Posted by: smithdavid | December 29, 2013


We’re on the road again, Emmet and I, the car aimed towards Enniskillen, Belleek, Ballyshannon and finally Rossnowlagh. It’s the end of August, five months since I fractured my shoulder, seven since I’ve surfed. The organic excitement within me this morning was like the counterpoint to the dense, heavy feeling I experience every time the clocks move forward and the evenings close in.

Through Belleek and the subject of creating art comes up (in Emmet’s case it’s music, in mine, obviously, writing).

‘I think it was Napoleon that said “if you want to know a man, look at what he was doing when he was twenty”‘ says Emmet. At twenty Emmet was mesmerized by the Manchester dance scene and its influence is evident in the electronica he composes now.

At twenty my head was stuck in engineering books and sport at Wits, Johannesburg. I scarcely read a novel in the four years I was there, let alone wrote anything. Telling, I wonder? Though soon I am aware that the past is gone and of little relevance at this moment.

longboarders at rossnowlagh

longboarders at rossnowlagh

We stop for a sandwich at the filling station outside Belleek, there are only about twenty minutes to go to reach Rossnowlagh but there is nowhere to buy food there.

I need to rent a board (Matilda is in my apartment in Hammersmith, I couldn’t face the logistical challenges of getting her to Ireland at five in the morning, the time of my flight).

I phone Finn McCool’s (Rossnowlagh’s surf shop/lodge/school) and talk to Neil Britton. The last time I wanted to hire a board there they only had soft, swell boards. This time they have an 8’7″ hard board.

Soon we’re in the Finn McCool’s car park, I get the board, we get changed into our wetsuits.

‘I hope that arm of yours is going to work,’ says Emmet. ‘If it doesn’t you’ll be paddling around in circles…’

We walk down the path at the side of the Sandhouse Hotel. There are about twenty or thirty surfers in the line up already. But they’re spread out, there is plenty of space for everyone.

Even though my shoulder was thoroughly treated back in London, there is still stiffness in it as I paddle. Also, the rest of my body has become unaccustomed to the movements of surfing after the long layoff.

Emmet paddles farther out, sits out the back for a while, then is up on one of the long, slow waves.

lines of swell at rossnowlagh...

lines of swell at rossnowlagh…

It takes me a few attempts to catch my first wave. And when it does come it’s not perfectly formed and there is no thrilling drop. But once I’m up and riding and feeling that old sense of weightlessness it’s like all the months in between now and my last surf are compressed and that it was only a day or two ago that I last surfed in Cape Town.


  1. happy to read you got such a lovely welcome back. 🙂 It’s been nearly 4 months since my last surf… And I’m DYING for it!!

    • yip, it got better. but got bad first. read next week 🙂
      luckily, at the moment, i’m in south africa and surfing every day. hope you get to surf again soon.

      ps, where can i find your surfer article, would like to read. please post link.

      • surfing everyday… Tough life! lining things up so I can do much of the same soon. 😉

        here’s the link:

        No Surfer’s Path in South Africa?


      • nope, no surfer’s path in sa.
        nice article, well done on a. taking year off to surf b. writing about it c. getting t publisheed (i know how dificult it is)

        ever read ‘playing doc’ s games’ by william finegan? best surfing aticle i’ve come across. if not, i have it in word form and can forward.

        hope you get to surf soon. it’s blown out where i am today.

      • yes please forward it to me!


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