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Al Mennie: Big Wave Surfer

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

Joining us on the ‘Adventure stage’ is none other than the colossal big wave surfer Al Mennie.

Al Mennie's big wave surfing feats are undoubtedly his most well-known. From humble beginnings exploring the beach in Castlerock, Northern Ireland, to becoming a large wave surfing pioneer in both Ireland and at the notorious Nazare, Portugal. Al Mennie, though, is more than just big wave surfing.

Al has spent decades hunting, discovering, and pioneering various large wave spots. He rode the record breaking storm on December 1st 2007 at Mullaghmore Head when the biggest swell ever recorded in the Atlantic ocean smashed into Ireland. From 2010, Al worked with American surfer Garrett McNamara in Nazare Portugal over a three year period in the early days of tackling huge waves off the Portuguese coast. Al was one of four men in the water the day the biggest waves ever ridden swung into Nazaré in Portugal in 2011.

Al Mennie is the epitome of an athlete pushing the boundaries both physically and mentally. In every sense of the word he is a waterman. Other than pushing the limits of big-wave surfing he has also paddled a surfboard from Ireland to Scotland, against the tide, and has a reputation as having one of the most gruelling and effective training regimes in the world; his activities range from rock running on the cold ocean floor to being held underwater by his trainer after sprinting up his local sand dunes. He recently swam 100km in the surf zone, in the dark, during the coldest and darkest months of the year to raise awareness of depression and funds for charity Aware. Swim Through Darkness.

As well as his passion for the sea Al has a particular passion in helping others survive what life throws at them. Al has successfully raised funds for mental health charities throughout the pandemic. His latest book ‘Escape - To The Wild Dark Sea - An Irish Sea Story of Our Times’ details his latest project, where Al swam through the night throughout the pandemic to raise awareness of the isolation felt by many. Al explains;

‘Swimming alone at night, through the chaotic Irish winter surf began as a simple escape from the fallout of the pandemic, but became so much more. I ventured into darker, wilder and more isolated waters, finding a new world and perspective on life in the process. As I swam through the waves and currents out there in the darkness, I began to realise the similarities between my actions and our combined efforts in relation to the pandemic. We are all facing head-on into the unknown, swimming through whatever the darkness throws at us. Every one of us is in the same dark waters, but we swim different strokes.

The Irish winter of 2020 was harsh and bleak. The cold, dark nights made worse as the claws of the pandemic began to leave a mark on all of us. The water became, and remains, a new-found saviour for many people. A huge swell of dippers and swimmers have also found a new world in our chilly waters.

This story is set in the sleepy village of Castlerock, where the tumultuous North Atlantic thrashes the black basalt cliffs on the north coast of the island of Ireland.’

We are really looking forward to Al’s session at The Big Retreat Festival, Head to the ‘Roaring Fire Pit’ Adventure stage. Join us on Instagram for a live with Al Mennie on December 1st 2021 at 6pm.

Check out Al's books here.

All images copyright of almennie.com

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