Surfing is Ireland’s fastest growing sport, and with 2,500km of prime Atlantic coastline there’s no shortage of surf to be had. The west coast draws the world’s top surfers every year and we’re quickly becoming a Mecca for surfers! Surfing is a fantastic way to stay fit and works your core and upper body, including muscles in your shoulders you can’t work any other way. And obviously, gives you the balance of a Flamingo atop the Eiffel Tower.
I’ve been surfing for just over 2 years now, and in that time I’ve noticed the difference already. When I was learning back in 2013 with Swell Surf School in Inch East Cork my lesson groups were relatively small, from 6-10 per lesson. After recently returning to the school and talking to my old instructor, he told me the groups have at least doubled, with the lesson that day being a group of 26! I was also on the committee for UCC Surf Club during 2014/15 year. In 2013/14 the club had roughly 350 members, which grew to 680 in 2014/15.
Not many of my friends surf, but many would like to and just don’t know where to start. So this is my guide to anyone interested in starting surfing!
- Find your Surf School: Professional instruction is the best way to go. There are surf schools on many surf beaches up and down the coast, and their friendly staff are there to help and make your learning as easy and fun as possible. Schools are usually open between April and October and provide all gear and instruction for less than €30 a session or will do package deals.
- Be confident in the sea: This sounds pretty basic, but be confident in your swimming ability before signing up. It is kinda important.
- Find a Surf buddy: When I started surfing, none of my friends surfed or had interest, so I did lessons on my own. Of course I wanted someone to go with, but if I waited on other people every time I wanted to do something, I’d get nothing done! I ended up making friends with the instructors because most other learners were well below my age, and they made things much easier. Having someone you know with you makes it more fun, you have someone to laugh at when they fall off!
- You will fall off: Everybody falls off sometime, and in Ireland be prepared for a chilly shock when you do! It’s all about muscle memory, and like with regular memory we all learn things at different paces. One of my instructors told me, “You could fall off a hundred times in a row, but it only takes a hundred and one tries to stand and stay standing“.
So if you’re no longer a grom and want to move up in the world, you’ll probably be drooling in the surf shop window at a shiny new board right about now. You’ve caught the Surf bug. You’re addicted. There’s no turning back.
Ok, hold your horses. First you’ll be looking for your own gear, so run into the nearest surf shop and ransack the place right? Wrong. Shop around, both in-store and online for all your bits and pieces.
For your board: In-store is really your only option, unless you want to pay €100 in P&P! There will be a surf shop within spitting distance of any large surf spot. Tramore, Clonakilty, Lahinch, Bundoran, and all places in-between, a surf shop will sell surfboards. When getting lessons you’ll be on a foam board, high buoyancy and high volume. When buying your first hard-board you’ll be looking for the same qualities to make the transition smooth and wave count high. Avoid shortboards as a first board, I know they look cool but try a minimal or longboard, save yourself the frustration.
Don’t be afraid to look at used boards, especially if you’re on a budget. I bought my board brand new and it cost a cool €400… yeah, check DoneDeal.
For your Wetsuit: I bought mine online*. I have 2 wetsuits, a summer and a winter. My summer wetsuit is 3mm/2mm thick and has a zip on the back. My winter suit is 5mm/4mm and has the zip on the chest.
I personally wear my winter suit all year round, it’s warmer and more water-tight, but both types have their pro’s and con’s. Back-Zips are cheap and easy to get in/out of, but they leak icy cold water inside soon as you dive in (Nice!). Chest-Zips are more pricy and take practice and patience to get in and out of, but they are basically waterproof! Make your own decision on what style, but I’d recommend at least 4mm thick. Boots, gloves and hood are good for winter too! A decent, full wetsuit set (suit, gloves, hood, boots) will set you back about €200 and will last years with proper care.
To make the most of your time in the water, do some push-ups every day or so. It’ll make your pop-up stronger and keep away fatigue. Outside of that I can’t offer much else! Just go out, be safe, and have fun!
(*Buying wetsuit online: make sure to get your measurements right before ordering!)
For more: www.irishsurfing.ie