Metallica Pete is standing in the cold gray froth of the beach at Bundoran, Ireland, like a latter-day St. Patrick, trying to bring the gospel of surfing to the people of Ireland.

All around him, squadrons of wetsuit-clad teenagers flip and flop their bulky beginner boards in the knee-slapping shore break at Bundoran's pebbly beach at the foot of a ferris-wheel-and-candy-shop coastal resort town on Donegal Bay.

It takes some imagination to place the scene in the realm of Hawaii's Pipeline or Australia's Surfers Paradise, but the bay in the northeastern corner of Ireland is one of the surfing hot spots of Europe.

Except, of course, that it is turn-your-ears-pink frigid out on these breakers.

"It's not that bad," said Andrew Hughes, an instructor working with Metallica Pete. He said this clad from ankle to neck in a black wetsuit, with an around-the-head hood to boot.

"We're using the same wetsuits they use in California," he said. "Except we're still using them in June and July. It's really not that bad. We get the Gulf Stream here. But if you are going to be standing in the water, it's nice to have."

Irish surf scene makes waves

Ireland doesn't instantly come to mind when it comes to surfing, but the buzz has been building in recent years. The Irish national team finished 19th at the 2006 World Surfing Games in Huntington Beach, Calif. Ireland was tabbed as an undiscovered "must surf" spot in a recent edition of Surfing magazine.

Surfers who come to Donegal Bay can choose from different waves. The toughest is generally considered to be the Peak, a reef break off Bundoran, several dozen yards out from where the newbies were splashing in the surf with Andrew and Pete. When the weather is clear and the waves are working, the Peak can be a place of elbows and angry talk, though it never gets to the level of an ankle-slapping weekend at the Huntington Beach Pier.

A more forgiving wave and friendlier environment are just up the road in Rossnowlagh. Here, battleship-gray waves roll evenly toward the shore, almost as regular and long as the summer swells at Waikiki. It's a great beach for longboarders, with extended straight rides.

"There's a lot of room for everybody," said Ross Mahoney, who had driven up from Strandhill. "For an experienced surfer, the reef break at Bundoran is easier to work, but Rossnowlagh is better for the less experienced surfer. The waves are good, especially around October."

At pub, surfers welcome

High up on the bluffs is Smuggler's Creek, an old pub. You can see the surfers in the distance. For those who would rather watch than wade into the frigid surf, there are two great spots at the windows from which to catch the action. But if the day is nice enough, take your pint of Guinness stout or Harp lager across the street and sit at the picnic tables on the bluff. Just don't get staggering drunk -- it's a short wall and a long fall. The pub is for sale, but the staff told me it was a family decision, not a matter of a lack of business, and new owners would be foolish to mess up the combination of cozy pub inside and surf hangout outside.

Many surfers end the day at the Surfers Bar at the Sandhouse Hotel, the spruced-up old inn that sits right on the beach. The bar is filled with photos and memorabilia of surfing going back to the "pioneer" days of the 1960s. The scene really took off in the 1970s, and there are pictures of an especially large swell in the summer of 1975. The sand is packed so hard that cars can drive on it, and in an earlier time, planes used it as a landing strip.

At Bundoran Surf Co., a clerk peruses an article on Irish surfing in Surfing magazine, smirks and shakes his head. As it does for every resident of a lesser-known surf spot around the world, it means only one thing: fewer waves for the locals.