After being besotted by Home and Away’s surfers, David Kent found out more about the sport in UCD by speaking to UCD Surf Club.
HIGH winds, storms, and general crap weather wouldn’t attract many people outside for sport.
Not the case with the UCD Surf Club. They’ve been on the go for 17 years since being founded in 2000, and have helped the careers of a few Irish internationals such as Joe Flanagan, the president of the club.
Speaking to the Observer he said: “We pride ourselves on being an ‘all levels’ kind of club and encourage beginners with absolutely no experience to join along with those who have been surfing since they could walk…Many of our members are actually complete beginners but that is not to say we don’t have very experienced surfers as well, some of whom have competed for Ireland at an International level.”
But don’t worry if you’ve never had the chance to head out to the waves, Flanagan insists that you’ll be caught up in no time.
“Lessons are always provided to anyone that feels like they need them or have never surfed before and we can guarantee you’ll be standing on a board by the end of your first weekend trip away with us.”
Flanagan continued, “the range in abilities in the club is one of the best aspects [of the club] as the more experienced surfers are always willing to give advice to the beginners and this results in a very visible progression in peoples surfing throughout the year. This was something that really stayed with me and I have always tried to encourage this ethos in the club during my time on the committee.”
Safety is one of our biggest concerns and we always ensure that the conditions are safe before anyone can go surfing.
Following an initial mix-up in scheduling, the surfers have started to bring a bit of success to Belfield, as Flanagan notes, “after a few years without competing due to clashes with our foreign trip we competed in the Irish Surfing Intervarsity’s last year and finished in an impressive 4th place overall, ahead of many of the west coast universities such as UCC, GMIT and UL.”
He went on to say: “we achieved a 2nd place finish in the Women’s Open event, 4th place finish in the Men’s Open event and 3rd place finish in the Bodyboard event along with winning the Novice Cup.” Alongside those successes was the establishment of the Colours clash with Trinity College last year – which saw UCD sweep the board.
The uncontrollable Irish weather would seemingly throw a lot of people off taking up surfing. After all, the Irish public are always moaning about the weather. However, Flanagan says “surfing is one of those sports where you want storms to build in the Atlantic giving good swell but once the swell reaches the shore we hope for the winds to be light so you get good clean waves. Obviously due to Ireland’s prevailing winds this sometimes doesn’t happen. The west of Ireland is very windy it can be quite choppy. However, safety is one of our biggest concerns and we always ensure that the conditions are safe before anyone can go surfing.
For beginners, trained lifeguards and surf instructors are always on hand keeping an eye on everyone in the water and to make sure everyone is safe and having fun. No unnecessary risk is ever taken and many of the committee members are trained lifeguards.”
Ireland is home to some of the world’s best waves, with spots like Lahinch in Clare and Inchdoney beach in Cork regularly bringing in tourists. This has worked wonders for the club:
“Ireland has some of the best waves in the world when it is working, so anyone who is a keen surfer knows about the waves we have here and once they come to UCD they join the Surf club straight away. This works great for the club as every year we have hundreds of exchange students from across the globe. All of them join the club to meet new friends, see some of the most beautiful places in Ireland and surf some amazing waves at the same time. A Portuguese surfer was our second highest finisher in the Men’s Open at last year’s intervarsities for example.”
Ireland has some of the best waves in the world…Surfing is one of those sports where you want storms to build in the Atlantic!
When asked to pick a highlight from his four years involved with the Surf Club, Flanagan must pause:
“The main one was the first ever trip to Morocco we organised a few years ago, during the Easter break. No Irish university had ever gone to Morocco as a foreign trip to surf and there were so many unknowns bringing a group of 35 UCD students to Africa.
The fact that we really had no idea what we were in for really made it fantastic. All things we saw were unforgettable.”
And students won’t miss out if they only join the club now:
“Our second semester is going to be jammed packed with events. We are gearing up for Intervarsities at the start of March. We also have our 10-day foreign trip to Portugal planned for the Easter study break with 40 of our members heading away.
“We will be holding the Ocean Ball in the Hilton Claremont on the 2nd March which is our biggest social event of the academic year. We are running this in conjunction with Kite-Wake this year and tickets will be on sale for this in the next week for €35 which includes a full 3 course meal and entry into the nightclub after.”
If any student wants to get involved with the Surf Club, they can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or message their Facebook page (UCD Surf Club). They have been able to buy many high-quality beginner, intermediate and advanced surfboards along with high quality wetsuits. However due to the club having over 600 members they can’t provide equipment for everyone so it’s typically divided on a first-come first-serve basis.