How I learnt to surf in Ireland

And by “learnt to surf” I mean “managed not to drown”, not “became an actual surfer who can actually ride an actual wave”. I just wasn’t able to squeeze that into the title.


Surfing was always one of those things that I wanted to try. It looks so cool and effortless and I like water. It is true that I always imagined myself somewhere warm, like Hawaii or Australia, but I haven’t been in a warm country for years (if you don’t count Czech Republic in summer which I don’t because it’s hell and also sealess).

Last August I stayed with this wonderful Irish family for the second summer in a row in County Clare, a heaven on Earth on the west coast of Ireland. And, surprisingly, a surfer’s European paradise. I mean, who would have thought? The water there is cold. As in Atlantic Ocean cold. And also it rains a lot.


Anyway, there is a smallish town called Lahinch (or Lehinch, the locals can’t agree on the name) which is the centre of Clare’s surfing life. We were passing the town quite a lot and one day I mentioned I’d like to try surfing some day to my angelic host, Trish.

The day after, Trish came to me and said: “So I talked to a friend of mine who owns a surfing school and owes me a favour, so I booked you for a lesson tomorrow.”

First reaction? Oh, wow!!

Second reaction? Oh, sh…!


Wisdom at the toilets at Joe’s, my favourite bistro in Lahinch

The thing is, I’m really unfit. The only people more unfit than me are newborns and they overtake me as soon as they learn to walk.

So my thoughts were something like: Oh wow, that’s so great! But what if I’m not able to do anything because I’m so unfit? Or my knee starts to hurt again? Or I won’t understand a word because of the instructor’s accent and I’ll look like a complete idiot? I’m sure they have many beginner tourists there… But what if I’m the worst in the history of surfing? Noo, it’s going to be an amazing experience! But the water is so cold… What if I need to go to the bathroom but can’t because I’m stuck in a wetsuit?

If you managed to read through all of that without wanting to smack me, you’re a better person than I am.


Anyway, the big day came and I squeezed myself into a damp, tight, rubbery wetsuit (exercise by itself by the way) in the surfing school. Wetsuits are one of the least flattering things in the world but they’re quite comfy after sucking to your body and surprisingly warm even though they’re constantly wet (is it the real reason behind their name??).

I was slightly nervous for a wee bit, but our Scottish instructor Jen was wonderful and after going through some basics on the beach (like how to get from horizontal to vertical in one jump, as if), we went straight to the ocean. And from there, it was absolutely brilliant. All my fears disappeared and I was enjoying every minute.


Here are some things that I learnt in my first two hours of surfing:

  • I really am unfit (ok, no news there).
  • Surfing is nowhere near easy. All those great looking dudes in pictures and videos? Well, let’s just say that those muscles are deserved (the hair and tan are not, that’s just a mean bonus to make other people even more jealous).
  • It’s really hard for the arms. One would expect you need to have strong legs because of all the jumping and balancing but you spend majority of time paddling against the ocean. I was later told that surfers spend the winter season in the gym strengthening their upper body (that was also the very exact time when I realised I’m never going to be a surfer).
  • Jumping from the lying position straight to your feet sounds quite doable on the firm ground but it’s nearly impossible when you’re on a moving board on the water and have approximately 1.2 seconds to do so because the wave is here NOW.
  • You hate all the kids training next to you for humiliating your efforts because they become really good really fast.
  • But you feel really cool while carrying the board from/to the sea because noone can tell how bad you really are and you could easily be the best surfer in the neighbourhood (ok, the bright T-shirt with the name of the surfing school ruins this a bit but your self-esteem ain’t got time for these unimportant details).
  • The hair looks really good after. Beach waves for days. Here comes the disadvantage of surfing in Ireland though. It takes hours before the hair gets dry. We’re talking 5-7 hours and that’s when the weather is nice.

A proper breakfest for us surfers (please notice the surfing magazine, that’s what we read)

Even though I didn’t manage to ride a wave, I loved every minute of the lesson. I went surfing once more after this and it’s incredible how fast you get better and better. In the end of my second surfing practice, I even managed to jump on the board few times but ended up tripping over my own feet every time (I’m not the best in coordinating all my limbs, never have been).

But like I said in the beginning, I didn’t drown! I was exhausted, drank half the ocean, my arms hurt as hell for days, but it was all worth it and I was high on endorphines for hours.

Please do try surfing if you get a chance. I promise you, if I can do it, then you definitely can. And the best part is, you can call yourself a surf chick/dude for the rest of the day and imagine yourself becoming the world’s next famous surfing superstar. Surely it’s just hidden deep inside of me, right?

Oh wait, I forgot the upper body strength part. Oh well. Nevermind.


You might also like another Irish story: The last adventure before offline maps.


9 thoughts on “How I learnt to surf in Ireland

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