Over the Ledge

Over the Ledge

Over the Ledge is the story of Gearóid McDaids journey of progression over the last twelve months. We see Gearóid spending time with Nic Von Rupp and William Allioti to learn from their many years of experience. This movie highlights Gearóid’s hesitation, fears and how he adapts to pushing his own personal limits and throwing himself over the ledge.

Directed, filmed & edited – Clem McInerney
Produced – Tom Mangham
Featured Surfer – Gearóid Mc Daid
Surfers – Nic Von Rupp & William Aliotti
Music – Sleep Thieves
• Through a sea
• French Kiss
• Different Time
Additional surfers in order of appearance 
• Ollie O Flaherty
• Peter Conroy
• Conor Maguire
• Noah Lane

Numb Skulls … Ireland

Numb Skulls … Ireland


There were a bunch of epic days in Ireland in December. There’s a feature coming in the first mag of the year from these sessions, which will be out late Feb. Here’s a first look moving picture wise from Rob Kelly and crew.
“We took a last minute trip across the Atlantic and met up with some of the local Irish chargers for a swell. The days are short and the weather unpredictable in Ireland this time of year but we ended up lucking out and scoring two windows of solid surf with pretty good conditions.

Enjoy episode 2 of Numb Skulls: Cold Water Surf Series and stay tuned for more videos all winter long!”
Produced by: Ryan Simalchik
Featuring: Rob Kelly, Stevie Pittman, Geariod Mcdaid, Conor Maguire, Noah Lane, Seamus Mcgoldrick, Josh Redman
Additional footage: Clem Mclnerney, Conor Flanagan, and Peter Clyne.

Join Mick Fanning, as he goes home… and faces the Irish Crossroads

Mick Fanning revisits his past and looks toward his future in Ireland.

Photos courtesy Rip Curl

After a whirlwind 2016 in which Mick had a close encounter with a shark at Jeffrey’s Bay, separated from his wife and lost a brother, he decided it was time to take a sabbatical from the world tour. It was time to reset, get back to the basics and get to know himself again. He spent the year travelling the globe, venturing to places he’d only dreamed of in the past… During that time, it only made sense that he returned to his roots – the land of the Irish.  Because as you’re reading this, he’s facing one of the hardest choices of his life – will he return to tour in 2017, or will he hang up his jersey forever?

So I’m downstairs in a rental house in Ireland, drying things that are wet, which are most things, when I hear him from the floor above. Driving through the pit, Florence, greatpositioning… It’s Joe Turpel calling a round 4 heat on the webcast. …successful tube ride and a solid finishing move.I stop. I listen. My heart skips a beat.Normally, hearing the echoes of a webcast in a house full of surfers is nothing special.
But this is special. This is the penultimate day of the Meo Rip Curl Pro in Portugal, andthere is a world title race afoot. John John has an outside chance to clinch the title,provided he makes the final and Jordy doesn’t win the contest. Which is interesting initself, but not what caught my attention. What caught my attention is that Mick Fanning,a fixture in the last decade’s world title races, and who is taking a gap year to decide if heeven wants to compete again, is upstairs. He excused himself 20 minutes ago to “take anap.”
Taaake a naaap…
Nice try, champ. The fact that I can hear the webcast means he can’t sleep, can’t sleepbecause he is invested in the race, invested in the race ‘cause he misses it — the jerseys,the performance, the pressure — and so maybe, just maybe, this is a clue to the presentlyunsolvable puzzle called The Future Of Mick Fanning.
I must confirm. I tip-toe up the stairs, heart pumping like a cop on his first raid. Thump-thump. Top of the stairs. Thump-thump, thump-thump. Down the hall, floorboardscreaking. Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump. I reach the room and peek aroundthe corner and -– he’s fast asleep. In the bed next to him, Irish grommet Gearoid Mcdaidis under the covers, phone raised above his head. He gives me a nod, then returns hisfocus to the webcast.
John John beats Michel Bourez and Adriano de Souza with a 16.33 heat total, andadvances directly to the quarterfinals. From Mick’s side of the room, Joe Turpel’s voiceis joined by a light snore.

Remember the Comfortably Numb trip? Where we went to a frozen northern land androde glacier waves and real waves, too? That happened right after Mick walked off thebeach at Bells Beach. He was missing Margarets, starting his sabbatical because, as Iwrote in that story, “After a rollercoaster 2015 that included contest wins, a shark attack,a marital separation and the death of his brother amidst a world title race, he figured hehad met his drama limit for the decade.”
The year off was supposed to be an exploration, of himself and life outside a jersey, tosee if competition was still quenching his surfing thirst. Or, if it was maybe time to retireand do something new — video trips, make beer, save the elephants

After Comfortably Numb, I would have bet big money that he wouldn’t retire. He’d betoo bored, I thought. And the structure that contests provide cannot be overstated — theonly thing worse than having to be somewhere is having nowhere to be at all. How manyfreesurf trips could he go on? Mick is a competitor. Didn’t he have more to accomplishon tour? Another world title, perhaps?
But today, here in Ireland, I’m not so sure. After seven days, 950 miles, 10 surfs, 43drinks, eight Irish sing-alongs, and a few heart-to-hearts, I must say, he seems genuinelycontent. So, what is next for Mick Fanning?  What direction will he travel in 2017?Forward — and that’s about all we can say for sure.

People probably look at it and think it was last year that prompted this [year off] when it actually wasn’t. It was something that had been building for two or three years, and I think that the events from last year were the final nail in the coffin. Like, “Just take a break, go do you for a minute. Fill up your fun tank.” Because I got to the end of[2015] and, once I finally got home from Pipe, I just had nothing. I was totally empty.

I often try and help other people because I always feel like I’m in a place where I can do that, but this time, I couldn’t even pick myself up. Something had to change. Just to be out of the spotlight and outside of my comfort zone, be in places where I wasn’t getting looked at. Because it felt like people were looking at me going, “Is he OK?” They don’t always have to say something, you can just tell by how people are looking at you. And I don’t need to be reminded of it everyday, because I am thinking of it anyway. But when you walk down the street in Dublin and not a soul knows who you are, you’re just a passing person. And that’s really refreshing.


It’s our first morning in Ireland and Mick’s doing 75 mph along a narrow, windy, stone-walled road. It’s 5am. Still dark. We’re driving three hours to a wave-rich region in the north, trying to get there at first light. Mick handles the oversized van with a confidence he brings to most things he does in life. I feel safe. I doze for a bit. I awake to Mick’s voice.
“How’d you guys sleep?” He asks us (photographer Corey Wilson, filmer Nick Pollet and me). We’re on a wider road now, and the first light of day is forming a dim dome to our east.
We all slept fine.“I had the weirdest dream,” he says.“What was it?” I ask.“I was at a comp, I don’t know where the event was, it felt like a city, New York or something,” he takes a sip from his water bottle. “I don’t know if I lost the heat or what, all I knew was that I had to get out of there. Just grab all my stuff and leave. But every time I went back to my locker there was something more to clear out. Obviously there were boards and wetsuits, but then there were like, [dress] suits and other luggage, just weird stuff that I would never take to the beach. I just wanted to sneak out and disappear, but cameras kept following me and I was like, ‘Just go away…’”

A clear message from his subconscious? Entertaining nonsense that I’ll interpret for this story’s benefit? Regardless, the relative anonymity that Mick’s experienced has certainly been a perk of his year off. More space to live and think and grow, uninterrupted.
As we analyze Mick’s dream, the sun creeps skyward and the Irish pastures turn from black to a vibrant green. In the grass: cows lie down, horses graze, sheeps are spray painted with double digits, a crude form of livestock ID. Going ‘round a round about, Mick sees a white horse. We stop to pet it. Do we still have that apple in the van? We do.Mick feeds the white horse the green apple and we get back in the car. We drive.
Gearoid Mcdaid, local ripper and Mick’s newly minted Rip Curl teammate, meets us at aleft slab. There are a few guys out, a few guys checking it, and the waves are absolutely pumping. Four-to-six-feet and perfectly groomed tubes. We watch two sets, suit up and paddle out.
Mick chats with the ever-expanding local pack and only goes for one out of every 30waves or so. When he commits, nobody else paddles, and he gets deep backside barrels across a shallow reef. On land, a trickle of humans has turned into a flood, and dozens of people line the cliff, watching. Gearoid will later say he’s never seen so many people there.
I am the first one out of the water, and as I change from my suit, I see a car racing down the residential street. The driver slams his breaks and reverses, parallel parking like avalet on New Year’s Eve. He jumps out, slams his door and runs — literally runs —toward the cliffs. When he passes me, as if to justify his haste, he says, “Heard Mick Fanning’s out there.”

Once I took the shirt off at Bells, it felt like this whole weight lifted off me. At the time, Iwas lost a little bit in what I wanted to do. I had all these bright ideas of doing this and doing that, and then as time wore on, I found that I was happy just being wherever. I
didn’t have to go and chase all these different things. And while I was still busy, I was busy doing things that I wanted to do.
Look, being on tour is a really easy life. But, in addition to constantly trying to get yourself to 100-percent peak performance, you’re always focused on the next day. Like,“Is the event on today or is it going to be on tomorrow?” You don’t actually stop. Even if
you lose your heat, it’s like, “OK, when am I getting home? What do I have to do for the next event, how do I get my body right for that event? Do I book accommodation? Are my boards ready? Is my mindset right?” But now, I can actually stop and be more present.And that was one thing I’ve learned — is that you can just be here. You can be here today and deal with tomorrow when it comes

Tomorrow is now today and, as we wait for the tide to drop, we stand atop a 600-footcliff and stare down at a cartoon-like right below. Mick will later describe it as a mix between Sunset and Haleiwa and I would confidently add Maverick’s in there. Next to usare heavy-water hedonists Tom Lowe and Nic Von Rupp, and as the waves really start to pulse, we opt to paddle out. Walking back to our cars to get our gear, I notice Mick exhaling through his mouth, lips fluttering like Vince Vaughn doing the motorboat inWedding Crashers. I figure it must be some special breathing exercise.
Halfway down the cliff side, on a ledge next to the dramatic precipice, we suit up withTom, Nic and a handful of other locals, all armed with boards in the 7’, 8’ and 9’ range.As Mick pulls on his suit, he emits another motorboat-exhale. Down the muddy goat trail.Off the rocks. Through the shorebreak and into flat water. I paddle next to Mick, who’s impact vest beneath his suit makes him look like a superhero, and he exhales again. I hang back, waiting till he’s out of earshot, and start motorboat-breathing myself. If Mick’s doing it, it must work.
The waves are much bigger and less organized than they appeared from the cliff. Twelve-foot slabs of glassy, green water rise from deep and hurl themselves forward over the shallow reef. Mick doesn’t stop moving the entire session, stalking the bowl like a hunter with a 6’8” spear. Hungry. He catches good waves and bad waves. He gets barreled and he gets smashed and he does the motorboat exhale and paddles back to the bowl. Mick surfs for four hours, the last one out of the water, ascending the cliff in near darkness.
“I forgot I had to save enough energy to climb back up,” he says as he collapses in a heap at the changing plateau. “This is one of the most beautiful setups I’ve ever seen.”
That night, we join the local crew at the pub for Guinness and stew. It’s Friday. The placeis packed. We sit at a long table and eat and drink to our heart’s delight. During a breakbetween bites, I lean over to Mick to talk over the hum of the bar. “I noticed you doingthis thing at the right…” I say, and I reenact the motorboat exhale. “Is that some sort ofspecial breathing technique?”
“Nah, mate,” he says. “I think I was just nervous.”
What do I miss about tour? Just friends, really. You travel with these people for so long and you ride highs and lows with your competitors, but they are also your family, and the people that pick you up and help you out when you’re on the road. And you don’t miss everyone. [laughs] But that’s a trend, speaking to older people that have retired  they miss their friends. But there are a whole lot of other people out there, too.

Boards are packed, wetsuits are dry. We are in Ireland’s far north and we aren’t lookingfor waves. We are here to surprise Mick’s family, a dozen or so aunts, uncles and cousinswho live next door in a small town above a craggy bay. Mick’s dad was born and raisedjust up the road. As we drive up the headland toward his godmother Barbara’s house, Iask why we didn’t call first.
“Well, we didn’t really know when we we’d be getting here…” Mick said. Then he grins,“…but really, I just don’t think Barbara would have been able to hear me on the phone.”
We pull into the driveway of a modest, two-bedroom house and before we can exit the car, Barbara is opening the front door, wagging her finger at Mick and smiling like, “It hought I smelled you in this country.” Mick gets out and envelopes her 5’ frame in his arms.
Full disclosure: I could only understand about one out of 10 words that Barbara spoke.The 80-something matriarch had a thick Irish accent, a heavy mumble and a command of the room that was total. I didn’t dare ask her to repeat anything. So there will be no quotes from Barbara. But the afternoon went something like this
• Barbara grins and wags her finger at me, mumbling something about “picture.” I don’t think she wants a selfie. I put my camera away.
• Barbara offers us tea. We accept.
• Barbara pours us tea and feeds us biscuits. Before the tea is cool enough to drink,
10 of Mick’s relatives are in Barbara’s living room. To say this is a small town isan understatement.
• Barbara asks Mick a dozen question about his family, his trip here, the last timehe visited, etc. At one point her cell goes off, a loud techno rhythm blares fromthe flip phone. Mick’s cousin leans over, “We had to change the ring tone so shecould hear it.”
• More tea, biscuits. Barbara disappears.
• Barbara busts through the living room door with a faded surfboard under her arm.Mick left it here last time he visited. We ask if she’s going surfing. She shushes usand wags her finger. We all laugh.
There are awkward silences, but Mick sits stoic through them all, forgoing every opportunity to say, “Welp, we should probably get going.” He’ll later tell me, “You don’t get that opportunity everyday, so it’s good to take the time to show them you appreciate them.”

That time and appreciation doesn’t stop with family. He Face times with friends from the road. He takes selfies with randoms on the street. He promotes other people’s agendas on his social accounts. Friends, acquaintances, strangers — they are all approached with respect, patience and intrigue. As 12-year-old Sabre Norris said on her Instagram,“Sometimes, when I ask adults questions they talk to me like I’m a baby. Mick never does. He talks to me like I’m an adult and gives me proper answers.” His ability to make someone’s day is as honed as his frontside carve and, dozens of times everyday, Mick has the opportunity to exclude or include, and he almost always includes. That’s rare for anyone, and nearly unheard of for someone with any inkling of fame.
It is this ability to effortlessly connect with people that makes me question his return to tour. Because sure, he has a family of a couple hundred people that he sees on the CT, but there are 7.4 billion people on earth. That’s a lot of selfies to take. A lot days to make.

I think the goal posts have changed. Obviously, world titles are incredible things. They’re something you strive for as a little kid, and people always ask me, “Do you want to win more?” To be totally honest, I couldn’t care. The ones that I won were amazing, and it was great to achieve something, but now it’s not my biggest desire. I think the last thing that I really wanted to achieve was to right the wrong of J-Bay. I actually had a flash go through my head when the final siren went and I thought, “Is this it? Am I walking away right now?” And, for me, that was just the last accomplishment that I truly believed I needed to achieve. And now I want to go and surf different waves and explore my surfing in different areas and try and create film or photos that I’m proud of. Growing up, that was never very high on my priority list. It was just contests. Where now, working with photographers like Corey [Wilson], or filmmakers, like Taylor Steele, they really put their heart and desire into creating the most amazing things, and that inspires me to be better in that area. I want to do my best so they can do their best. That’s where the goalposts are at the moment.
I’m still unsure what next year will bring. At the very least I’ll do Snapper and Bells, because when I do retire, I want to do it at Bells. But winning events isn’t the big on my priority list. It’d be great to do a year like CJ, where he pretty much knew at the end ofthe year that he was going to retire, and he celebrated with all the people around the world along the way. But then I also think, I can always go back to these places and see those people away from the event and actually give them more time, rather than go for the event and be on my own schedule. So, I don’t know…I still haven’t fully decided. Iguess, once I spend time at home and just sorta sit with it, I’ll come up with the right decision. But I’m happy not being [on tour] right now.
Mick is a Gemini, and identifies with its “twins” characteristic, that there are two sides to him. The yin and the yang. The devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, perhaps best exemplified by Mick and his alter ego, Eugene, who sometimes emerges during nights of drinking. (He’s currently waging a personal battle against Eugene in hopes of rebranding him the more lovable, “McMuffin.”)
Which isn’t to say the tour is good and free surfing is evil, or vice versa. But it’s thepolarizing nature of the decision that seems to fit with his zodiac label. Here he’s faced with a fork in the road, equipped with vehicles that are suited for each. The choice has always been solely his own, trouble was, he wasn’t in a place to make a clear decision at the start of the year. He’d been through a lot. He had to rebuild. And it’s only now that he’s coming to the point where he can make that decision from a place of strength.
I was thinking about it just yesterday, actually, and…I’m feeling full again. I feel like I can go and do stuff and my self confidence has got to the point where I’m comfortable in my own skin again, which is a really good feeling. I feel like I’m back on the right path. It
took a while, but…I’m not running from issues anymore. It’s like, OK, I can deal with shit now.
It’s our final day and we are back in Dublin. John John won the title yesterday. We weren’t watching. We were nursing a hangover from a night out at the northern-most pub in Ireland. An evening of drinking and singing and banjo playing with the local crew.Last night we went out in Dublin, caught a comedy show and heard some more live music.
Right now, I’m interviewing Mick in our hotel, and he’s giving me the answers you’ve read above. He’s thoughtful and well-spoken in his responses, the consummate professional until — ping! — his phone announces a text message after I ask him whether he’s accomplished everything he wants to in surfing. He pulls out his phone to silence it, but looks at the screen first.
“It’s John,” he says. As in, recently-crowned world champ John John Florence. “I textedhim yesterday and he just wrote me back.”
“What’d he say?” I ask.
“Umm…” Mick swipes his finger across the screen and reads quickly, almost bashful,“He said, ‘Thanks for the text. I’m so stoked. Couldn’t be happier. Thanks for inspiringme. I’ve learned a lot from watching you and can’t wait to learn more. Hope you’rescoring waves and enjoying the year.’”
“That’s awesome,” I say.
“Um…yeah…” Mick’s looking down, his wheels are turning. I don’t know what he’sthinking, but I know what I’m thinking — I wonder if John would have won if Mick hadbeen there. After a few moments, he looks up at me, “What were we talking aboutagain?”
Tonight we’ll see The Lumineers in concert. Tomorrow we’ll leave. Mick will go toLondon for a few days to rendezvous with Parko, Alain Riou and Ben Howard. Then he’ll go to Amsterdam for a week. By himself. He’ll work on a book project, he’ll wander the city, he’ll be invisible. Then he will go to Norway to surf beneath the northern lights. Two weeks later, I’ll bump into him in the Dubai airport on his way home, theplace where he’s going to “sit with it” and make the right decision. He’s pale and unshaven. He buys me a coffee and we talk for while. He doesn’t mention the tour and I don’t ask. He just wants to know how I’m doing.

The Safety Dance

There have been a couple of incidents in Ireland recently requiring coastguard assistance. Helicopters rescued a stranded surfer from the bottom of the Cliffs of Moher and Australian pro bodyboarder Ben Player was extracted from the reef at Rileys after he managed to rupture his own spleen. The former has led to a considered response. IRISH Safety guru Peter Conroy explains…


How many serious injuries have occurred at these waves over the years? There have been a few injuries there over the past few years with a broken back and two dislocated shoulders, near drownings from boats being flipped and skis lost. But we’ve learnt from every mistake and this is why we’re working to pre-plan for any incidents that may occur again there in the future.

How did you break your back and what happened with the rescue? I broke my back down at Rileys and was very lucky that there was a ski out there with a rescue sled on it. This allowed us to self rescue and maintain proper in line spinal precautions. And all we needed was a ambulance that met us at the slipway. Way better than a helicopter crew putting their lives in danger by coming and trying to winch me up.

Most of the Irish based tow teams and big wave surfers are pioneers and mainly self taught. Yet you’ve reached a level of safety and rescue that is getting the thumbs up from surfers like Dorian. How have you got there? We’ve all trained under the same guidelines, Glyn Ovs from Water Safety International came over a few years back and showed us a lot of rescue procedures he had learnt in California. We adopted these and just by everyone working off the same protocol we started developing action plans for most of the big waves spots. From working in the Fire Brigade and having a degree in disaster management I was able to draft up emergency action plans and get the training procedures set up for everyone.

Rileys, Aileens or Mullaghmore: which is the heaviest to surf and why? They are all very different waves in many ways. Be it location, access, extraction, injuries sustained there. But definitely the Cliffs and Rileys are the most dangerous due to the lack of access for the emergency services. Mully is safe enough due to its close proximity to the harbour and the deep channel after the wave. That and the fact all the lads are some of the best jet ski operators in the world up there. Dylan, Barry and Paul … the place is safe when they’re out there keeping an eye on you.


What’s the plan with the safety box – why is it a necessity at Alieens? The box that’s going down to the bottom of the cliffs will be there to help any stranded/injured surfer maintain his injury or situation and communicate with the emergency services. Also allowing tired surfers to rest with survival gear and warm clothing/energy bars/water to maybe recuperate from a nasty wipeout or maybe just to wait until the swell dies down a bit and they can get back out. It’s there so we do not have to put the emergency services in danger by doing unneccessary rescues.

What is the relationship with the Irish Coastguard like? We’ve been working very closely with the helicopter service and the Irish Coastguard in ensuring safe procedures are in place for all these spots now. Hard work by the Irish Tow Surf Rescue Club has insured that there is never bad blood between the surfers and the rescue services. A mutual respect is given to each other on the basis that we understand each other’s skills and appreciation for safety in our sport.

What is the general vibe like when you get a Long brother or a Dorian turn up? When they come over we treat them like our own, which they are: surfers. They play the game and that’s how it is, mutual respect is what it’s all about. They always have good things to say about trips to Ireland with the one obvious downside: the cold. They’re all a bit soft really…

The older crew have been breaking the ground and showing the way to the younger Irish surfers. How stoked are you when Conor or Ollie pull into bombs? Who you calling old?! It’s pretty amazing to watch the younger lads come up behind us and be pushing the boundaries so hard. It makes me proud to be Irish and see the respect we get from the best surfers in the world when they come over here and surf with us. I don’t think the lads like Conor, Ollie, Gearoid, Dylan Noonan, etc, get enough help and support as they should for the things there doing in our sport. Things have got to change.

Do you think these waves have been surfed as big as possible or is there still potential for more? Not even close. There’s always going to be a better day. I just hope I’m not working when I comes. We’ve only just scratched the surface.

I’d just like to add the Irish Tow Surf Rescue Club’s main aim is to safeguard all our big wave surf spots and to maintain a level of rescue training in and out of the water. We also really appreciate all the help given to us by sponsors: Patagonia, Peli Products Ireland, Northcore and most recently Brendan Quinn who donated a collapsable stretcher to the club.
Any other companies out there that are willing to help us out in our goal and test their gear in the harshest environment possible please don’t hesitate to contact me through the mag. We can save lives together.