11/01/2013 | by Alex Dick-Read
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The Relentless Powers of Three surf documentary follows pro surfers Tom Lowe, Fergal Smith and fearless photographer Mickey Smith on their quest to tackle Irelands biggest and most dangerous waves.
Tom and Fergal followed closely by the lens of Mickey Smith have made it their mission to ride these waves, some of which have never been surfed before. This winter was a brutal one even by Ireland’s standards, the West Coast was repeatedly battered by monstrous swells exploding onto exposed bits of slab and reef, often way out to sea and only accessible by jet ski.
We found waves that have never been seen or surfed before,” says Lowe, “No one has been in there because they don’t know where they are. And even if they did, they probably wouldn’t want to surf them because they are dangerous and you would have to be pretty mad to do it.”
The boys were looking for a certain type of wave, not just your average three foot sunny beach break. The mission was to find the shallowest waves exploding into knee deep water onto solid rock reef. The shallower the depth of the water, the better and deeper the barrel. Some of the waves surfed in this movie are literally death defying if they go wrong – the boys put everything on the line in search for the deepest, heaviest barrel.
The film effortlessly captures the true ferocity, bleakness and brutal cold of Ireland in the winter. The guys would often have to get up at 5am having been battered in the waves the day before and drive long distances to get to the breaks. Often it would take them over an hour to reach the waves on their jet skis (negotiating massive swells in the process) meaning they would turn up freezing cold – not the best way to prepare for a surf that could be a career finisher if you get it wrong! This editing, style and music of the movie captures this perfectly, so much so I felt freezing cold watching the movie at the premier!
Talking of career finishers Tom Lowe nearly had one of those days at Ireland’s most famous big wave spot Aileen’s. Tom and Fergal were surfing with two of the biggest names in big wave surfing Twiggy Baker and Greg Long. It was a massive day with only about 50% of the waves make able making the conditions absolutely lethal. The guys had been paddling into a couple and Tom was feeling pretty confident. He decided he wanted to try towing in with the ski to see if he could get one of the monstrous barrels. He got a smaller one to start with but wanted one of the whoppers. He was towed in slightly late into a huge bomb right under the cliffs. Tom stalled a bit on the wave and the mammoth lip of the wave exploded right on top of Tom, firing him right into the impact zone completely helpless, unable to move.
“I dislocated my shoulder, but got off lucky,” Lowe says. I thought I’d broken my arm. My neck and back were messed up. It’s the worst thing I’ve been through. I screamed. Fergal came to pick me up and he missed me the first time because another wave came. We were coming close to the rocks but I grabbed with my right arm and just held on and he took me out of the impact zone. It took me six weeks of rehab to get back.”
The Powers of Three surf documentary captures the true fearlessness and camaraderie you need to tackle these sort of waves – the team effort involved is huge and as you’ll see from the movie life saving at times. The filming from the water and land is awe inspiring, whether it will inspire you to tackle the 50 foot Irish waves in the middle of winter is up to you!
Head to the Relentless site right now to watch the full length movie, heaps of bonus footage and interviews with big wave legends Twiggy Baker and Greg Long.