There are two types of surfing: as a general rule, there’s cold water surfing, where you need wetsuits and it’s…yes, cold! And then there is warmwater surfing. This is the more popular of the two - for a lot of very obvious reasons! Within both forms there are two sub-divisions: regular waves and
big wave riding.
In women’s surfing warm water wave riding is by far the most popular of the surfing forms, with cold water surfing having only four female world class
surfers - and of those, only two have surfed the waves at Mullaghmore, one of the best big wave surfing locations in the world with 30 foot plus waves.
One of those two surfers is Easkey Britton, x5 Irish Champion and all round amazing surfer. The list of her firsts, awards and records is significant.
At the age of four, Easkey set out to follow in her family’s surfing footsteps. And we’re talking about cold water surfing, where she would go surfing
in freezing water! This isn’t a bikini in Hawaii! Nothing against Hawaii or warm water surfing - but can you imagine wanting something so much that you
get up as the sun is rising to walk to the beach (because the roads are too dangerous to drive on due to snow and ice) to surf - and when you come out
needing help out of your wetsuit as you have no feeling in your hands? Or that she would get her mother to take her to the beach after school, changing
in the car into her wetsuit so she that could get thirty minutes of surfing in before the sun set.
This is dedication and desire taken to another level! The desire to be in the ocean shows a hunger that can’t be satisfied by anything else, a need to
be in the ocean - and this sets Easkey apart from so many others. Desire with a capital D is what this is - but interestingly, as we talk more, it’s almost
as if this transcends pure desire and she sees it as just being a part of her and who she is. “I have a connection with the sea, a constant with the sea,”
she reflects as we talk about her desire to be in the sea. This isn’t about ‘doing’ something or ‘wanting to’, it’s just a part of who she is. “I know
no different,” she says, “it’s hard to explain.” She laughs as she struggles to explain something so deep inside her and so intimately connected to her.
Despite her description of the size of the waves and the power and noise they bring, there is a peace and calm about her as she talks. There is no intensity:
a drive and passion, yes, but a serenity that makes you look at the ocean and the waves in a different way. “It feels like time stands still in that moment,”
Easkey says of being on the waves. “There is a sense of emptiness, a sense of wilderness in the water.” What a place to be, what a picture she paints of
everything falling away and of drawing from the ocean and the waves both a sense of mortality and an appreciation for what she has. Maybe that is the lesson
and what makes her view life the way she does? The magnitude of the sea and the waves puts all things into perspective and means there is less room for
some of the stupidity of modern life.
“I can do all the other things in my life because I surf,” Easkey says of the many other things she is involved in. Aside from all her surfing adventures,
Easkey studied to be a Marine conservationist and researcher, graduating with a 1st class BSc Hons. degree in Environmental Science, and obtaining a PhD
scholarship in Marine Science at the University of Ulster. She is also one of the founder members of wellcoast.org. (Human Wellbeing & Coastal Resilience
Every inch of her breathes the ocean even when not on the surf board. “I always wanted to get under the surface of the ocean and that has led my life
in this direction,” she says of her studies and her work. Her work and unique connection with the ocean has led to her being asked to speak at the prestigious
TED-x talks about her life as a surfer and researcher, the first surfer to have been been asked to do so. A sign of how she is challenging and inspiring
others about the ocean she loves.
Easkey is no ordinary surfer; this is a person who is at one with the ocean and the waves and is at home on the waves - so yes, a surfer, but only in
part. “In that moment you are so immersed in the absolute present that you aren’t aware of anything else.” What a quote and what an amazing place to be
able to find in the world we live.