Riding waves with success
CELEBRITY FANS: KIAN EGAN, Singer, 29, Surfing
When did you start surfing?About six years ago, maybe seven.
What prompted you?I was out playing golf with my dad in Strandhill Golf Club in Sligo and it was a summer’s day and I looked out on the beach and there was a load of people surfing and I just thought, ‘Wow that looks like a really nice pastime’.
I’ve always enjoyed the sea so I said I’d give it a shot and drove down to our local village to a guy called Tom Hickey, from Perfect Day Surf School, and he took me out for a lesson. I went back to him every day for a week and was, ‘Right, Im into this’.
What is it about surfing that makes it so great?The first thing I enjoyed about it was the freedom more than anything else. You’re out in the water. You’ve no mobile phone. Nobody’s able to get to you.
Then when I started catching waves, going down the line, it became a whole different thing. After a while I got to know the local community I surfed with.
At first I think people were going, ‘Well, what’s your man from Westlife doing out here?’ Then after a while, they realised, ‘Ah, no, this guy’s into it. He’s not just coming down from Dublin at the weekends, trying to look cool with a surfboard on his car’. I’d be out surfing in February, the coldest time of year.
When people see that, they become a little bit more positive towards you. Surfing definitely has a stigma to it – it’s the cool sport that everyone wants to do. For people who actually do it, that’s not how they look on it at all. So in that way, I made a whole new group of friends and a whole new life.
How often do you surf?My life is pretty much split in two. When I’m in Westlife, I’m in Westlife. When I’m not in Westlife, I’m looking to surf. It’s as simple as that. You know, I was up at eight o’clock this morning checking the beach, waiting for the tide to drop. I surfed twice yesterday, twice the day before. I was in Bali for two weeks in January where we surfed three, four times a day. When you get into surfing, you either get into it or you don’t. When you get into it, it becomes a very big bug. It’s very addictive.
You’re always chasing the swell, you’re always looking for the next waves. You’re always on the hunt.
What level surfer are you?My standard of surfing wouldn’t be up there with the really, really good guys. I’d be an intermediate level surfer. I’d surf a lot of the beach breaks, the point breaks, a few of the reef breaks. Those waves can be pretty daunting.
Have you had any speed wobbles?An awful lot of it is psychological, for sure. If you paddle out on a big day, you’ve got to be ready for it. We have a saying: ‘Did you bring your balls today?’ There’s definitely a comfort factor. It always comes down to where you’re surfing.
I could paddle on a local break that’s a head and a half high and not have any fear whatsoever and then I could paddle out at a different spot, I’m not familiar with, on the same size wave and be really nervous because the way the wave is throwing over, the way it is breaking. Where’s your favourite spot to surf? When it comes to waves, the waves in Ireland are as good as anywhere else in the world.
What’s the most inhospitable environment you’ve surfed in? Well, when I was out in Bali, a fisherman came in and told us to get out of the water because there was a shark prowling around. That’s the worst I’ve ever experienced. I never caught a wave so fast in my life. I’ve been held down for an uncomfortable amount of time.
I’ve hit a reef a couple of times. I’ve cut myself. You’re in the ocean and you’re playing with big waves. But apart from that shark incident, I’ve never experienced anything super dangerous.
What’s the most unusual thing that’s occurred to you out on the water?The strangest thing that ever happened to me was when I was out surfing in my local spot in Sligo. All of a sudden I had a massive school of dolphins around me, probably about 20 or 30 dolphins cruising underneath me. I saw a fin pop up beside me and was like, “Oh my God, what was that?”
Suddenly, there were six or seven fins behind me and I knew it was dolphins. It was quite surreal.