Posted by: smithdavid | July 1, 2012

Good for the Soul

‘Where you headed?’ says the guy in the Outerpoint surf shop in Sligo town.

‘Rossnowlagh I think, I’m still learning…’

‘Ever try Streedagh? It’s not as far and pretty similar…’

The adventurer in me is engaged. ‘How do you get there?’

‘Go into Grange and then first left. Keep going and be sure to park behind the dunes – people have got stranded before when the tide comes in…’ I pay for the waterproof key pouch and we talk a little while about fins. Then I’m on the road.

After the left in Grange the road is narrow and winds. The vegetation of the sea reaches towards the tarmac. There is a crossroads and I’m not sure which way to go. It’s left and suddenly there is a gate and no more road. I get out the car and walk a bit – there is a small, secluded bay. The only wave is about two feet from shore and four inches high. I reverse and take the right.

the rocks in front of the Sand House

I have to wait for a bus to come up the road towards me before I carry on. Then I see the dunes. There are a handful of cars, an ever-present camper. As I walk towards the beach a car with a couple of boards strapped to it pulls up. Two come towards me as I fix my gaze on the line-up.

‘What do you think, guys?’ I ask. There are one or two in – they are a distance apart – probably each thinking they’ve found the sweet spot of the break.

‘I dunno – it’s a bit small…’ says one of them.

‘Probably better off in Rossnowlagh…you know it?’ says the other. I smile, I’m booked into Finn McCool’s Surf Lodge.

‘Where you from?’ one asks.

‘South Africa…’ they look at me expectantly, maybe waiting for tales of J-Bay orDurban. ‘I’ve just started…’ I add quickly. Then I’m on the road again.

The car park is full when I get there – maybe it’s because the weather is mild. I park outside the Sand House. And then I’m suited and rushing for the line-up. There are plenty out – it’s two or three feet and there is a bit in it.

Before going too far in, I make my now-customary warm-up wave. I’m weightless all over again and my spirits soar. Was it a tough week at work? I don’t know. I tumble from the mini-mal and feel that revitalising ocean water.

many in at Rossnowlagh

I get out back quickly. The line-up is twenty or thirty strong but the atmosphere is relaxed. ‘Great to be out,’ says a guy in a thick Belfast accent, brushing his long dark hair aside.

My smiles broadens. ‘Better than anything.’

Then this new surfing brother turns and paddles. He is up on a wave – he’s elegant and relaxed, the ride keeps going and going. My next few waves feel clunky and awkward by comparison.

Mark paddles back to me. He sees the look on my face. ‘Best surfer is the surfer who’s enjoying himself,’ he says, smiling. I relax and then next wave takes me further than I’ve been yet.

I see Mark once more before the end of the session. He’s beaming from yet another wave. ‘Good for the soul!’ he says, eyes alive, hair blowing in the gentle ocean breeze. It’s infectious. There’s no need for me to catch another wave now.



  1. Mark seems like a pretty centered guy, very Zen I think.

    Your writing continues to enthrall me. Thanks.

    • yip, mark was pretty zen. think spending a lot of time in the sea makes you that way. it’s where i’m aiming. thanks again for reading and commenting tom.

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