Susan Honan from New Ross has completed a 1,600 km kayaking adventure around Ireland, joining the ranks of only a handful of women who have managed the feat of endurance, skill and mental strength.
Susan, who attended St Mary's Secondary School in New Ross, was joined by her friend Sonja Ewen in the challenge which was undertaken to raise awareness about the charity Headstrong which provides confidential, professional youth focussed counselling services.
Having set off on June 7 from Carne beach, Susan and Sonja returned on Wednesday morning to the sound of cheers from family members.
Susan, 54, said: 'It was absolutely amazing. We are lucky to have completed it as many try and can't due to the weather.'
Having enjoyed a very good first week, the kayakers came into bad weather along the west coast.
'We were paddling between 35 km and 65 km a day. There were ten days when we couldn't paddle, three of these were at Slyne Head and two were at Arklow and Blackwater.'
The women carried their supplies with them and had enough food to last them a week at a time.
'We stopped in piers and harbours to get water. We kept in touch with relatives and friends for safety reasons and we had personal locator beacons, VHF radio and flares.'
Susan works as a teacher in St Mary's College in Dundalk and she sees first hand the issues children have to deal with. She did the trip to raise awareness about Headstrong. 'Kayaking is very much a mental sport and that is why I chose it, along with my passion for sea kayaking.'
Among the highlights of their trip was seeing a killer orca whale in Ballinskelligs Bay in Kerry, along with a minke whale and a massive pod of dolphins leaping out of the water.
'That was really incredible. We saw all of that in a three hour period. Another highlight was doing a dawn crossing of Donegal Bay which is 53 km non stop kayaking. We got out in the water at 4 a.m. and paddled into the sunlight.'
Susan, who left the county in the late 70s to work, is hoping to get a teaching placement in County Wexford. She thanked her parents, friends, partner and everyone involved in her welcome party.
'They had a bottle of champagne for us and a banner. It was a special occasion. Not many women have gone around Ireland in a kayak; maybe six or seven. We are in the minority.'
Headstrong is a non profit organisation that provides centres around the country where young people and their parents can access youth focussed counselling services. Headstrong also promotes research designed to evaluate young people's mental health through its One Good Adult scheme. This identifies someone who is an important mentor in a young person's life. You can support their challenge by texting GETACTIVE to 50300 or by texting HEADSTRONG to 50300 for a cost of €4.