The 2016 edition of the Nixon Surf Challenge – in association with Monster Energy, Reef, Lomography and Jam Traction – just wrapped after an unforgettable five days exploring the untamed beauty that is the west coast of Ireland.
After coming so close to getting the nod from his fellow surfers in Iceland four years ago, free surfer Chippa Wilson (AUS) claimed a maiden Nixon Surf Challenge title. Speaking after a trip-ending visit to the iconic Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Chippa said: “This is what it’s all about. To get that recognition from your peers after the best part of a week exploring the country and chasing waves feels more satisfying and fulfilling than any heat victory. What a trip!”
Five days earlier, Fergal Smith (IRL), Ireland’s first pro surfer, founder of Moy Hill Community Garden and Growing Farm and current Green Party candidate, welcomed everyone to his hometown of Lahinch in County Clare. There he invited his fellow surfers to get stuck in on the farm and share in the harvest.
“I was really happy Nixon chose to come to Ireland,” said Fergal. “It meant a lot having the guys here. I don’t get to see them as much as I used to since I made my decision to stop flying. We didn’t have loads of waves, but I really enjoyed showing them around, and we got to do a few other fun things. Getting everyone in the garden was amazing – I never thought I would see Sancho roll up his sleeves like that!”
From there, the Nixon Surf Challenge headed to the mythical Cliffs of Moher where everyone boarded a sailing boat for the day for a spot of dolphin spotting. With legendary big wave spot Aileen’s not exactly firing on command, it was time to hit the road in search of some much-needed waves during what turned out to be one of the warmest early summer weeks on record.
It was in and around the small, picturesque fishing town of Dingle in County Kerry – located on the southwest tip of Ireland – that the surfers got to satisfy their ever-present craving for waves. Blowing lightly offshore over crystal-clear emerald waters, the conditions served up heaps of fun bowls, lefts and rights and ramps for the likes of Charly Martin (GLP) and Chippa to air off. Marlon Lipke (POR/GER) put on a show with powerful combo carves, while Benjamin Sanchis (FRA) tucked into a handful of fleeting barrels.
Despite being pushed all the way, particularly by Marc Lacomare (FRA) and Charly, it was clear that Chippa had earned his moment in the spotlight come the end of the trip. Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY), winner of the 2015 edition in Hainan, commented: “Chippa has that knack of making the impossible look effortless. He’s so technical, so good in the air, and his style is right up there – hats off to Chippa, nobody deserves it more.”
Henning Erlandsen, Nixon Surf Challenge event director rounded it all off, saying: “The beautiful thing about Ireland is its unpredictability – you never know which Ireland you’re going to score when you go there. That element of unpredictability lies at the core of the Nixon Surf Challenge, and the tropical weather combined with those unique surf spots and culture will live long in the memory of everyone lucky enough to experience this year’s adventure. Who knows where we’ll go next…”