On a visit to the Cliffs of Moher you cannot but be aware of the Atlantic Ocean. It has shaped the Cliffs over time; has created the weather systems encountered there and is a constant force and presence.
The west coast of Ireland faces straight onto the Atlantic and is at the mercy of the many storms and swells produced by it. The prevailing winds come from the southwest and (along with the currents of the Gulf Stream) are major contributors to our mild and moist climate. When the wind direction occasionally switches to the east the country experiences dryer and brighter weather that can be extremely cold during winter months. Large storms are normally born in the tropical regions of the mid Atlantic and generally make their way from the west coast of Africa across the ocean towards the Caribbean and south eastern United States gathering energy as the move across this warm water. Often they veer northwards and dissipate but their energy is carried in the form of swell which batters the cliffs with huge waves when they make landfall. Some of these storms formed in the mid Atlantic also move in the opposite direction and make landfall along the Atlantic coast of Ireland buffeting it with winds in excess of 100 kpm.
Surfing at the Cliffs of Moher really began around 2005 with a small crew of local surfers used jet skis to tow each other into the wave that was to become known as “Aileens”. With large ocean swells approaching the cliffs unhindered from relatively deep water the large slab of rock that makes up the reef at “Aileens” forces the waves to jack up and creates well shaped but very heavy right hand barrels. The wave can range from 10 to 30 plus feet in height and has attracted expert and professional surfers from around the globe. What began as mainly a tow in (jet ski assisted) wave is now being paddle surfed regularly with jetskis only present for rescues or on the largest days.
Commercial fishing off the Cliffs of Moher probably saw its peak during the 1980s and 1990s with gill net fisheries taking large amounts of Turbot, Dogfish, Hake and Pollock. A strong Salmon drift net fishery was also in place during these years and earlier. All these fisheries saw rapid declines and most became commercially unviable by the mid 1990s with the drift netting of salmon being banned outright in 2008. Today some small number of trawlers fish the waters between the cliffs and the Aran Islands during spring and summer along with a handful of lobster fishermen operating under the shadow of the cliffs.