Tag: sport

“Sea (ob)Sessions”  – My ocean life

“Sea (ob)Sessions” – My ocean life

I had my first swim lesson when I was around 4. My Mam told me the story of how I was latched on to the side of the pool, terrified for my life, bawling my eyes out, looking at her with “why would you do this to me?” in my eyes. All my Mam wanted to do was take me home, but if she brought me out of the pool she knew that I’d never get back in the water.

16 years later, I’ve done kayaking, surfing, scuba, snorkelling, coasteering,  and kept up the swimming. Over the next few months I hope to keep up the trend, becoming a beach lifeguard, surf instructor, D** scuba diver, small boat coxswain, do a triathlon and join the Irish Navy reserve.

I’ve spent the vast majority of my life in and around the sea. I’ve always been around the sea air, and I even get headaches when I go inland for too long. I could never get the hang of field sports; hurling, football, soccer and rugby, I just couldn’t get the knack for it. But once I got in the water it didn’t matter anymore, when I got into the water I never wanted to get out, I was comfortable, I was home

I started kayaking when I was 11, it became a Sunday ritual to go down to Aghada pier and drag this kayak twice the size of me into the freezing October water (cold water is a re-occurring theme in Ireland). I did this every sunday for 3 years and became comfortable with the currents, waves, tides and being out of my depth. I then got my own kayak and took it out on my own when I was old enough that my parents wouldn’t have a heart attack when I went out. The most memorable moment I’ve had is being a few 100 metres offshore during a hollywood sunset, and spending ages staring down into the dark blue water underneath. I was completely transfixed, and hooked for life.

Kayaking was is great to relax but it didn’t feel immersive enough to just sit in a boat and scoot around the place. To experience and harmonise with the Sea fully, I started surfing. Surfing is one of Ireland’s fastest growing sports, and easy to see why; the thrill of catching a wave and being shot forward towards the shore is addictive to say the least, and the surfing bug infects everyone that tries it. I can remember the first time I stood up on a board back in 2013 was for a wobbly 2 seconds, but that was all it took. That summer I spent a total of €700 on surf gear(!) but it was €700 well spent and paid off over the past few years. While my board is not a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, the bright blue deck makes the usually dull water in Ireland look that little bit better. It makes me feel a bit better.10898243_877506875633219_8028826309748516072_n

For that bit of extra thrill, Coasteering is hard to beat. This encompasses my love for both the sea and the cliffs I always end up climbing or exploring. It involves traversing a stretch of rocky coastline both in and out of water… Yep, cliff jumping. It’s the best way to see the coast not normally accessible any other way, never mind the fact it’s mental and hilarious! There’s no need for clunky boats or equipment, just a life-vest and helmet. Simples!

This year when I got back to college I had a little spare money from working all summer, I also live in the city too which meant I had all the time in the world to go with that spare cash! UCC has a massive range of clubs, but one that caught my eye as a fresher was UCC Sub-Aqua club. The club consists of scuba divers, free-divers and snorkelers and offer CFT (Irish underwater council) qualifications to its members for much cheaper than it would be to start through private instructors. Through the club I’ve managed to go snorkelling in Lough Hyne, Ireland’s oldest marine reserve filled to the brim with life, and done scuba training in the NMCI ahead of D* qualifying dives after christmas. Apart from that, I’ve met some fantastic people. The club is like a family, where everyone participates, is welcoming, helpful, and friendly.

This is something I’ve never had on this level with any of the other watersports I’ve tried; In surfing people will always watch your back and give tips and a helping hand, but because as divers we place our lives in each others hands every time we dive, and need that level of trust. But mostly I’ve found that people who share a love of the sea are all just genuinely nice, down to earth people? It’s the only walk of life where I haven’t come across someone I’d cross the street to avoid, whether it’s surfing, scuba or otherwise!

My obsession with the ocean has defined who I am for the past number of years and will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life. Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to balance my study while swimming like Michael Phelps to train for a beach lifeguard qualification starting in January. Surprisingly for someone so aquatic, I’ve the lane swimming skills of your average rock, so this is an intense challenge but means next year I’ll be a qualified lifeguard which I’ll follow-up with a surf instructor course. All going swimmingly *pun alert* I’ll be a professional lifeguard and surf instructor come next summer.


While all this is going on, at the same time I’m training to build my fitness levels to a standard high enough to enlist in the Naval Service Reserves in the next few weeks. I’ve always had an interest in volunteering with the RNLI or Coast Guard, but restrictions mean I’m too far from any station to join. The idea of the Naval reserves came to mind at the end of summer during the maritime festival in Ringaskiddy, where I got the chance to go on board the LE Samuel Beckett and speak to the personnel. It’s a new opportunity to push myself even further both physically and mentally, and to train to a level high enough to go out into the North Atlantic. Along side weapons training, it will also include sea survival, fire fighting, damage control as well as foot drill, and further opportunities in small boat handling qualifications (RIB and sail yacht).

The next few years of my life will undoubtably revolve around the sea, and the more time I spend there then the deeper my obsession will become. Thanks to my Mam for not pulling me out of the pool on my first swim lesson.


  • I’ve started my beach lifeguard qualification with Ardmore Adventures every Friday night, and training for it 3-4 times a week.
  • Navy reserve selection has been announced and due to receive a date for fitness tests in the next few weeks.
  • One dive away from qualifying with CMAS D* diving cert, hopefully done in next month or so.
“Surf’s Up!” – Beginners guide to Surfing

“Surf’s Up!” – Beginners guide to Surfing

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.

52-97-Rileys-100614091831-P4093572I’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!

  1. 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.
  2. Be confident in the sea: This sounds pretty basic, but be confident in your swimming ability before signing up. It is kinda important.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.original

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