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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 15 October, 2019
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Get up, Stand up: Irish paddle surfers off to Peru for world championships

A group of six are set to compete in the very first international competition of its kind in Lima later this month.

Paul surfing in Strandhill last November.
Paul surfing in Strandhill last November.
Image: Irishsup.com

PAUL BYRNE WILL continue his five-year love affair with StandUp Paddleboarding (SUP) when he travels to Lima to represent Ireland in the inaugural World SUP and Paddleboard Championships next week.

The Dubliner is part of a six-strong group heading off to the Peruvian capital to compete against teams from 19 other nations and has come a long way since first stumbling upon the sport during a career break in Australia.

Byrne, who has been surfing for 18 years, was immediately intrigued and decided to purchase boards from the UK when he and a friend returned home and it wasn’t long before they were hooked.

“We said we would give it a go as a way to keep up our fitness and physical conditioning,” Byrne told TheScore.ie before going on to explain the attraction of SUP.

First of all, you are standing on your board so it’s a little bit warmer. You can also get access to waves that you may not be able to on a traditional board and you can actually catch waves an awful lot easier.”

Another major advantage is that you do not necessarily need to travel to prime locations like Achill or Bundoran to participate.

While Byrne and his friends get to the west coast most weekends, they can be found in the Irish Sea, Grand Canal Dock and out by Adamstown during the week.

“In terms of getting consistent waves, the ferry run is our only hope but the important thing to remember is that 75% of the sport is conducted on flat water and that is where it is heading.”

The ‘ferry run’ involves paddling out of Dublin Port and catching the swell produced by ferries returning back from Holyhead.

A teacher by trade, Byrne set up Stand Up Surf Zone, a surf school based in Sandycove, Dublin, which trains anyone willing to get up on the board and holds regular trips around Ireland and further afield.

Ed O’Farrell in Dublin Bay, Credit: Irishsup.com

Popularity has grown immensely in recent years and clear evidence is the International Surfing Association’s (ISA) decision to hold the very first world championships from February 19-25.

The Irish team, made up of  Byrne, Finn Mullen, Ed O’Farrell, Dave Owens, Keith Gorman and Jane Downes, travels to South America completely at their own expense, with the exception of the sponsorship of their team kits (WalkOnWater Ireland) and board bags (Whasup.com).

Costs of the trip will be somewhere in excess of €3000 and bringing a board along is an additional €500 each, but Byrne says the chance to represent your country is well worth it.

“It is the first of its kind and we wouldn’t want to miss out. The fact that it has been recognised enough to hold an international competition means SUP is here to stay.”

Over 140 competitors from in more than 17 countries will take part in the event, which has been broken up into different divisions: Surfing, Racing, Marathon and Team Relay.

Points amassed by each surfer are added to the team’s total and while Byrne is certain that the Irish side have prepared well, facing opponents who surf professionally or on a semi-professional basis is going to be a big ask.

“We been competing in Europe and we’re are there or there abouts with the likes of England but it is sure to be tough against surfers who are sponsored to do it for a living.”

I’m going out the world championships in the best shape I could possibly be in and surfing as well as I ever have so that’s all I can do.”

Whatever the result in Peru, the group will continue their involvement in SUP and are always encouraging others to get started.

“95% of people who try it, take to it straight away,” he added.

“Your best bet is to contact one of the paddleboarding schools, who can provide you with all the equipment as buying it all will cost about €1,400. After one hour you will know either way.”

For more details, visit Irishsup.com or contact Paul on 0876439583

And check out team member Dave Owens paddleboarding on the ‘ferry run’ in Dublin:


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Ben Blake

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