Ireland may be world renowned for its outdoor activities, but when one thinks surfing they don’t necessarily picture an array of blustery beaches and sleepy villages normally frequented by summer day-trippers. However, there exists a growing Irish surf movement with thousands taking to the seas along the country’s various coastlines. Many of those are even travelling from abroad to experience waves that are considered on par with what you can find off the sands of Australia or California. Those locations feature some of our more remote locals wrapping the island from the north-west right down to Tramore, Co. Waterford, which now boasts half a dozen surf related industries along its famed one mile seafront.
The appeal of rising before breakfast to then jump into the cold waters off you’re your nearest beach might not be to everyone’s liking or practicality, but what’s on offer is perhaps bigger than just a sport on its own. Taking in a weekend of surfing is akin to a lifestyle change, the chance to leave behind the trials of the working week in unfamiliar surrounds and the renewal, socialising and discovery that go with it. Whether walking the cliffs of the west coat or settling into one of the small pubs in a Cork hamlet, there’s something for everyone in this regard.
When it comes to what goes on in the water itself, it’s true that surfing may be harder than the graceful movements of professionals as they cruise towards the world’s most glamorous beaches. But in reality it’s not beyond the ability of most to at least give it a try, sans any attempts to look like you’re about to sign an endorsement deal. In the company of friends with that fresh ocean smell hitting your lungs it’s easy to see the appeal. Couple this with the anticipation of being in the right place at the right time to catch that unique wave or ‘swell’ and it’s easy to see how many of those involved consider surfing a borderline addiction.
The governing body here, the Irish Surfing Association estimates several thousand participate at some level per annum including everyone from those giving it a shot for the first time up to international competitors. The highlight of their calendar is of course the National Championships, with Bundoran doing the honours for this year’s event on April 25th and 26th. Hundreds will try their luck on Donegal’s foreboding waters, with the organisers looking to harness the seas as they reach a powerful but manageable level at this time of year.
Even for the complete neutral, the sheer unpredictability of the event, with conditions being potentially varied for different competitors in the same classes brings a rare guarantee of entertainment in modern sport. Those same conditions have even seen Ireland chosen to host the European Championships on several occasions, most recently in 1997.
If the thought of that trip doesn’t suit you, then why not give surfing a try in a more local setting? The possible ways of getting into the sport here are numerous (almost every substantial beach has some group based on it) but the Irish Surfing Association recommends starting with one of their affiliated clubs or schools to give those starting out the best foundation.