Surfing In Sligo

I am all too painfully aware that I am no longer in Ireland. However, that does not mean I am out of Irish stories! One of my favorite moments from my time abroad was when I learned how to surf on the gorgeous Strandhill beach.

The idea of learning to surf in Ireland came to me before I had left New Jersey. I had been doing extensive research about where to travel in the country when I discovered Ireland’s best kept secret – their beaches!

From the moment I stepped foot in Galway, the West coast became my favorite part of the country. The reviews are in, and it is a beautiful landscape up and down the Wild Atlantic Way. From Co. Kerry, to Co. Galway, to Co. Sligo, I couldn’t take enough pictures. The water was as blue as the sky, the grass was a classic Irish green, and the wind blew the salt from the water right into your face.

The Claddagh
The Claddagh, Co. Galway

Surfing had always interested me, but I never made the effort to take a lesson at the Jersey Shore. It may sound insane to you, for I waited until I was on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean to take a beginners surfing lesson. My reasoning was learning to surf for the first time would be better around the Irish. My family seemed to be confused when I first told them I wanted to surf in Ireland. Many questioned the quality of the beaches, some questioned the temperature of the water, and all questioned my sanity. I didn’t pay too close attention to all the noise, if anything it encouraged me even more.

So this led to another downward spiral of research. I was lucky enough to have found a few surfing schools that still did lessons in the fall and winter seasons. However, I was looking to take the least amount of trains and buses I could. Because of this, I put this adventure on hold to research other trips around Ireland.

Suddenly, it was December 4th and I was leaving on the 16th without having taken a surfing lesson. I immediately dove back into my research, for I was determined to take one lesson.

This was when I found iSurfIreland. I sent a few emails to Seamus, who was more than happy to help me out with a beginner lesson the next Saturday. I happily booked my lesson and set my alarm to catch the train from Maynooth the next morning.

What was originally a group trip turned into a solo adventure. Sadly my friends were unable to join me, but that didn’t stop me. I got up so early the next day the sun had yet to rise by the time I got on the train to Sligo. I settled in for a long ride and took a little nap during my three-hour train ride. I said a little prayer I would get there on time, then shut my eyes. I was in and out of sleep for a while, but woke up in time to see the train pass through a snow-covered Mullingar.

I was well aware of how cold Ireland was getting, and how I would be surfing while it was only 35 degrees. That didn’t discourage me at all, my excitement to get on the board overpowered my sanity telling me it was too cold.

After arriving in Sligo, I caught a bus to Strandhill Beach where I met up with Seamus and the other crazy people taking this lesson with me in the cold. I met some other people from Spain and from England, and we all bonded over how cold we were standing in the parking lot. I was given a wet suit and somehow managed to squeeze into it before joining everyone else.

Strandhill Beach, Co. Sligo

We carried our boards out onto the beach, then were given a crash course on how to get up on the board. I awkwardly practiced paddling on the sand, but then Seamus kept telling me I needed to take bigger strokes. Even though we weren’t in the water yet, I pretended to catch a wave and hop up on the board.

I was given the green light to get into the water and timidly wadded in. Even with my we suit, gloves, booties, and hat, I did not have faith that all of it would keep me warm. I was very shocked to discover I was not cold. With each crashing wave I did not feel a sudden chill or anything of the sort. It gave me a confidence boost as I tried to catch my first wave.

I wish I could tell you I was a natural. I wish I could say that first wave was perfect, and I was able to jump up on the board as if I had been doing it my whole life. Since I am an honest person, I will tell you the first time I tried to get up was not picture perfect. As I pushed myself up, I was not balanced and crashed into the white caps.

I pushed myself up out of the water with a smile on my face. I may not have been balanced, but I felt myself stand on the board! I felt this adrenaline rush and turned around to get back out by the waves.

Seamus was very encouraging and helped me get my balance right. Throughout that hour in the water, I was able to stand and ride the waves a few times. I could not wipe the smile off my face as I walked back onto the beach, soaked head to toe. I quickly made my way back to the hot showers before putting my warm clothes back on.

The train ride back to Maynooth seemed to be even longer than the ride there. I napped once again, but could not stop thinking about how happy I was after catching those few waves. There was a large sense of pride that stayed with me that weekend.  I had gone out my own and was able to accomplish one of the most important adventures I had planned before I got to Ireland.

There was my little trip down memory lane to one of my favorite moments in Ireland. I have many more memories I want to share, so make sure you’re following the blog to stay updated!

Now I have to get to class, since getting an education is important or something. Wish me luck, and to you sláinte!


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