The time of my life: ‘Floating in a night sea under inky-black star-lit sky’

Easkey Britton, surfer

Easkey Britton: “All that was visible beyond the white fairy lights marking the way onto the beach were a multicoloured train of lights floating across the darkness through the sea and around an invisible swim course.”

Easkey Britton: “All that was visible beyond the white fairy lights marking the way onto the beach were a multicoloured train of lights floating across the darkness through the sea and around an invisible swim course.”

 

The Time of My Life is a weekly column about a moment that changed someone’s life – for the better or the worse. This week, surfer Easkey Britton on a magical moonlight swim

“I love the water. I was practically born into the sea, learning to surf at home on Rossnowlagh beach in Co Donegal from the age of four. I’ve been in the water ever since. Due to its ever-changing nature, the sea both inspires and excites as much as it instils fear and uncertainty. For most, it feels beyond the edge of our known world.

“The experience of swimming in cold, dark open water under a night sky has been on my ‘laugh-fear-in-the-face’ list for a while. It took the encouragement of fellow ocean-minded friends and Sligo’s water safety/surf lifesaving club to get me over the edge with a night swim fundraiser in September this year, at Rosses Point in Co Sligo.

‘Between worlds’

“I felt like I was between worlds. The horizon line where sea and sky met blurred with the early autumn arrival of night. The movement of the tide deceived the mind as to where land ended and the sea began. By getting closer to my fear, I felt those false lines of separation between our carefully contained and controlled ‘everyday’ world and the living world all around us also begin to blur.

“It seemed a lot less intimidating when surrounded by almost a 100 other mad eejits with brightly coloured glow sticks tucked into our swim hats. We bobbed from foot to foot on the cold, wet sand and buzzed with anticipation waiting for our group to be called next.

Easkey Britton: “I was practically born into the sea, learning to surf at home on Rossnowlagh beach in Co Donegal from the age of four. I’ve been in the water ever since.”
Easkey Britton: “I was practically born into the sea, learning to surf at home on Rossnowlagh beach in Co Donegal from the age of four. I’ve been in the water ever since.”

“Cold water is the ultimate leveller. It strips us of all our pretence, stereotype or swagger and breeds authenticity and trust. Lines of difference (age, gender, shape, size, swimming ability) blur and it becomes about your strength of character and willingness to embrace the unknown. You have to really want to be there with nothing to prove, because the elements don’t care who you are. It instilled an immediate sense of community, bonded by our shared moment of madness.

I laughed out loud with giddiness and delight in the water when someone sang the words from WB Yeats’s The Stolen Child

“All that was visible beyond the white fairy lights marking the way onto the beach were a multicoloured train of lights floating across the darkness through the sea and around an invisible swim course. As the darkness thickened after 9pm the heavy clouds began to part.

‘Truly magical’

“Floating in a night sea while watching the clouds peel back to reveal an inky-black star-lit sky was truly magical. The Milky Way sweeping across the top of the angular shadow of Benbulben mountain made for an almost poetic experience. It was a sensory awakening, replying more on touch than sight.

“My arm stretched out into the darkness and shook loose a burst of bioluminescence with each stroke. I laughed out loud with giddiness and delight in the water when someone sang the words from WB Yeats’s The Stolen Child, ‘Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild…’.”

Easkey Britton is a pioneering big-wave surfer and marine social scientist specialising in ocean and human health. Her work explores the relationship between people and the sea, using her passion for the ocean to create social change and connection across cultures. She is a Finisterre ambassador and founder of Like Water, and is a research fellow at NUIG researching “blue space”, or how water environments are good for our for health and wellbeing.

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