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Conor Maguire: Waves of Consequence and Community

Updated: Feb 10

We managed to pin down Irish frother and big wave surfer Conor Maguire for a quick chat after the recent run of epic swell the country had been bombarded with. He told us about growing up in Ireland, working with head shaper Markie Lascelles and filmmaker and friend Clem McInerney, plus gave us an in-depth insight into the Cord boards he’s riding.

Conor Maguire bottom turn on a Cord Surfboard

When and how did you first get into surfing?

I started surfing at the age of 11 with a close friend at the time, Iarom Madden. We were the first kids through the doors of Bundoran Surf Co [the local surf shop] in town. We garnered a strong sense of froth from the get-go, partly due to the amazing staff there, who are all still good friends and rip to this day. They instilled a sense of wanderlust and sold us the dream of travelling to far off places in search of perfect waves. They also loved surfing as much as us, which added to the addictive nature of surfing from the first few lessons.

Can you tell us a bit about the Irish surf community, and how it influenced your big wave surfing?

The Irish surfing community is generally quite close-knit. When I started surfing almost 20 years ago, it was the beginning of a rapid upward trajectory in the popularity of the sport and within a few years it was the fastest growing past-time in Ireland. I’m not sure who came up with that statistic but it seems to have validated itself now, especially post Covid. Still, when we were groms it was a relatively new scene. Surfing wasn’t very popular with local kids or our traditional tourists from the North, who would come down to Bundoran in search of the slot machines instead of waves. Growing up in Bundoran you had to really love it and luckily we met a little crew of keen groms from close by that surfed regularly and pushed us to get better. I grew up watching Richie Fitz, Gabe Davies and others pioneer Mullaghmore and after that became fixated on surfing there one day. A few years later and I saw Fergal Smith, Lowey and Mikey Smith really push the boundaries and that got me excited to try my best to follow in their footsteps.

Conor Maguire in the tube in Ireland on a Cord Surfboard

Let’s talk about your quiver. Can you give us any insight into the specific details behind the shaping of different boards for different waves? For example, how do you and Markie work together to create the perfect board for big waves/ slabs etc?

There are quite a wide variety of waves on my doorstep and my quiver reflects that with the assortment of toys in my rack. My boards start at 5’3” and go the whole way up to 10’0” with every fin variation imaginable, and the odd channel thrown in for good measure, to the sander's dismay.

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working closely with Markie over the years on many different surfboard models. It’s fun working with Markie because he is open-minded and not afraid to try something new. I feel like that is a trait we share and it keeps surfing really interesting for me, knowing we can work on something new together frequently.

For instance, we are currently working on a 6’6” single fin model for our slabs at home that actually goes incredibly well in all kinds of surf. It’s the most fun I’ve had on a board in quite some time as it is so different to anything else we’ve worked on. It paddles so well that it allows you to cruise in early and fly through the barrel thanks to its lack of drag and accelerating channels. The refined rails and tail allow you to turn on a dime, and gives me the option of bringing it to the points and beaches we have here too.

Another really fun model we’ve worked on over the years is a 2+1 performance board. It started life as a slab board and Markie decided to get creative and tweak it. The outcome was a board I couldn’t stop surfing. It was pretty much my everyday board, from surfing it at our points and slabs, to towing 8 foot Rileys on it.

We also work on boards for the more serious slabs like PMPA, G-Spot, Mullaghmore and Aileens. In my quiver for PMPA and G-Spot I have a 6’2” Ark and another slab board which Markie and I have refined, ranging from 6’3’’ to 6’6’’. These boards have come on leaps and bounds and I feel like they’re the most suited outlines to our waves. They’ve been developed with constant feedback from Noah Lane, Cian Logue and myself, as well as Markie coming over and surfing these waves to try and decipher what we are all actually talking about. Having Markie come over and get properly acquainted with our waves has helped turn our slab boards into a product we can all fully rely on when things get big and heavy. There’s no other shaper in the world that has the experience in both shaping and surfing the waves of consequence here which I feel gives his boards that extra edge these days.

My boards for Mullaghmore are probably the most trippy of all and have undergone the most change. It’s stressful coming up with an idea and trying to implement it at a wave like Mully where the consequences of fucking up are quite high. Luckily, we have come to a good place with those boards and I can trust them to paddle into the biggest barrels of my life. This model is under frequent construction with Markie’s brain constantly on the go trying to find ways to give my little arms an advantage in large waves. It just so happens to be the first board we worked on together and the reason we started working together in the first place - well, the main reason was actually a huge night in Bundoran, filled with hot whiskey and drunken ramblings, before Markie and Ben Skinner departed Bundoran to make their ferry that morning. Thus, the board model had a name after chatting about it the whole night. The ‘Hot Whiskey’ was born. That model has resulted in some of the best rides of my life over the last few years and hopefully we can keep refining that model to help me catch something I’m really happy with.

Markie and I have developed a great friendship over the years and that is the basis of our success in creating new models regularly. I think first and foremost we are good mates and having the opportunity to chat shit about boards and surfing is an added bonus. Over the years we’ve had the great honour of being completely honest with each other when it comes to figuring out a board that works.

Connor Maguire pulling in on a Cord Surfboard

How do you navigate the weather windows for scoring the best waves at home? Or do you just surf whatever the conditions?

I generally just surf whatever the conditions and luckily have boards to suit the ever changing weather and waves here. I’ll usually check the charts everyday and if I see something interesting I keep a closer eye on it. I mainly use Magic Seaweed for a rough overview and Windy and Met Eireann for a more detailed view.

What’s your working relationship with Clem like? Do you guys have any exciting projects in the works for winter?

My working relationship with Clem is quite similar to my relationship with Markie. We are primarily close mates and we just so happen to have similar interests and work ethics to go along with it. I owe so much to Clem. Throughout the years he has gone above and beyond for me, and so many others. We’ve worked together for a long time now and know how to get stuff done efficiently which is a real blessing to have a friend like that. We’re working on a lot of different stuff at the moment. One project is called ‘Why We Go’ for Red Bull which basically follows me as I chase swells wherever I feel like going. Over summer, I was in Australia and scored some cool waves down there and the series has followed me back to a winter at home. We’re just coming off one of the best runs of waves we’ve ever had so we should have a pretty interesting story to tell. Filming goes up until the 15th of January so hopefully we have the opportunity to travel elsewhere.

Check out Clem's edit of Conor showing off a new model from Cord... Watch this space for launch.

Videography by Clem McInerney

Photography by Jack Johns


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