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Soul surfer: Easkey Britton on her journey to Live InSync

Deirdre Mullins braves the wild Atlantic ocean to learn from top Irish surfer and adventurer Easkey Britton

 

For most Irish women, getting into the sea on the Irish coast is always a challenge: we hate the thought of it, but we’re always glad we did it in the end.

Donegal surfer Easkey Britton is an exception. Several times a week, she runs into the sea with the excitement of a wild horse. The ocean is her playground; the place she feels most at home.

But I’m not in Rossnowlagh to talk to Britton just about her exploits as a surfer, environmentalist and documentary maker. I’m here to learn what is the foundation of her success. She is the first of five remarkable Irish women that I will meet over the next five months, on a journey with Danone Activia's Live InSync series, to discover what drives them; how they reach heights that would make the rest of us dizzy; and how they manage to find it all so easy – or at least make it look that way.

Easkey Britton I first came across Britton in 2008 while watching Waveriders, a documentary that introduced her to the wider world as Ireland’s first female “big wave” surfer. In it, she surfs a break off the Cliffs of Moher that is 4.6m high. Tackling such big waves demands nerves of steel, but when I meet Britton I find she has a sense of calm and groundedness about her that I didn’t expect. Unlike many of us, she doesn’t seem to be living in her head.

 Having my own issues with anxiety brought me to yoga and meditation about 10 years ago. I use it, with varying degrees of success, to help me connect more with my body, and minimise the volume of the voice in my head. I’ve come to believe that, as a society, our busy lives and constant connection to technology is causing us to disconnect from one another. I suspect this can help create an undercurrent of anxiety that runs through many of our lives.

Easkey Britton says she chose to use pink surf boards after losing one of her favourite darker coloured ones at sea suring a particularly big swell. Photograph: Declan Devlin

Most eastern spiritual traditions claim we can only come to our true potential when we unite with our core – the innate intelligence of the body. Britton looks like she has cracked it.

I meet with her in her family home in the countryside just outside Rossnowlagh, the seaside village in south Donegal. A “Gone Surfing” sign hangs from a tree outside. The house has a bohemian feel to it and is strewn with an eclectic mix of surfboards, mementos from exotic travels, and books on psychology, yoga and Shamanism. It’s hardly surprising, as her father is one of Ireland’s pioneering surfers and her mother a psychotherapist. It seems the Brittons are a family with questioning minds and adventurous spirits.

Britton lives a nomadic life but having her home base in Rossnowlagh is what makes it work for her, she says. Here, life is centered around family and the sea. “When I come home it’s very grounding for me and I can immediately find myself again,” she says.

As she is on the move a lot, she finds ritual important to keep her in balance. When she wakes in the morning she doesn’t allow herself to use her phone or the internet for at least an hour.

“I use that time to focus on myself,” she says. “To figure out how I’m feeling and set the energy and intention for the day.”

Her morning practice consists of meditation, journaling and a short yoga flow. She says “it hits all levels of getting my mind clear, my body moving and having a more gentle intentional wake up”.

Of course, she also checks the surf conditions and plans her day around that. Surfing, yoga and keeping a journal are consistent elements in her life: “I couldn’t do without any of them.”

Deirdre Mullins and surfer Easkey Britton on Rossnowlagh beach, Co Donegal. Photograph: Declan Devlin

Britton takes me to the beach for a surf lesson, unlike any other I’ve had. She doesn’t drill me in the technique of standing up on the board; instead she gets me to breathe with the rhythm of the waves in a meditation. She wants the intelligence of my body to connect with the ocean’s energy.

Being in sync to Britton is “one of those moments when everything feels effortless. You’re not trying, it just all comes together and you are simply going with the flow. It’s lovely, it’s very freeing.”

But we’re not all soul surfers living an idyllic coastal life. Is this something city dwellers doing the creche-to-work run can achieve too? “I think the idea of having balance can be misunderstood as trying to achieve a perfect equilibrium,” she says. Britton uses the analogy of a tightrope walker and remarks on how they need a certain amount of tension as well as ease: “It’s about finding the flow between these dynamic forces in our lives. From the need to rush to get things done as well as the need to be still and present.”

It’s an attractive idea and I suspect this ability to become in sync expresses itself differently in all of us. As I travel around Ireland over the next five months, searching for more life lessons from inspirational women, I hope it’s something I discover more of.

On a glass door in the Britton’s house, Easkey has scribbled “you can do anything but you can’t do everything”. If I use that analogy as a starting point, perhaps it is all possible. We just need to find the right balance and choose what serves us best and let the rest go.

Easkey Britton's family home is hidden in the Donegal countryside. Photograph: Declan Devlin

LIVE INSYNC: A MESSAGE THAT'S CIRCLING THE GLOBE

The Live InSync project is an international media campaign launched by Danone Activia and running in many countries around the world. Danone Activia believes that when women feel truly “InSync” they can be at their best, unlocking their full potential. Being “InSync” is the moment when you are in the zone and free of distractions. It is the moment when women feel a sense of harmony, order, and control, they say.

Deirdre MullinsUsing the life experience of real women , the series is attempting to capture the essence of what it means to reach an equilibrium in your life, one that defines personal success for you. It’s not about material success but rather the sense of achievement and balance that comes from living life to the full – but on your own terms.

In Ireland, writer and presenter Deirdre Mullins is on a journey around the country meeting inspirational women from all walks of life who somehow embody a sense of what it means to Live InSync. Many of these may confess to not knowing the answer themselves but have been selected for the inspiration they offer to other women. We will follow Deirdre’s journey over the next five months.

The journey begins today in Co Donegal with champion surfer Easkey Britton and continues each month with another chapter along the Live InSync journey.

Series continues: Next month Deirdre meets designer and businesswoman Helen James who has lived and worked on both sides of the Atlantic and now leads the Considered by Helen James collection in partnership with Dunnes Stores.


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