednesday saw a short break in the action for the Celtic lands, and maybe for the better. But the North Atlantic won’t stop. The same swell that sent Nazare into a tizzy, Ireland into meltdown, the Basque into crazy mode (more on these soon) also arrived in the southern-most Celtic nation of Cornwall.

Lauren Sandland is a bit of a standout wherever she turns up, like here, out in west Cornwall.

Lauren Sandland is a bit of a standout wherever she turns up, like here, out in west Cornwall.

© 2023 - Mike Newman

But with south wind! Argh! For those who have walked those lands for some time though, there’s little pockets of seclusion where a strong southerly will hold out ok. Harry Timson drove about an hour north: “I hadn’t surfed this spot for a few years so wasn’t too sure what to expect, all I knew is that there would definitely be waves and probably quite big ones.”

Harry Timson went on a bit of a goosey for this swell.

Harry Timson went on a bit of a goosey for this swell.

© 2023 - Tom Vaughan

The resulting session would have suited bodyboarders more than stand up, a steep, wedgey wave that afforded a very small window for error on take-off. And even if you made that, it was likely to pinch as you set your line. “Impossible to get in the spot,” said Hazza. “Especially backside.”

Jamie Snook —

Jamie Snook — "Off his head," according to his brother Jon.

© 2023 - Tom Vaughan

Meanwhile, further south, Alan Stokes was up before first light on the barrel hunt. “I didn’t catch a wave for half hour then took a massive wave to the head, snapped my leash, swam about a mile after my board,” said Stokesy. “Then ran a couple miles from low tide around and back, by the time I was back out there, was so tired.”

Alan finding solace from the wind barrage.

Alan finding solace from the wind barrage.

© 2023 - Luke Gartside

The ol’ run around only inspired Stokesy though, who made a promise to himself to get one good one. “Next wave, sick barrel,” he laughs.

Jayce Robinson, in there somewhere.

Jayce Robinson, in there somewhere.

© 2023 - Ross Taylor

Jam Hinks, away from the crowd on Friday.

Jam Hinks, away from the crowd on Friday.

© 2023 - Clare James.

And then, Jayce Robinson’s insanity. The wave speaks for itself but by all accounts, and every local surfer in the area widely agrees, this is the best sand-bottomed barrel ever for this part of the UK. “You’ve captured the best barrel here to date,” said photographer James Warbey of Nigel Aird’s vid we ran on the site recently. “The best sand-bottomed tubes I’ve ever seen in the UK, so sick,” added fellow talented lensman, Luke Gartside. Another Cornish barrel hound, George Carpenter was succinct: “OMG.” Which pretty much sums this thing up.

Jayce Robinson barrel hunting at a west Cornish beachie. Vid by Nigel Aird.

Jayce Robinson, fresh from his Wave of the Day.

Jayce Robinson, fresh from his Wave of the Day.

© 2023 - Mike Newman

Yeah, it's strong offshore.

Yeah, it's strong offshore.

© 2023 - Luke Gartside