Monday, June 11, 2018

Surfer Grace Doyle on giving it all up for the waves

What does it take to be a surfer in Ireland? A good sense of humour and a love of bitterly cold water were what I took from hanging out with Grace Doyle by the beach.

We spoke in Tramore, sitting with the sea in front of us and the sun battling its way out from behind the clouds. But she talked about warming yourself in front of the fire, of the pain when a wipe-out crashes you onto icy water, of hair matted and plastered around her face and of the joys of rubber. Wetsuits changed the surf scene in Ireland, and Grace is taking full advantage of that.

In September she represents Ireland at the World Surfing Games - the event which from next year serves as an Olympic qualifier.

Talking about winter surfing, she says: "Surfing can be frightening sometimes, everyone gets wipe-outs where you’re held down for a long time under the wave. I’ve learned to relax and let the wave pass  - in warm water you’ve no wetsuit to help you float so it can be scary. But in Ireland I feel like it hurts more, the water is so cold when you hit it." 

Shivers aside, her love for surfing through; she's competed successfully in swimming, life-saving and water-polo before leaving them all behind for her surf-board. And serious training. Her week starts a rest day on Mondays, then gym on Tuesdays, swimming on Wednesdays, gym again on Thursdays and three days surfing at the weekend. 

She says: "I do love the waves in Ireland, we have some of the best waves in the world. It’s a very different feeling to surfing abroad. But there’s a real nature kick to it – you’re out in the winter elements in the wild Atlantic Ocean,  and down here. When you're surfing on the west or the northwest coasts you are usually beneath big cliffs and green fields  - for me there’s something special about that and getting warm in front of the fire afterwards."

And when I asked about foreign sufers coming here, she laughed: "Sometimes when I travel  Americans and people from warmer climates say  they say they could never do it, but I think it’s rewarding." 

That said, she does pack in training time in Indonesia when finances allow. It didn't sound as restful as you'd expect though with 04:00am starts to catch the tide. 

A mathematics teacher by training, Grace is packing in the safe job for a long-term career break with The Surfing Games in her sights. It's a big risk, but already supported by some big name surf-brands and local businesses, she's hoping someone will come forward - someone with big pockets who shares her dream. 

"I think the Olympics would be a dream for all surfers.  It’s a difficult task  to get there - and very expensive. You have to compete a lot at the World Qualifying Series events, you’re travelling all the time. I hope one day an Irish surfer gets to represent Ireland at the Olympics.." 

Grace blogs at: Grace Doyle Surfer
I first interviewed Grace for The Irish Times: New wave of Irish women surfers

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