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Follow the Rugged Coast

After Prolimit’s ‘Follow the Current’ mission in Cape Town that we featured earlier this year, they embarked on a new mission called ‘Follow the Rugged Coast’ to shoot their winter collection with Stig Hoefnagel and Jeanne Vanderick. This time, the destination was the breathtaking Achill Island, off the rugged west coast of Ireland. Inspired by the powerful Gulf Stream, Prolimit sought to capture the essence of coastal exploration and the thrill of water sports against the stunning backdrop of Achill’s dramatic landscapes.

WORDS: Linda van Lakwijk
PHOTOS: Andy Troy

Follow the Rugged Coast is part of ‘Prolimit Missions; Follow the Current’, an innovative and educative initiative that aims to follow ocean currents to understand how they affect water temperature and climate. By collecting data and analyzing it, Prolimit hopes to gain insights into the complex relationships between ocean currents, water temperature and climate patterns. The campaign is also aimed at raising awareness about the impact of climate change on the oceans and encouraging people to take action to protect them.

When our creative team delved into our next project, they were irresistibly drawn to Achill Island by its unique geographical position and undeniable natural beauty. The island’s proximity to the Gulf Stream made it the ideal location for capturing the essence of our next mission. The wild Atlantic waves crashing against the rugged cliffs and pristine beaches create an unparalleled playground for water sports enthusiasts. After an extremely cold winter shoot at Lake Silvaplana with Ben Beholz last year, the team was happy we didn’t pick a location covered with ice this time. Prolimit riders Stig Hoefnagel, Jeanne Vanderick and windsurfer Henri Kolberg are familiar with winters in Europe, but lakes covered with ice is something best left to Ben…

During winter, temperatures on Achill Island are relatively mild, typically ranging from around five to 10 degrees Celsius, but the strong coastal winds can make it feel a lot colder. The ocean currents play a big role in the weather patterns on Achill Island. The island is influenced by the North Atlantic Drift, a warm ocean current that brings mild temperatures. Achill Island’s rugged coastline is also shaped by the powerful influence of the Atlantic Ocean. The North Atlantic generates powerful waves that constantly crash against the shores, especially during storms. The force that comes with it gradually sculpts and shapes the island’s shores. The North Atlantic Drift is an extension of the Gulf Stream, which on a larger scale exerts its substantial influence on European weather patterns. This warm ocean current plays a pivotal role in shaping Europe’s climate. The Gulf Stream transports tropical waters from the south to cooler European regions. This process engenders prevailing westerly winds, influencing various aspects of weather. Understanding the dynamics of the Gulf Stream is crucial for accurate weather forecasting of the broader European climate system.

With all this knowledge in the back of our head, our trip to Achill Island began. We met with the crew and riders Stig and Jeanne at Schiphol Airport to fly together to Dublin. At Dublin Airport we would meet Henri who was flying all the way from Chile where he had participated in a competition. After traveling for over 24 hours, all you want is to get to your accommodation, freshen up and get clean clothes. However, it turned out his bags didn’t make it and got stuck somewhere in Germany…

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“Someone came speeding up on his quad…It turned out to be the angry farmer…”

From Dublin Airport it’s a four-hour drive to Achill Island. You drive through the most remote places and pass only a few small villages along the way. We arrived late in the evening and were curious where we would wake up the next morning. We woke to a stunning view over the lake and decided to go to Keel Beach early to shoot the first part of the wetsuits. There was not much wind which gave us time to get some lifestyle shots done. When the wind did pick up a bit, Stig and the camera guys, Floris and Andy, decided to get some shots on a small stream that ran between the meadows. There were no signs on the beach that we were not allowed to drive there or kite there, so good to go. At least, that’s what we assumed… Just as we were all set up and ready to go, someone came speeding up on his quad… It turned out to be ‘the angry farmer’, the name we gave him, and which he kept all week. The guy was angry because we were disturbing his sheep and we were not allowed to be on his land. We kindly asked him where his land ended, but he himself did not quite

know… “I only tell you where not to go,” he repeated. We aborted the mission, not quite knowing where we could and couldn’t be, but with the plan still in our mind. For now we focused on the lifestyle shots of the new winter collection.

Later that day the plan kept spinning around in our mind and over lunch we discussed the new strategy – drop Stig with the gear and drive back with the cars to the lake where the small streams end, grab the cameras and simply take a seat on the side of the golf course where the stream ran. Now it was just Stig with his kite, and a horse that was looking up strangely. Mission complete! In the evening we met up with Swiftie from Pure Magic at Lynott’s Pub, the smallest pub in Ireland. As a local he could tell us everything about the various spots, the weather and how the weather works at the different spots. We went through the forecast for the next few days and made a schedule for the week.

The next day we decided to wake up early again and drive around the island to check out the spots Swiftie recommended to see them with our own eyes. It wasn’t windy and we had already shot a lot of lifestyle the day before, so it was a good day to drive around and get some shots with the car and board bags and look for a spot where we could make a little campfire for the end scene of the video. Ireland is known for its breathtaking landscape and rugged coast. We drove past some beautiful cliffs and decided to pick the famous White Cliffs as the location for the campfire later that evening, contemplating the coming days.

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“With offshore wind the lake is a flat-water paradise…”

The forecast for the next few days looked promising and we decided to head back to Keel Beach again for some proper action. After an early morning sunrise shoot we were invited by Francois from Pure Magic to have a good Irish breakfast at their lodge and recharge for the afternoon. In the afternoon we went to Lake Keel to get more kite and wing shots done. With offshore wind the lake is a flat-water paradise, and with just a few other (crazy) kiters daring to face the cold conditions, Stig, Henri and Jeanne had a great session and lots of fun with the locals. During the winter and early spring, it’s deserted on the island, and only on the weekend does the island get filled up with campers and caravans. The island tempts you to drive around and keep staring at the beautiful landscapes. However, there are sheep everywhere and they don’t mind taking a nap on the road. Watch out! Especially during the night. We started to make jokes about all the sheep through our walkie-talkies: “How many sheep live on Achill Island? Well, I started counting them, but I fell asleep…”. Sorry, it was a long trip…

Shooting multiple disciplines of water sports is always a challenge as you want to score a good session for everyone, which is not always easy. Henri heard the wind and waves would be very good for windsurfing the next day around Elly Bay, so we decided to give him a stage and drive one and a half hours to the north. After driving around the area a bit to find the best location to park and get in the water, Henri scored some nice waves and Stig dared to go out on his foil. And then something happened that none of us really expected in Ireland, but what we as northern Europeans normally only expect in tropical destinations… A big group of dolphins passed a few hundred meters from the shore. At first we couldn’t believe what we saw, not thinking there could be dolphins this far north, but of course it’s the Atlantic Ocean, and dolphins do travel. It was such a cool surprise! Later that week we heard that you also have a good chance of spotting whales around Ireland and that they often have basking sharks visiting Keem Bay. It’s fun how much you learn about environments, weather, climate and flora and fauna on these trips. It’s not just long days of shooting and having a good time together, they turned out to be educational as well.

Swiftie recommended we check out a spot called Mulrany that works best at high tide and has some fun natural obstacles. It’s not located on Achill Island itself, but close by. We woke up early again to be at the spot at the right time. Jeanne and Stig had a lot of fun playing with the obstacles and the residents braved the rain to come and have a look at what was happening – finally, a bit of action in their village at this time of year. In the afternoon we went back to Keel Beach to capture some shots with the stunning cliffs in the background. However, it was pouring, resulting in a soaked and slightly grumpy crew. Back home we lit the fireplace to dry out our shoes and clothes.

That night we were invited for dinner at the Pure Magic Lodge to celebrate the end of another successful Prolimit Mission. There was ‘live music’ in the village and we decided to head there for a drink after dinner. Live music on Achill Island means a room with six locals and their instruments. The atmosphere was super friendly though and we had a lot of fun with the (slightly older) local crew. Shooting winter collections in wintery conditions is always challenging for both riders and crew and soaks up a lot of energy. However, they are usually the ones you remember most since you can always laugh about it afterwards…

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