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My Last Two Winters: Conor Maguire in Australia and Ireland

It’s just something that’s enjoyable in the moment and that’s the only reason I can explain why I do it.” – Cord team rider Conor Maguire on why he’s dedicated his life to surfing big waves.

In pursuit of the endless winter, Irish born slave to the slabs Conor Maguire recently spent time between the Southern and Northern Hemispheres chasing colder weather and storm swells. The latest episode of Red Bull TV’s ‘My Last Two Winters’ sees Conor and Aussie hell-man Russel Bierke spend a winter bomb-hunting in Australia before heading back to Conor’s home turf on Ireland’s west coast to score Riley’s and Mullaghmore during the darker months.

Kicking off in New South Wales, the first half of My Last Two Winters finds the boys in pursuit of a ‘crazy, slabby, mutant left’ which needs a specific set of directions and swell size to work. “It’s one that’s alluded me for years,” says Russ.

Both taking a few on the head, Russel and Conor end up scoring a huge morning there with their fair share of enormous falls and barrels alike.

Reflecting on that epic tow day:

Conor: “It was pretty ominous getting driven into that one. Letting go of the rope it was all dark and I felt like I was dropping forever. I was inside the barrel and rode over a huge step inside the keg and got blown onto the roof and then super deep. It was pretty interesting.”

Russel: “Yeah, but we survived!”

Conor: “Just about!”

Sleeping in swags, travelling in a packed truck towing a ski, surfing with seals and dolphins in one of Russel’s favourite places in the world, the film then follows the boys as they head off on an epic road trip. 3000km later they’re dropping into enormous barrels with only a few others, where the water is bright blue, dolphins jump from the water and the sun shines, even in the depths of winter. “It was probably one of the most memorable couple days I’ve ever had, especially surfing,” says Conor. Flash forward to Ireland and the colour scheme suddenly seems to turn greyscale.

“Even just to surf here you have to be pretty driven as most of the time throughout winter it’s cold, wet and windy, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some of the best waves in the world.”

Conor starts the next half of the film by introducing his home. He started surfing with a friend at the age of 11, inspired by the guys that opened and ran the Bundoran Surf Co. Explaining how most of his family and older generations in Ireland are afraid of the sea, he didn’t let it stop him getting in the water. Growing up a stone’s throw from the beach, he’s spent as much time as possible in the water since getting a surfboard under his feet.

“I think the thing that I love about surfing is just being out in the elements. I get the same feeling now from surfing a 20ft barrel and coming out buzzing as I did when I was 14 and getting little barrels at home. That’s the feeling I’ve continued to chase.”

Learning to barrel ride in Bundoran, Conor explains how it’s a natural progression of heavier and bigger slabs as you work your way along the coast until you reach Mullaghmore. Describing the first time he surfed Mullaghmore he said, “I eventually had the opportunity to tow on one cold, bleak January evening. The boys whipped me into some mental 15-20ft kegs and I was so hooked.”

Throughout the film the boys surf a mixture of tow-in and paddle waves, all heavy, barreling and huge. Scoring spots like Riley’s in County Clare, Conor shows Russ what Irish slab-hunting is all about, before heading back to Conor’s hometown of Bundoran to introduce Russ to Mullaghmore. “When I was younger I used to be so scared at Mullagmore, like scared for my life. But now I’ve done it so much I feel really calm out there and the driving force is to progress my own surfing, and also just enjoying it.”

On a mission to catch the ultimate paddle wave, Conor achieves it in February 2023 on his Cord Hot Whiskey model, dreamt up and designed in collaboration between Conor and head-shaper Markie after an, of course, hot whiskey fuelled evening a few winters back. “I’ve had some paddle waves I’ve been happy with over the years but this was the wave I’ve been dreaming of catching since starting surfing Mullagmore 11 years ago. It’s crazy how one wave can make all the broken bones and time spent in there worthwhile. That wave was easily the best paddle wave of my life.”

Photos by Clem McInerney

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