Ireland's real deal Easkey Britton reflects on her history
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 12 August, 2009 : - - Easkey Britton doesn't just have surfing in the blood; it's even in her name. 'I'm called after a wave that breaks off the west coast,' the 23-year-old laughs. 'It translates roughly as 'fish'. Being in the water is a very natural thing in my family.'
In the 1960s, Easkey's hotelier grandmother brought back a surfboard from California to hang as a novelty in her hotel in Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal. Easkey's dad, Barry, and his brothers soon claimed the board for themselves, kick-starting a life-long passion for surfing that has been passed on through different generations of the family.
"I started surfing when I was four or five," Easkey says. "The only other female surfer I knew when I was growing up was Zoe Lally, who grew up in Rossnowlagh too. She was female champion at the time. She took me out surfing a lot, along with my own mam and dad. That was really it.
"It wasn't a huge thing for girls at the time, partly because the equipment wasn't really geared towards kids or women then. That's changed a lot recently."
In the past few years, Easkey has been making serious waves as a competitive surfer. She was crowned British Tour Champion in 2006 and won four National Surfing Championships in a row. Easkey's younger sister Becky-Finn is making a major name for herself as a female long-boarder.
Easkey herself had to take a breather this year to finish her first class honours degree in Environmental Science at the University of Ulster, but now she's eager to get back out on the waves again.
"The surfing hasn't been great this summer," she admits. "The Atlantic is very unpredictable, but it has picked up in the last week or so. Surfers are such nomads. We plan our whole lifestyle around the weather patterns and chase after whatever waves we can get.
"My sponsors, Animal, sent me away for the whole month of June to surf in Indonesia. One of the great things about surfing is that you can travel so much with it. I've been to the Caroline Islands, Australia, Hawaii -- all over. Each place offers something different, but I still love coming home."
It was at home that Easkey also pulled off her most daring feat to date: riding the legendary "big wave" Aill na Searrach off the Cliffs of Moher two years ago. The 15-foot break has become famous the world over, thanks in no small part to its inclusion in the recent acclaimed Irish documentary Waveriders.
Easkey is proud that she was the first female surfer to ride the monumental wave. "It was an amazing feeling, not like any I've experienced before," she recalls. "It was scary; it always is just before you catch a big wave. Everyone has their own way of dealing with that fear. A huge adrenaline rush takes over. Once you get that first wave under your belt, you feel like you're on fire and can do anything.
I've got my taste for the big waves now -- Aill na Searrach was just the teaser. I'm going to concentrate on them for the foreseeable future. I've travelled quite a bit, but I've realised more and more that there are huge opportunities for surfing along the Irish coastline. Our big waves have become huge on the international surfing scene."
Indeed, Easkey says she has been blown away by how fast surfing has taken off as a sport and a hobby here. "I think what made it so inaccessible here before was the climate," she says. "I'd be surfing in the middle of winter and the beach would be totally deserted. It was freezing. Now, down to wetsuit technology, people can go out any time of the year."
How to get started: The Irish Surfing Association (ISA) is the national governing body for surfing in Ireland, and their website isasurf.ie is the best place to start looking for classes and courses. There are surf schools throughout the country to get wannabe waveriders started.
"All the resources, especially in terms of equipment that's now available, are geared towards people starting out," Easkey explains. "If you can learn the basics in a course from a registered surf school, you can work on the rest yourself. They'll teach you about equipment, water safety, and the 'rules of the waves'.
"There's an annual surfing weekend called Wet and Wild that runs every May or June, and that's just for women of all ages who want to start surfing. That's a really great way of learning, and it's free too. It started just for fun, so there's no competitiveness.
"Surfing is still seen as very male-dominated, but that's changing. Women are making a big splash. You don't have to be super-fit to surf, but you should be a good swimmer. That gives you the paddling power because you spend so much of your time paddling to catch waves. I've seen a lot of newcomers fall in love with surfing."
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Source: Declan Doherty Independant.ie
Team - Surfersvillage
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