Thursday 19 September 2019

John Daly: 'Atlantic surf fuels a wave of ambition'

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'You learn quick enough that surfing the barrel of a 30-footer is no place for lesser beings.' (stock photo)
'You learn quick enough that surfing the barrel of a 30-footer is no place for lesser beings.' (stock photo)

John Daly

The sun, as it always does, brought out every tribe this weekend. Hikers and bikers, golfers and gardeners, talkers and drinkers. Prominent along many a sun-kissed coastline were that ilk recognisable by their bright colours, chilled-out attitude and peculiar vernacular - surfers.

An activity brimming with cardio benefits, it's a pursuit close to the top of my personal bucket list. I have actually tried it a few times - got the wetsuit, board, the whole shebang - only to repeatedly find myself staggering half-drowned from the briny foam drooling a bellyful of salt water for my troubles.

You learn quick enough that surfing the barrel of a 30-footer is no place for lesser beings. In the shadow of 10 tonnes of raw power you'll confront a close-up of Mother Nature at her most turbulent in a place where skill and grace on a four-foot board marks the border between glory and wipe out. It also helps to be a little bit crazy.

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Slow learner though I clearly am, what keeps me returning to these purgatorial swells is the whole rebel vibe of the sport - everything from the clothes to the lifestyle to the lingo.

Would I thrill to rock Patrick Swayze's gnarly bank robbing surfer dude from the 1991 'Point Break' movie? In a heartbeat, compadre - though obviously with a serious investment in hair extensions and personal training sessions on my part.

And indeed my fantasy of duck diving an Eskimo roll on a gathering Atlantic swell is clearly one shared by legions of similar acolytes, given that surfing is one of the fastest growing water sports in Ireland.

With a dedicated army of 50,000 enthusiasts haunting those hidden reefs and coves where the Atlantic Way really is wild, the surfer is fast becoming a permanent fixture on any beach where the rollers crash. That it has finally been accepted for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 has pushed its needle of popularity even higher.

Laird Hamilton, the sport's ultimate poster boy, complete with rippling six-pack and bleach-blond locks, saw our jagged coastline as a magnet destined to attract heavy wave-breakers here: "The geography of Ireland guarantees the kind of water that will challenge surfers to come here. Plus, of course, Ireland is still a place mostly unspoilt environmentally, and that will be a big factor in developing the sport."

Praise indeed from the man who tamed Tahiti's Teahupo'o, the heaviest wave in the world.

In a line stretching from Bundoran down along the west coast to Lahinch, Inch, and on to Clonakilty and Castlefreke, the day-glo colours of a vibrant surf generation continue to flex their muscles on waves that may be chillier than Malibu but are a heck more challenging for those who dare to ride. And if I can just learn how to stay on top of the water rather than swallowing it, it's a tribe I still hope to join.

Kelly was always worth more than just one Luke

While the world and his granny are likely hunkering down for episode two of 'Game of Thrones' tonight, there is an alternative for those of us not indelibly wedded to the Iron Kingdom.

'Two Lukes', an RTÉ documentary centring on how Dublin came to have not one but two statues of its musical son, Luke Kelly, offers an intriguing and entertaining tale.

Given the esteem and outright affection he still commands, the man whose headstone in Glasnevin Cemetery is as brief as it is eloquent, 'Luke Kelly - Dubliner', is surely an icon deserving of a double helping of remembrance.

Irish Independent

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