"I knew it was big when I woke up," Conor Maguire told the WSL of the day he rode what many consider to be the biggest wave ever caught at the Irish slab of Mullaghmore. "I live near the beach, but I'd never heard a sound of thunder like this, nor had seen the walls shaking. But you know what, I sat on the yoga mat at 5am, did some stretches and I felt really calm. This what I had waited all my life for."
Upon arrival at the Mullaghmore Harbour conditions were however far from calm. "When we turned up at the harbour there was skies getting flipped, cars and trailers were getting washed along the ramp, it was insane," said filmer Clem McInerney. "I said to Maguire, ‘did you have a look how big it is?' As he said no the whole harbour started draining out like water down a plughole."
"It was hectic," confirms Maguire. "I saw a perfect left of the harbour where I've never ever seen a wave before. I thought maybe I can just surf that." He was, of course, joking. With Ireland under strict pandemic restrictions, the 26-year-old was heading out to surf the infamous Ireland slab on his own, after receiving permission to travel and film as an elite athlete from the relevant authorities. With Red Bull's support he was part of a full land and water safety team and film crew made up of mentors and best friends who were all on hand to help Maguire potentially ride into the record books.
Maguire only rode three waves that morning, with the last being the biggest and a potential Big Wave Award Ride Of The Year. "On my first look at a wave, it was huge, but it had no wall, which was pretty weird," said Maguire. "Something just didn't feel right, so I had a look over my right shoulder. I saw a 60-foot wide black hole swirling on the death part of the reef just below. It was the scariest thing I'd ever seen. I was like, I might give this one a miss."
On his second wave he was lit up, causing some damage to his eardrums. Undaunted though, he headed back out to what he would later describe as the magic bay where chaos meets beauty. He was still looking for the wave that he'd been dreaming of since he first started surfing Mullaghmore, almost a decade before.
"I saw that wave starting to feather about a kilometre out to sea and my driver Barry Mottershead, the guy who basically taught me the ropes here, looked at me and said, ‘You want this one bro?' And I said, Well, all right then."
He whipped me in, and as I went over the ledge, it felt like a normal 30-footer. Then I kept dropping and dropping for an eternity, and the wave kept growing taller and taller. The thing was it was smooth, green and buttery. I just had to stand there as it was so perfect."
He then pulled into the corner, hollow section and after feeling weightless emerged from a firehose of spray and mist, only to have the next whole section avalanche on his head.
"Conor, being Conor, just came out smiling," recalled McInerney. "He's always calm, and always humble, but with this amount of safety he was having fun. He's in a very good place right now. It's a small tight knit crew that trust each other; there's no bullshit and no ego. He's pushing the boundaries and he's honing his skills and all it came together on that wave."
"I was totally calm on that wave, we so ready and my friends were looking out for me. It felt like I had the time to just take it all in and not worry about the fear factor," concludes Maguire. "I have this memory of just standing in this massive green bowl and that will stay with me forever."