Mullaghmore isn’t like other big waves around the globe. It’s cold, heavy, unpredictable. It drops sections from nowhere, the bottom falls out, lip come out of the face, it’s not an attractive proposition to most, and if you get caught it’s going to punish you badly. Pete Conroy and the founders of the Irish Tow surf rescue club have always known this and for the last ten+ years set about rigorously training for the inevitable – a life threatening scenario.

Last Wednesday their training paid off saving the life, and possible leg, of Sligo surfer John Monahan. John, a paid up and drilled member of the ITSRC, nearly drowned after smashing his femur. Luckily Pete Conroy and the team were there.

John takes up the story

“I had been keen to take a low line after seeing Raphael’s wave and hoped to get an open end section that I could tuck into. The lip on mine seemed to follow me, didn’t throw open as before and at the point I thought I would pull up into the barrel I was too low for the lip and the barrel clamped down. After this I’ve a vague memory of being deep under water, squirming, out of air and for some reason I didn’t have the sense to pull my vest. Really glad to have been breath hold training as I was desperate. I’m told there were a couple of waves on the head.

“My next memory is being out of the impact zone and trying to pull up onto the sled, that’s when I saw my leg swollen and swinging out of position. It was obvious there was something broken or out of joint, again it’s quite vague. Peter got me lay on my back, I felt safe for the first time. Chest was sore, really wanted my vest off, turned out I had two broken ribs. Had a knock to my head also.

“I was held in position on the ski and slowly driven back to the harbour where the ambulance had been co ordinated from the water and was on its way. Back to the harbour and I vaguely remember being on the slip way, answering some questions and again the feeling of being safe. Wetsuit was being cut off. Femur break more obvious. I got wrapped in foil. Familiar faces around, bit cold, but the situation was under control. On into the ambulance, then into the care of Sligo General Hospital. They were concerned by the foot going blue. They said if the work at the harbour hadn’t happened and allowed some blood flow to the foot there could have been talk of amputation. There was a kink in a main artery and it could have been serious. This all came good, blood flow improved, and I had an operation on the broken femur the day after. As I lay here I can bend my knee and will be fighting fit in no time.

“It’s hard to put into words the appreciation I have for the Tow Surf Rescue club, especially Peter and John but everyone that played a supporting role and have been so decent in the days since. There were so many stages to this rescue, each excecuted with professionalism and calm. I still have two legs and I’ll surf again in a matter of months. Without the speedy response at any of the stages I could be in a much worse condition . From me its a message of thanks .
Stoked to have caught that wave.”

Pete Conroy of Irish Tow Surf Rescue said
“What do we train for? Why do we all meet up and go through emergency situations that could happen but rarely do. Because when it goes wrong it goes wrong fast. It is only then that training kicks in, and practice makes perfect. And lives are saved and all very very smoothly.

“It was a day like no other. Big, heavy, and nearly perfect. Limits were pushed and bones broken. It could have happened to any of us. But only the brave will suffer for the limits to be broken. A big shout out to all the lads that help make sure that John made it back to the peir in one piece and transported to hospital with a very life threating injury. Ollie’s Surf Academy @twin_phin @sligokayaktours @conormaguiree Rafa Tapia @monzy88 @hseambulanceservice Pier Head Hotel, Spa & Leisure Centre and so many more thanks a million.”

Massive respect to all the lads who got John to safety. Irish Tow Surf Rescue Club run courses for locals surfers all aspects of sea safety as well as big wave safety and response. They also take the time to run visiting pros through safety and rescue situations and responses so everyone is correctly briefed and knows what they are doing if the shit hits the fan… Which it will… A foward thinking, world leading organisation saving lives. Top work.

You can join or find out more here. Maybe join and chuck them a few quid so they can carry other good work.