crystal clear waters. None of those descriptors even remotely apply to Ireland, a small island on the westernmost edge of Europe, running alongside Wales, England, and Scotland.
We usually associate surfing with sunny, tropical climates, baking hot beaches, and twinkling
It’s drizzly, rarely warm enough to don the board shorts during any time other than the very height of summer, and waters are perpetually opaque with turbulence. Yet, along with Portugal and Tahiti, it’s the destination of some of the world’s largest waves.
Just a few short months ago, native Irishmen and fearless shredder, Conner Maguire braved a 60-foot monster at Mullaghmore Head situated just off the coast of Co Sligo.
Of course, where there are waves, there are surfers, and where there are surfers, there are surf camps, and we’re going to talk about the best 10 in Ireland.
Situated in County Kerry on the Southwestern coast of Ireland, facing the vast, wild, openness of the Atlantic, Kingdom Waves Surf School offers one of this small island’s premier surf camps.
With an ethos centered around inclusivity, it’s a great surf school for surfers of any age, and with access to both Banna and Inch beach, the surf is versatile enough to accommodate any skill level.
County Kerry is widely considered one of the most beautiful portions of Ireland, so when you’re done tearing it up in the water for the day, I highly recommend you go exploring.
From the mesmeric mountains of Macgillycudies Reek to the breathtaking southwestern coastal country roads, you’ll find it hard keeping your jaw off the ground.
Established in 2002 by former pro surfer and Irish champion, John MaCarthy, Lahinch Surf School sits on the west coast of Ireland receiving swells from deep in the Atlantic Ocean.
A short drive from the cliffs of Moher, Lahinch Beach is infamous in surfing communities for its classic crescent shape and flooding tide that provides fantastic surf day in day out.
Starting 29th June, they run variable-length surf camps, allowing you to customize your Irish surfing adventure.
Rossnowlagh Surf School has been helping sprogs find their surfer feet for just shy of a decade.
Cuffed by cliffs on the Northwestern coast of Ireland, Rossnowlagh beach is protected from the gnarlier waves punishing the rest of the western coast. Its consistent yet temperate surf makes it the perfect starting ground for groms.
Camp runs from June to September, sessions are split into 25 minutes of surfing technique and beach games, and 1 hour 25 minutes of water-walking fun.
Pukana may not sound like an Irish word, but that’s because it isn’t. Pukana is the first surf school chain on our list. Starting out as a small operation providing top-notch surf instruction across the beaches of Lima, Peru, Pukana then expanded, opening up shop in Portugal and, of course, County Cork, Ireland.
Resting slightly inland of Ireland’s southern, ocean-battered coast, there’s a bit of travel to reach the ocean when compared to some other surf schools, but, there’s a reason Pukuna was able to open up multiple schools.
Staffed by Elite instructors, Pukana surf camp will have you confident in the water within days, and surfing like a champ by the end of the week.
On the upper side of Ireland’s west coast, Surf N Stay offers something truly unique: a fully self-contained surfing extravaganza.
Don’t worry about sourcing accommodation nearby. Surf N Stay consists of a hotel, a lodge, and the Strandhill surf school. They’re a full-package business that covers all bases, ensuring you have the best surfing adventure possible.
Perhaps best of all, the Surf N Stay hotel is literally a stone’s throw from the beach. Just step outside and turn left to find big blue stretched out before you.
Their surf camp is only for kids, but whole families or groups of surfer dudes are welcome. You can just sign up for the individual classes while your kids get the real surf camp experience.
One of the best surf camps located on the southern coast of Ireland, the Inchydoney Surf School has been helping would-be shredders catch the first wave for two decades.
Their camp runs from Monday to Friday all summer long, all kids and teens are welcome, and 5 days of spectacular surfing lessons will set you back something to the tune of $120.
Situated in the middle of the largest crescent portion of Ireland’s western coast, Aloha Surf School has access to some of the best surf day in and day out.
Run by husband and wife super team, Pete and Ali, Pete provides surfing expertise (he’s also a swimming instructor and qualified lifeguard), and Ali has a medical background, making it an incredibly safe option for nervous newbies.
Run during the Easter holidays, camp spans five days, costs just shy of $150, each session is 2 hours long, and all equipment is provided (even wetsuits).
The surf shack is one of the few surf schools located on the eastern Irish coast, facing the rocky peaks of Wales’ Snowdonia national park.
The ocean may not stretch out all the way to Canada, but that’s not to say there isn’t some epic surf to be enjoyed.
They run 3-day camps for ages 6-16, and all equipment is provided. You also get the option to purchase your wetsuit at a reduced rate.
Surf G Town (Garretstown Surf School)
Garretstown Surf School sits in a prime southern location on the Irish coast. Their camps run weekly from June through August, students are split into 7-12 year old or 12+ age groups, and it costs roughly $120.
Freedom is likely to be the only bilingual surf school in Ireland, offering lessons in both English and Irish.
Their surf camp runs from late June through to the end of August, and all ages and ability levels are welcome to join in the fun. The full 3-day experience will set you back just beyond $110.
Preparing for a Surfing Adventure in Ireland
After hearing about all the awesome surf camps in Ireland, you’re probably pretty excited to plan out your big wave pilgrimage and get it all booked, so let’s discuss a few key considerations.
Food and Drink
The surf may be truly unreal in Ireland, but unfortunately, dining can really burn a hole in your pocket. According to Eurostat data, Ireland is the fourth most expensive place in the EU to buy food and non-alcoholic beverages.
This premium on food and drink isn’t quite as daunting in more rural areas, but it’s still worth saving extra for your trip just to be safe, especially if you’re planning a day trip to Dublin, the capital.
The good news is that there is no shortage of supermarkets with reasonably priced goods in Ireland, such as Aldi and Lidl.
All the surf schools on my list provide the gear you need besides perhaps your wetsuit, although some, like Surf N Stay, offer a discount in their surf store if you wish to purchase your wetsuit there.
Generally speaking, you can expect board rental to set you back just under $25 a day, but you can normally cut costs if you book the board for a week rather than daily.
Prepaid Sim Cards
If you want to save a little money when you go chasing the big green wave in Ireland, buy a prepaid sim card once you arrive. A $15 card will likely last your whole trip while eliminating expensive roaming fees.
You can order them online if you want to have everything wrapped up in a bow before you get on the plane, but they’re normally slightly more expensive.
Ireland is ranked as the ninth most expensive European nation in terms of public transport, but you can save some money by sticking to bus trips wherever you can.
With their rail system spreading out across most of the nation, trains are the fastest way to get around, but ticket prices can be pretty high. You may also have to seek out alternative means of transport to reach rural areas.
There are no subways (although an underground line known as DART possibly in the works for Dublin), so don’t worry about deciphering a complicated subway line map, and if you visit the capitol, you can save money on getting about town by using the tram system.
Ireland imports a large portion of their gas, which means, you’ve guessed it…price hikes. If you’re planning to rent a car in Ireland and seeing what life’s like on the other side of the road, you can expect to pay roughly twice as much on the gallon as you do in the States.
Types of Risks When Visiting an Irish Surf Camp
For the most part, Ireland is a very safe place to visit. Crime rates are extremely low when compared to other EU states, but as is true of any nation, Ireland has its rough areas.
There are still deep-seated political and religious tensions between Protestant unionists and Catholic nationalists in Ireland, but it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll become embroiled in or even hear anything about any conflict.
Much like the other Celtic nations and England, alcohol-related crime is fairly high in Ireland, so have your wits about you when walking through urban areas after nightfall, but other than that, it’s a lovely place.
Just, whatever you do, don’t refer to them as English. The brutal history of English oppression in Ireland is still very much an open wound.
There are a number of surfing-related drownings in Ireland every year due to the ferocity of the waves, but as long as you listen to your instructor and keep to an appropriate water depth, you’ve nothing to worry about.
Are there sharks in Irish waters? Yes, mainly blue sharks. They’re not normally considered dangerous to humans, and shark attacks are incredibly rare.
How to Prepare
You’ll be happy to hear that as U.S. citizen, you won’t need any sort of visa to travel to Ireland. However, if you fall in love with this beautiful destination and wish to stay longer than 90 days, a visa will be required.
There aren’t any poisonous critters in Ireland, nor are there any aggressive diseases to protect against, so you don’t normally need any vaccinations.
That said, with this area of the world still in the process of dealing with the Covid 19 virus, you will need to have been fully vaccinated before you can book your trip. You’ll also be required to take a Covid test before you depart and after you arrive.
Language and Currency
Ireland is a predominantly English-speaking nation, so I wouldn’t worry about stocking up on phrase books. Irish is still spoken, especially out in the sticks, but you’ll get by just fine only knowing how to say “Beoir” (beer) and “Slainte” (cheers).
The official currency of Ireland is the Euro. As I’m writing this article, $1 is worth exactly 0.83 Euros, but as you’re aware, exchange rates are in constant flux, so it’s a good idea to monitor them for a while before your trip.
Checking the Surf Forecast
You can check the surf report for Ireland at Surf Forecast & Surf Reports for IRELAND. It lists the 8 beaches that will have the best waves throughout the week as well as detailed reports on all the beaches in Ireland — perfect!
Travel and Surf Insurance
Travel insurance is not strictly a requirement when you visit Ireland, but you will have to apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). In an emergency, you can use this card to receive free health care from the NHS.
If you do opt for travel insurance (which I recommend), it’s important you check the surfing specifics of the agreement. Some policies may only cover close-to-the-shore activities, while others won’t include surfing at all.
If you’re bringing a lot of your own gear, I suggest that you seek stand-alone surfing insurance. These policies cover damage and loss to equipment up to a set figure.
There you have it, shredders. Now you can hang ten at one of the 10 best surf camps in Ireland. Stay safe and enjoy!