Save The Waves Coalition

What You Can Do to Save Doolin Point and Crab Island

 Photo of Crab Island by Mickey Smith.

***April 2011 UPDATE****

The deadline to submit a letter has passed, but stay tuned for news/actions that you can take to help our Irish partners save their waves.

The fight continues to save Doolin Point and Crab Island. Despite the recent approval by the Clare County Council to build a pier that threatens the world-class waves of Crab Island and Doolin Point, the project now must acquire a foreshore license by the Department of the Environment, which is being applied for now. Please urge the Department of the Environment to rethink this project. Letters must arrive before the 21st of April, so don’t wait. Send you letter today! See guidelines below.


The Foreshore Unit,
Department of Environment, Heritage, and Local Government,
Newtown Road,

Date: ____________

Re: Section 19 of the Foreshore Act, 1933. Clare Co. Co. application to Mr. Phil Hogan T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government for permission to occupy an area of foreshore at Doolin, Co. Clare for the purpose of constructing an access road, pier structure and associated dredging works at Doolin Pier, Doolin, Co. Clare.
Ref: MS/51/11/234

Dear Sir/Madam,

The following points are of concern and we would ask each of you to choose some of these points and maybe add some additional issues of your own, elaborate upon them with a few sentences and submit to the above address by post to arrive before 21st April 2011. The following points are the opinion of the West Coast Surf Club in light of our assessment of the proposed development:

• The new pier structure has the potential to destroy a highly regarded surfing wave at Doolin Point and potentially have a significant impact on the surfing quality of the world renowned wave at Crab Island.
• The new pier structure will be located where surfers currently safely access the water. The new development will result in a significant danger to surfers as they will have to enter the water at either the shore side of the pier, crossing the ferry paths, or at the seaward side of the pier where the reef is extremely dangerous and this will be compounded with the backwash from the new pier. 
• The proposed pier, as designed, will create significant currents in the water in and around the area where surfers paddle. This will create a serious health and safety hazard and surfers may be dragged onto rocks, the new revetment or into the paths of ferries.
• The proposed pier is of an extremely large scale which will be visible from many surrounding areas, in particular the renowned views of the point from the hills to the south.
• The pier will involve significant blasting and dredging of the seabed. The full impacts that these activities will have on the environment in and around the subject site have not been assessed appropriately. The works will have potentially disastrous repercussions for different aquatic species in the area including Dolphins. A full Environmental Impact Statement should be prepared.
• The pier requires a new tarmac access road which will be constructed on the existing limestone pavement at Doolin Point.
• The development could have a significant impact on the amenity value of the Doolin area for surfers, sightseers, walkers, bird watchers, hikers, due to its size, and location.
• There is a need for a new pier, however a design which will not have the above negative impacts can be provided and should be designed as an alternative to the current proposal.

The above points are to guide you in your submission, however we would ask you to make your submission as personal and unique as possible. Please include your full address in the submission. There is no fee required.


Follow this effort on the "How You Can Help Save Crab Island" Facebook page.

Contact the West Coast Surf Club at for more information.


***END OF APRIL 2011 update ***

***March 2011 UPDATE****

Irish surfers were dealt a blow recently when the Clare County Council approved plans for a new pier construction that threatens the world class waves of Crab Island and Doolin Point. Concerned surfers have been fighting to save the surf spots, which are in danger of being ruined by the new pier, backed by support from the Irish Surfing Association and Fáilte Ireland.

The new pier, The new pier has been titled "Gateway to the Aran Islands", and was supported by local tourism interests

Local surfers have expressed their dismay over the decision by Clare County Council to approve controversial plans for the new pier development at Doolin Point. The Irish Surfing Association (ISA) maintains that even the revised plan - accepted by the council's 32 members following previous objections - would result in the destruction of the renowned waves at Doolin Point and Crab Island.

The new pier, which has been dubbed the "Gateway to the Aran Islands", was supported by local tourism interests, but it appears surfing tourism did not factor into any of the decision making. The local surfing community contends it's not against the development of a pier, just the current development plan, and feels that the planning process was flawed and lacked a fully open and public process.

"I am very disappointed with this decision," Neil Cooney of West Coast Surf Club said. "A great deal of work was put into the West Coast Surf Club and ISA submission but it seems that the issues raised were ignored and brushed over." He added: "If this development is built as now proposed it would be a catastrophe."

While the new pier is expected to boost traffic to the Aran Islands during the summer months, many feel that the resulting lack of surfers the remainder of the year could conversely have a negative impact on tourism.

Construction is due to begin in 4 to 6 months.

For more information: News

>> Sign the petition here to protect Crab Island & Doolin Point.

>> Learn more here.

***END OF MARCH 2011 update ***



***Dec 2010 UPDATE****

This article is just in from the Save Doolin Campaigners.

"Prior to the Aug 15 cutoff for submissions, from May 2010 onwards, we repeatedly requested meetings with Clare CoCo to discuss the pier as their Part 8 plans didn’t even acknowledge the area as a surf spot. These requests were denied as the county engineer, Tom Kiernan was off on 5 weeks holidays (conveniently right up until the Aug 15 cutoff).

After the Aug 15 cutoff we made repeated attempts to setup a meeting with the coco and engineers.
Finally, as a result of submissions by ourselves and others on this part 8, along with insistence from Failte Ireland, the Fisheries board, Tom Killeen TD, Clare coco finally agreed to engage with us to model the new piers effect on the waves.

On Nov 11th, Clare county council met with us. Tom Kiernan (Clare coco) and Malachy Walsh (the engineering firm tasked with the initial part 8) presented to us their wave modelling findings. The modelling was plainly and obviously incorrect. It showed the waves breaking in the wrong area altogether and is completely missing crucial bathymetry (underwater topography) for the area immediately around Crab Island (ie- the surfing zone).

It was demonstrated to them via photographs and footage of waves breaking on the reefs that their modelling was wrong and inaccurate and therefore little or no use in determining if the new pier would damage the surfing waves . However, even their inaccurate and incorrect modelling of 1m swell indicated some disturbance (reflection of 20cm waves from a 1m swell back into the surf zone) that would destroy the surf spot. They accepted this.

Other problems with their modelling included the fact that they only modelled swell conditions of 1m in height and from one direction- SW. Swells that are surfed range from 1m to 5m and from a broad range of directions from SW to NW. This was pointed out to them and they stated that they would perform additional modelling. This never happened. (Performing additional modelling for different swell heights and directions is as simple as plugging figures into their software. Once the bathymetry data and land\pier are configured into the modelling system, the hard work is done. They had already done this to achieve their 1m wave modelling. To measure other swell heights & directions is just entering a few more numbers. They did not provide us with this because it is likely that this data irrefutably demonstrated damage to the surfing waves.)

They confirmed that nobody involved with this project, either Clare coco, Malachy Walsh or the people performing the modelling had EVER visited the site during swell conditions to compare their models with the actual situation. This is despite repeated offers from surfers to assist them in this matter.

That is the wave modelling story…

The planning report omits to mention ANY NON STATUTORY BODIES WHO MADE SUBMISSIONS- like they /we never existed, except for the last paragraph inspection (iv) saying that 72 submissions were received. It is recommending a completely different pier and at a different location, albeit apparently to “address the concerns expressed ” by 72 anonymous submissions!! This is a different proposal and should be re-advertised and the process started again. The Water safety Officers report 15thJuly was BEFORE our submissions were lodged, the water safety officer probably had no clue of the problem of surfers needing to cross the ferry paths to access the waves.

They ignored in the west coast surf club\irish surfing association submission other serious problems with their part 8 planning, namely (i) that part 8’s cannot be used on the foreshore as per section 226(1) of the planning and development act without an Bord Pleanala approval (ii) is not in keeping with the North Clare local area development plan (iii) requires an Environmental Impact Assessment due to its proximity to a number of protected sites.

The planner – Gordon Daly – has completed his planners report, and it is being voted on by Clare county councillors next Monday 13 Dec. I’ve attached this planners report in a PDF. The relevant parts are around pages 115 -123.

Despite repeated requests of the council to provide us with the date of the council meeting, and what they would be proposing in the planners report, they never provided us with either. We managed to get a copy of this report through other channels.

As it stands, the planners report will be telling the county councillors a lie – that the surfers concerns are no longer an issue. This is a deliberate lie by the planner and will affect how the councillors vote on this issue."

***END OF DEC 2010 update ***



JULY 20, 2010- From an open letter to Senior Executive Officer of Planning, Clare County Council: 

“The secret is officially out. Ireland is one of the top surfing destinations in the world.” – from Discover Ireland, 

It has come to our attention that the construction of a rock revetment and new pier extension at Doolin would destroy the quality of the surfing waves at Crab Island and Doolin Point, due to wave backwash and wave energy reflection created by the new pier. Furthermore, surfers who enter the ocean at Crab Island and Doolin Point would be forced to cross the operating paths of ferries accessing the new facility, consequently endangering their safety with these large boats.

We respectfully yet adamantly request that authorities cancel the current plans for the new harbor and pier in Doolin, and instead engage directly with the West Coast Surf Club and Irish Surfing Association to revisit alternative existing designs of this project. Alternate designs exist that do not damage the world class surfing waves at Crab Island and Doolin Point, and would ensure that surfers accessing the waves are not endangered by passing ferries.

Surfing waves are naturally occurring and exceptionally low-cost to society, and they provide and create a well-developed and rich local surfing economy and culture. In fact, Irish surfers were employed and filmed for nationwide advertising campaigns with Discover Ireland in 2007-08. This means that the government of Ireland recognizes the important cultural and economic value of its unique surfing coastline.

Planning authorities responsible for the new pier project at Doolin must clearly and directly address the concerns of surfers who would lose a limited recreational resource if this project is executed as designed. Local surfers have informed our organization that their concerns and interests have not been addressed in the documentation and proposal of this project. By working with the local surfing club and the Irish Surfing Association, we believe that County Clare can find an acceptable alternative to this project without destroying the waves or endangering surfers in the water. 

It is important to note that an online petition is now circulating and has gathered 5,000 individual signatures asking decision makers to consider these arguments to protect the surf spots at Crab Island and Doolin Point.

> Sign the petition here

> Read this complete letter here

> Learn more about the project threatening these waves in Ireland.