I leave college at five after my last lecture, meet friends at the boat shed, put my freestyle boat on the roof and get out of the city. After only thirty minutes drive, I’m in Oranmore! Here’s five reasons why I’m fortunate to be studying nearby …

1) The scenery

You get changed in this quiet harbour, enjoying the view on Galway Bay and the sail boats over the horizon. Then you have to paddle across the bay to the hole, which is a good warm up. This year, I was lucky enough to get few sunset sessions, where you can admire the sun going down on Oranmore Castle after each ride. Also got the chance to see a seal upstream of the hole during one of my rides!

2) The hole

When tide is coming in, water is flowing through two pillars into a kind of lake, because of the difference in level between the lake and the sea, and the speed of the water between the pillars, the hole is created.  Because the tide keeps coming in, the hole keeps changing during your session. You start with a really shallow hole, where you can do spins and catwheels, for the first twenty minutes. Then it becomes a kind of wave, still a bit shallow, where you can start doing macnasties and phonix monkeys. When high tide is really high (around five metres), the wave lasts longer, and allows you to try new things like blunt-nastys and wave-monkeys. Finally, the perfect hole is there, powerful, reasonably deep and sticky. You can now plug for a huge loop or do your combos!

I think paddling in Oranmore is a really good training, because the hole keeps changing, you have to adapt your technique after every ride. You have to understand where you’ll have to start your next trick/combo if you don’t want to hit the walls, and how far back in the foam will you have to plug if the hole is still too shallow. Having to think about that after every ride will help you to adapt your technique rapidly if you go to competition and the levels keep changing.

Oranmore Session, October 2016 from lucien s on Vimeo.

3) Plan your training

Because the hole is created by the tides, you know exactly when it’s going to work, even a year in advance! And you don’t need rain!! You usually want to be there two to three hours before high tide. The higher the tide, the longer it will last, and the minimum tide is 4-4.2m for the hole to work properly. It’s pretty handy to be able to plan a session few days in advance when you’re in college, so you can finish all your assignments in time. And the feature is only working for an hour, which is just perfect when you’re training if they’re not too many people in the eddy.

4) Salt water makes you go higher?

Heh, physics … because salt water is denser than fresh water, you should go higher when you plug! Because the tide can only flow into the lake by flowing through that 1.5m gap between the two pillars, the green water is quite fast, everything you need to go huge! During spring tides, green water can be really fast and the foam pile quite trashy. One of my favourite combo is spitwheel to phonix. It seems much easier to be arial on your macnasties and phonix monkeys in Oranmore!

Photos by Aran Kilroy and Robert Kierans