Irishwoman gets big break in Iran


A DOCUMENTARY film about how Donegal surfer Easkey Britton became the first woman to surf in Iran is to be broadcast on French television next month.

Britton’s trip last September to Chabahar, a coastal trading town in southern Iran on the border with Pakistan, is the subject of thehour-long documentary shot by filmmaker Marion Poizeau to be broadcast on October 30th.

“Iran is not known as a surf destination, but experiencing a country through surf gives you a different perspective. It was a leap into the unknown, but I thought I’d give it a go,” says Britton (26).

Her principal challenge was figuring out how to keep her head and body covered in the 30-40 degree desert heat.

Ultimately she wore a full-length “hijab swimsuit” with a rash vest, long board shorts, leggings, and her headscarf tucked into the hood.

Her spectacular surfing attracted crowds of locals, including police and fishermen, who were seeing the sport for the first time.

“Iran has a short swell window in the summer when the monsoons spin up and hit the southern coast and you get beach breaks,” she explains. “The most incredible thing was being out in that landscape and being out in the water on your own. Everybody gathered around and they were all enormously curious and excited.”

Now she would love to teach in the Middle East. “Girls and women in the Gaza Strip are starting to surf now,” she says.

From a family who pioneered the sport in Ireland, Britton took to the boards at the age of four in Rossnowlagh. Since then the Donegal woman has broken many surfing records both at home and abroad, riding some of the world’s most fearsome waves.

At 16 she was the first Irish person to surf the terrifying Teahupoo waves in Tahiti, some of the heaviest and highest in the world. Called Easkey after the famous west coast surf break (it means “fish” in Irish), she was also the first woman to ride the giant wave Aileens at the Cliffs of Moher in 2007, and has five times been Irish surf champion. She has a first class honours degree in environmental science and is completing a PhD thesis on marine conservation at the University of Ulster.

As Ireland’s first female big-wave surfer, her life revolves around her sport, which has taken her to Africa, the Galapagos and Cuba.

“I couldn’t live without it. Being out in the sea, being part of a wave that only lasts a few moments, is like an addiction,” she says.