Surfing in Ireland

Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Today our feature "Surfing in" is heading to Ireland! Well known for its warm and friendly people, its beer and its breathtaking landscapes, you would't think of it as a land of surfing. But Suzanne is here today to contradict us and tell us more about surfing the country of the leprechauns!

I got in touch with Suzanne some days ago through Surfragette's comment box. She commented to one article sharing one day of surfing in Ireland. I was overwhelmed by her enthusiasm and passion and asked her to share her Irish experience on the blog :)

Enjoy it!

People have been surfing in Ireland since the 1960s. I've been surfing here since about 2003. It took me that long to find my place in the sea. The sea seems to have been in my blood but I didn't know exactly where I belonged in that big salty picture. My Dad is a diver and all my childhood holidays were spent hanging around beaches while he and his his friends were underwater. Ireland seemed warmer back then and I remember swimming in crystal clear waters on the West coast. I remember coral beaches and sunburn.  I also have memories of spending time in local craft shops with my Mum.
Fast forward beyond the landlubber years to the time I returned from Australia & decided that I had to try surfing again. I had my first lesson in Bondi, got caught in a rip in Maroubra & ended up coming home with a bug. The surfing bug. Could I find anyone to surf with? No. So through a friend I found a surf club in Dublin. They didn't wear board shorts or bikinis or say 'dude' or talk about the stoke. But they did drive cross country in all weathers and come out of the Atlantic with the universal smile that all surfers share. Surf trips were penciled in on my calendar. They both excited & scared me. I am not by nature a social person. But I found it easier to talk to complete strangers in the evening when we had shared a day's surfing. I began to meet the same people on trips & the fun ratio outweighed the social anxiety ratio!

The cold was something I found hard to manage and still do. The Atlantic gets the benefit of the tail end of the Gulf Stream. This takes the edge off the water temperature for a few months. At the moment it's a balmy 12 degrees celsius. It ranges from 8-18. But the wind chill in Winter is harsh. To brave the cold sea and survive and then nearly be reduced to tears on dry land because your hands are so numb you can't get your gloves off is not 'gnarly'! It's painful! I bought a battery heated vest last Spring in the hope that it might help. But I also check airfares to warmer waters at this time of year. I'm not a complete masochist!

Surf in Ireland has made headlines in the past few years for big wave tow-in surfing. It makes for dramatic photos. This type of surfing is worlds away from what interests me. I am a long boarder. I love that smooth languid style. I love the history of it. I love to watch those graceful moves that women and men seem to melt in to on small clean waves.

I've often had my best sessions when everyone else has written the season off. Yes, I love summer waves! I do most of my surfing in Mayo (county in the West of Ireland) on an island. There's a point on the road to the beach when you can see if there are waves in the distance. I used to be disappointed when there was no white in sight but now my hope is kept alive until I reach the shore as sometimes there can be small waves & the promise of a swell building as the tide changes. It suffers a lot from onshore winds, but less so in the summer.

As with life, it's all in the timing. The dog gets walked, I do a #2minutebeachclean, apply sunblock and revel in the barefoot surfing that awaits me. My last summer surf here was shared with one of the locals. (I'm only a blow in!) We took turns catching rights. I paddled by him and smiled and said "I've been waiting for this for weeks." He said "We all have!" We laughed as those rights went on and on and on...

I believe in the restorative power of water. That being near, on, in or under it is good for your physical and mental health. I 'discovered' surfing in my thirties. I sometimes wish I had surfed as a child, being young and fit would have been a novelty! But on reflection I believe I found surfing when I needed it. Or maybe it found me.
Like I said "It's all in the timing."

Credits // Authors // Photography: Suzanne Leahy, Pic 3 by Jens Hillebrand

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