Surf’s Up in Donegal By Maura Kelly

July 11, 2014Eimear Clowry

This past weekend, a rowdy group of ten Domers took to the North West county of Donegal to take in the sights and, unexpectedly, to…wait for it… surf in the Atlantic.

By some stroke of genius, we decided to take the midnight bus from Dublin to Donegal – a ride filled with the sweet scents of some poor lad’s twelve regurgitated pints, and the musical accompaniment of an unnecessary television monitor rattling like an aggravated grizzly in a cage for four hours straight. We arrived just past sunrise, walked through the middle of nowhere to our lovely hostel, and actually got some sleep (a true rarity!) On Saturday morning, we awoke refreshed yet smelly, and got on a tiny bus with an incomprehensible Donegal-accented tour guide named Fergus. Fergus took us to see the Slieve League cliffs, the sheer magnitude and undisturbed nature of which made the Cliffs of Moher look an anthill covered in fanny pack- and iPad-laden tourist ants. These cliffs (three times the height of Moher) were absolutely unreal. I’ve never been happier than I was at the top, hair snarling in the wind, eyes and nose running like a five year old with a sinus infection, selfie stick in hand to capture the magic.

Before we had left on Saturday, we mentioned to the hostel owner that we wanted to surf on Sunday (by the suggestion of Irish intern and fellow Badin Bullfrog, Kristina Nhim, bless her heart). Our hostel owner found us a deal through the Bundoran Surf Co. that included pickup from the hostel, wetsuits, boards, a lesson, transportation back to the bus station, and a lot of laid back surfer brah hospitality – for only 25 Euro! I may have a long career in business in which I never again land a deal this good, and I would be okay with that.

And so, just like that, our rowdy, thoroughly unprepared group took to the sea on Sunday morning. We first arrived at Rossnowlagh Beach with a stag party (the groom was wearing a dress over his wetsuit, of course) and played some Irish version of sharks and minnows on land. I wasn’t too keen on having to run before noon but being in a wetsuit on a beach in Ireland next to a dude in a dress will make even the laziest person do crazy things. After the exhilarating game (which I very quickly lost) we had a brief surf lesson on land, and then ventured into the water.
Wetsuit on, GoPro harnessed to my chest, I felt invincible. I don’t know if it was the wetsuit or the adrenaline, but none of us were ever cold in that ocean. The weather and the waves were perfect – big enough to get us surfing, small enough to look completely pathetic in photographs. I can assure you, those waves were plenty big enough for me. I spent most of my time getting taken out by waves to which I was not paying attention, body surfing on the board upon which I was generally incapable of standing, and recording/photographing everyone’s successful surfs and priceless wipeouts alike. After a while, our Welsh surf instructor, Ciaran, took my GoPro to capture daredevil shots of everyone, frequently getting right in front of the board and ducking at the last second so as not to be killed. For the hour, the only noises I could hear were waves hitting me sideways, people whooping and f-bombing, and Ciaran’s refrain of “I’m getting one of theseeee!” off in the distance – the most beautiful chorus of noises I e’er did hear.

My day surfing with my friends off the west coast of Ireland was one of the best days of my life, even if “surfing” is a very generous term for what I was actually doing. I will never forget the smiles on the pre-faceplant faces of my fellow Domers, the feeling of a soggy wetsuit on a surfer transport bus blaring house music at 9am, the thrill of standing up on a floating chunk of Styrofoam in the middle of the ocean, or the smell of salty Donegal air entering my lungs. The ten of us may not be destined to shred gnarly barrels for the rest of our lives, dear friends, but for that one day in Donegal, in the summer of our Irish internships, we were real surfers, brah.