Posted on 4th July 2015
“How can I describe one of the most moving and mind-blowing/boggling experiences of my life?
I’ll attempt but I doubt I can completely capture the extent to which my time at the DAC has altered and affected me… (I think I might have transformed into a sea urchin or a neoprene sea monster sometime during the last 3 months…) but I will try nonetheless. As a wise magic man once told me: The only failure is in not trying.
“First” of all this has been an experience of firsts for me.
When I arrived from Toronto, Canada and began the Outdoor Instructor Training Course in Bundoran, Donegal it was:
My first time in Ireland.
My first time in blustery and beautiful Donegal.
My first time away from home for more than a month.
My first time squeezing into a wetsuit.
My first time watching a professional surf competition (Eurosurf ) and being inspired by the likes of Bethany Hamilton and Ritchie Fitzgerald.
My first time swimming in the Ocean in 3-15 degree celcius weather.
My first time swimming in a natural ocean pool with jelly fish, seals and seaweed to keep us company.
My first time getting caught in a rip current and being saved by a professional surfer (he let me paddle in on his board!)
My first time exploring an old haunted building at Samhain (Halloween) and getting spooked by the Irish banshees inside.
My first time hearing the lore and legends of Changelings, Tír na nÓg, Cúchulainn, Fionn Mac Cumhail, and Diarmuid and Gráinne.
My first time hearing traditional and original Irish music live (Kíla were class performers!)
My first time horseback riding in grassy sand dunes at sunset on Tullan Strand.
My first time hiking the highest sea cliffs in Ireland, Slieve League.
My first time exploring sea caves and fairy bridges.
My first time appreciating a “quiet pint of of the black stuff” served by two dear ladies in their silver years.
My first time having the piss taken out of me by my family of Homefield hostelmates (apparently it’s because I’m Canadian!)
My first time leading two groups of 22 eight-year-olds through games and obstacles and having a blast every time.
My first time feeling like a role model or a hero for kids, while at the same time it was
My first time feeling humbled and awed by their wit, pluck, determination and wild abandon.
My first time trying boxing.
My first time running 4.5 miles without giving up.
My first time jumping off a 25-30 ft cliff into the sea.
My first time climbing 40 ft tall structures (balance beams, towers, poles and trapezes) and abseiling or jumping off of them.
My first time completing a 400 m timed swim in 6 mins 52 secs.
My first time becoming an internationally recognized certified Beach Lifeguard.
My first time on a surf board.
My first time catching and riding a wave from out the back.
My first time wiping out (a la washing machine tumble) then getting back on my board and charging for the next wave.
And the next one, and the next, and the next…..
For the first time I feel invincible. That anything’s possible.
And after this experience I am confident it won’t be my last.
(For the record, originally:
-I have never been the athletic type (I have an fine arts background).
-I couldn’t complete the 4.5 mile run because I was too wheezy and out of shape (I have mild asthma).
-I swam the timed swim in 9 minutes 35 secs, (a minute and a half too long).
-I was deathly terrified of heights (noodle legs!).
-I had never surfed, popped-up, paddled or “got out the back” (I was deathly afraid of wiping out)
-I thought (and most folks from home) thought I was a lunatic for even considering getting into the “nippy” North Atlantic in the Fall/Winter.
-They thought I was crazy to learn how to surf. And in Ireland of all places.
-I thought I wouldn’t survive the course.
-& more than once I thought I was going to die.)
Apparently I didn’t.
Actualy I have never felt more alive. And more at home.
The minute I’m not in the water paddling for the next set of waves, something’s awry;
The minute people don’t know what I mean when I say “that’s class” or “sound” (and don’t take the mickey out of me for saying “eh?”) I just might cry;
The minute I’ve left Bundoran’s mercurial sea and craggy emerald coast I’ll be dreaming of them in my sleep;
The minute I am thousands of kilometres away from my hardy and hearty Irish frieamily, I’ll weep.
Thank you for everything Collie, Ken, Trish, Fiddy, Ciara, Neil, Cillian, Eoin and Kyle – I will miss you and will never forget you and this extraordinary experience!”