Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
In honor of everything Irish, I hunted down photos from my semester studying in Galway nine years ago. Wow, I feel old. Thinking about Ireland I vividly remember the stunning coastline, my hilarious roommates Grainne, Aisling, and Moyra, live music at the Roisin Dubh, RAG Week (way crazier than Paddy’s Day), the light mist that doesn’t feel like rain but after walking for 10 minutes you’re drenched, and mostly I remember being the coldest I’ve ever been in my life. EVER. That’s saying a lot, given that I made it through four Chicago winters without a car.
Ireland is in no way colder than Chicago, but surfing in Ireland is. I chose Galway because I wanted to study somewhere in Europe where I could surf. UH had a program in Dublin, but I wanted to be on the west coast because that’s where the waves are. I jumped through the many hoops required to design your own study abroad program and soon I was en route to Galway. I thought I was smart to save money by booking 4 separate flights from Honolulu to Galway, but I realized too late that this meant I had to pick up and recheck my luggage - including a 9 foot coffin bag with my longboard and shortboard in it - at every stop. The last plane from Dublin to Galway was so small it couldn’t even fit my bag, so I had to put it on a bus and wait three days for it to arrive. This would have been fine if I hadn’t padded my boards with all of my warm clothes, or if it wasn’t the beginning of January. There were many life lessons learned in those three days.
To those who learn to surf in Ireland: I give you a lot of credit. If I didn’t already love surfing I don’t know that I would go through the effort required to learn there. In Hawaii, you drive 15 minutes to the beach, it’s warm and sandy, you paddle out in a bikini, catch some waves, rinse at the showers, and resume your day. If you have an hour, you can fit in a surf. In Ireland it’s an all day commitment. You drive a few hours to find waves, change on the side of the road in howling winds into a full 3/5 wetsuit with hood, booties, and gloves, walk carefully over rocks, try to paddle out without getting tossed back into the rocks, freeze your butt off for an hour or however long you can survive, your face is numb and raw from wiping it with your gloves, you get out and there’s no shower or hot water, then you change again, now wet, in the howling winds on the side of the road back into your clothes. It’s excruciating, but also one of the most fun experiences. You feel pretty hard core between shivers.
I was so fortunate to surf in Ireland. It was always an adventure and I was able to see much more of the country than most study abroad students. I met surfers through an online ride sharing website and went on a couple weekend trips with the NUI Galway surf club, including one to Northern Ireland.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to recover all of my photos, and some of my favorites are the size of thumbnails, but I'm glad I found these. They aren't great quality but they are incredible memories.
Pictured above: Doolin.
Dunloughan. First surf.
Inis Mor. We caught a ferry to Inis Mor, one of the Aran Islands. It was windy, rainy, and freezing, and we changed in a bombed out shed. The rain blew in horizontal sheets while we were in the water and I couldn't see anything. It was so vicious it felt like hail. Then the winds calmed and a faint rainbow appeared. It was magical.
Portrush, Northern Ireland. At the beginning of March, I went to the north coast of Northern Ireland with NUI Galway’s surf club to compete in the intervarsities between all Irish universities. I could write a novella about our experience in Northern Ireland, but suffice it to say it ranged from scary and crazy to fun and freezing. The contest day was insanely cold and windy, and I'm not sure if the waves were purely windswell. It ended up being a competition of who could stand up the longest. I think my brain blocked out some memories because it was traumatized from the cold, but the whole weekend was really fun.
Easkey. When we arrived at Easkey I shrieked, "Thicker Than Water!" It's one of my favorite surf films and I immediately recognized the dilapidated castle from the end of the film. I was so excited. I wanted to explore, so we crawled through the gate and climbed up the narrow staircase hidden in the castle walls. The roof was gone and the middle of the castle was open to the air. It seemed like a perfect place to camp. I guess I have to go back.