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Kayaker paddles into record books

A kayaker has paddled into the record books by completing an epic 1,000-mile voyage around Ireland.

Elaine Alexander, 38, became the first woman from Northern Ireland to circumnavigate the island in a kayak when she returned to Whitehead, Co Antrim, to a hero's welcome.

"It feels great," she said. "It's been a long journey and has been really hard in places but I'm so pleased to have achieved my goal of getting round Ireland."

Ms Alexander, an outdoor activity instructor at the Share Centre in Co Fermanagh, left County Antrim Yacht Club in Whitehead 71 days ago. She spent around 50 days on the water, with the rest disrupted by stormy weather.

"That was the hardest thing, sitting on the shore not knowing when the weather was going to clear and I could continue on," she said.

Nicknamed Shooter, the kayaker said one of the scariest episodes happened in a heavy swell off Co Kerry.

"After four days off the water because of storms, I set out round Brandon Mountain off Dingle and the water was very choppy," she recalled.

"I suddenly became very sea sick and was all over the place. But I had nowhere to pull in because I was going round the cliffs so I had to keep going. It was very scary."

But Ms Alexander insisted there were more highs than lows. "Going past the cliffs of Moher (Co Clare) was amazing and at one point in the trip some dolphins swam along with me," she said. "Those are the special memories."

The record breaker embarked on the challenge to raise money to buy a new accessibility bus for the Share Centre, a facility that provides a range of outdoor activates for disabled and able bodied young people.

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