AFTER a frustrating year dominated by a nasty ankle injury, Lyndon Wake ended 2012 on a high with what has been described as a career-defining big wave in monstrous conditions off the coast of Ireland.
In an age when images of sessions of this scale make surfing news around the world within hours, by a cruel twist of fate almost every photographer missed what was among the biggest waves ridden at the spot
With a massive swell forecast to hit the west Irish coast, Wake teamed up with Andrew Cotton for his first taste of the big stuff since recovering from injury.
The pair had spotted an eight-metre swell approaching and, as Cotton said, "it was too good an opportunity to pass up, you don't often get swell that big".
So 40 hours of motorway munching and a ferry journey later, they found themselves overlooking one of the most renowned big-wave spots on the planet.
Wake, a powerful goofy footer from Croyde, had been forced to sit out all the UK Pro Tour events of 2012, although it did not stop him making the long trek up to Scarborough, in Yorkshire, and Thurso, on Scotland's northern tip.
"Not being able to surf was really tough, but I still went in a coaching capacity with Jayce Robinson and Will Bailey," he said.
"Thanks to amazing physio by Braunton-based Darren West I was back in the water at the end of November – but this was my first big test.
"The trip was a really big gamble in terms of the costs involved and the conditions.
"There was a lot of swell but with super-strong winds, so there was a really narrow window of opportunity when it looked as though conditions would be right."
That window lasted for only an hour or less but it was enough for Wake to catch arguably the biggest barrel ridden at famed big-wave spot Mullaghmore. "It's so much more powerful and scary than anywhere else I've surfed," he said. "I was a lot more concerned this time coming back from my injury."
There was much waiting around, hoping the conditions would improve.
"We went back to the hotel and did a load of breath training in the swimming pool – anything to take my mind off thinking about the wave," said Wake.
"As the tide dropped you could see it was massive and we had decided to get in no matter what, but the wind switched and we got an hour of decent waves just before sundown.
"Cotty towed me into my second wave of the session. I pulled into it, I could see my way out, then I started to feel myself being sucked back deeper into the barrel and up the wave by the force of the air, then it blasted me out.
"Afterwards I had to sit on the jet ski till my legs stopped shaking because of the adrenalin."
Barry Mottorshead, who has been involved in almost every swell at Mullaghmore in the last five years, said: "It was one of the best pits I've ever seen ridden out there, super deep. That wave was a beauty."
The wave seems to compare with the one that earned Cotton his XXL big-wave nomination last year.
It would normally have been captured from start to finish by the photographers and videographers who document every big session at the spot.
But with the previous two surfers being rescued after taking heavy wipeouts, it seems everyone missed the best wave of the day if not the year.It's like the fish that got away.
View a sequence of Wake's wave at vimeo.com/56914990