Hawaiian heroics for Strandhill bodyboarder
Sligoman Shane Meehan - Ireland's number one bodyboarder - has been officially invited to compete in the prestigious Mike Stewart Pipeline Invitational in Hawaii, unprecedented achievement for any Irish sportsperson. The Mike Stewart Pipeline Invitational, which runs until March 4, is the first stop on the 2016 Association of Professional Bodyboarders (APB) world tour, This is where the best surfers compete around the globe to see who will be crowned world champion.
Sligo bodyboarders have always punched above their weight when it comes to international competition, but even Meehan himself will admit competing in this tournament will undoubtedly cap an already impressive career which has seen him win eight national titles, reach seventh in the world in amateur competitions as well as numerous successes in pro competitions. Last Wednesday morning, Shane was woken by a phone call at 7 am and reflexively dismissed the call thinking it was his alarm for work. Luckily, the contest organisers rang back and explained to Meehan, who was on an alternates list, that a spot had become available in the main event. As the Head Chef in Knox restaurant, Shane had to confirm time off with his employer before he could fully commit. The Knox co-owners are fully supportive of their star chef's bodyboarding aspirations and gave him the green light as soon as he asked. He confirmed with the contest organisers: he was in.
With his head spinning, Shane got through his day in the restaurant and drove straight home to book his flights for Hawaii.
To put this in perspective, this is like a golfer from Strandhill Golf Club being invited to the US Open or a team from Rosses Point Yacht Club being entered into the Volvo Ocean Race.
Pipeline in Hawaii is generally regarded as the most famous, prestigious, challenging and dangerous venue for surfers and bodyboarders to compete: it is after all the world's most deadly surf spot.
Shane believes his life spent surfing the waves off the west coast of Ireland has been sufficient training for the event.
As for many surfers and bodyboarders, competing at Pipeline has been Shane's childhood dream.
He said: "I'm still shocked I got the call and very grateful. If I didn't go I would regret it for the rest of my life.
"I am stoked to fly the flag for Ireland. I could be perceived as a massive underdog but I'll throw everything at it and hope for the best," he added.
The competition started yesterday (Monday) and is continuing until Friday week.
The forecast for the event is looking particularly interesting, one of the biggest swells Hawaii has ever seen is heading straight for Pipeline.
I asked Shane if he felt nervous going over and he replied that of course there will be some nerves.
He added: "Initially I felt fear and I still do but I'm sure I am not the only one. Some of the lads say that many of our waves in Ireland are just as heavy as Pipe, if not more so, so that gives me confidence, I guess I'll know for sure next week."
Shane would like to thank his sponsors Science bodyboards and Alder wetsuits for their support as well as his employers.
He said: "They have been great to let me head off to Hawaii, when I got the call that I had been chosen to go to Hawaii, I immediately asked Dave, the co-owner, about going. I asked him what he thought and without hesitation he told me to go for it, I think he could tell how excited I was.
"I'll never forget receiving the phonecall that morning. It was 6.50am and I thought it was my alarm for work so I declined the call! Thankfully, Mike rang back and he explained there was a spot in the main event, if I wanted it. I literally jumped out of the bed!"
Just as well the organisers rang back or that would have been one crucial missed call. Stay tuned to find out how the Sligoman will survive this historic event.
Everyone in Strandhill and Sligo is rooting for you Shane.