Posted by: smithdavid | May 20, 2012

What you think about when you think about surfing

The Strandhill promenade is nearly full, it takes a while to find a space to park. It’s the same procedure as when we got to Rossnowlagh – the handbrake is barely pulled and we are standing on the concrete wall, cold, wind-blown hands in pockets, eyes looking hungrily out to the breaking waves. It is almost entirely dark yet still a handful of shadows populate the line-up. When one rises and rides it reminds me of skiing in the near dark or heavy snow, where one relies almost entirely on feel to navigate. It is in these intuitive, thoughtless, private moments that you discover your true nature as a skier. And as a human.

We watch for a while – mesmerized, considering what truths the ocean would illuminate where it us in the water on this cold evening. Around us are campers and vans, wetsuits hanging from some, board bags tucked under others. The gravity of the swell has brought them from far and wide.

Strandhill at Dusk

Now we remember that we have nowhere to stay. Lorraine, whose B&B looks out over the ocean and where we stayed before, is not in. We could wait but it’s well into the evening and it’s busy. There is a small room with a bunk-bed in the Strandhill Surf Lodge. It’s clean and there is a hot shower and we are content. From the lounge we hear a mix of Irish and American accents, speculating about what the ocean will serve up tomorrow.

It’s quiet at first in The Strandbar. The full car park suggested that it would be bursting at the seams. But we find a seat near the bar and watch Leinster vs.Munster in Irish. I wonder for a while if we should have returned to John Conboy’s and savoured the relative solitude.

But just as we are about to leave the band begins to play. It’s three middle-aged guys who are probably butchers or plumbers or postmen by day. My eyes meet Emmet’s – earlier we promised ourselves that we would get an early night as our bodies are aching from the exertions at Rossnowlagh. We want a good day in the water tomorrow and it is nearly midnight.

two dark figures in the line-up…

But these guys know how to play. And they know how to sing. From time to time one of them closes his eyes and lets the music take him, just like you would with a wave. It’s just an acoustic that he’s playing but the solo that radiates from his fingers comes from somewhere deep and pure.

The Strandbar has filled and now we cannot leave. If we were somewhere quiet now maybe I would be thinking of her. But the music is carrying me and I’m happy to let it.

It’s late when we get in and it’s a strange room but I’m quickly overcome with sleep.

The next morning is dark and cold. It’s not what you usually think about when you think about surfing. We eat toast in the sitting room and wonder about how cold our wetsuits are going to be and where we can find a pair of gloves for Emmet. We wonder too if the sea will be as gentle and amenable as it was yesterday.



  1. Happy to find your blog this quiet Sunday. Great writing- and a topic I’m drawn to. I’m writing about mindfulness and have just returned to surfing. Still pretty rusty but it feels always good to be in the water. Will follow your adventures. Tom

    • thanks tom. i find surfing an idyllic way to be mindful. good luck getting back into it. dave

  2. Love the second photo!

    • that is from one particular evening one march in sligo. my hands were freezing as the sun & temperature dipped. it’s possibly the greatest moment i experienced with a camera. more photos from that evening later…dave

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