WHEN IM NOT SURFING IM TAKING PICTURES OF SURFING
My father had me swimming a mile by the time I was four years old. I was brought up in the water and my early years were spent devoted to competitive swimming and diving. Dad introduced me to surfing when I was 10. I learnt on a 10 ' 6 Bilbo pop out my father bought in Cornwall in the early sixties. It took myself and two friends to carry it down to the beach. It weighed a ton. We would spend all summer down on the beach surfing and living on a diet of Cornflakes. In 1981 my dad made me my first wetsuit out of a sheet of neoprene. He laid it out on the living room carpet I lay flat on the ground whilst he drew around me with chalk. He then cut out the shape and glued it together, not quite a "Rip Curl Elasto" but it was brilliant. For the first time I could now spend more than 20 minutes in the water without freezing. With time I progressed from the 'Ark Royal' as my father would call it to a bright red 6 ' 6 single fin my dad built in the early seventies. I loved this board and I can remember getting one of my first real wall rides on this shortboard at west strand. I was gutted however when it delaminated after sheer unrelentless grommet abuse. I was 13 when it happened and I needed a new stick so I spent the whole summer holidays working in 'The West Bay View Hotel' in Portrush washing dishes and peeling potatoes for an absolutely fabulous £30 a week. By the end of the holidays I made an exodus to Newquay to buy my very first custom surfboard. After researching all the shops I went to Swells surf shop and purchased a 5'10 2 1/2 fin thruster. I was riding this board in Portrush when I met Richard, Michael and Tom from Belfast who after seeing me surf suggested I should compete. I didn't even know about competition surfing in Ireland. And thus after a junior contest in Bundoran in 1985 my contest career began with my selection for the Irish National team for the European Championships in Rossnowlagh County Donegal. Unfortunately I never got to see my heat as on the first morning of the competition I was rushed to Enniskillen hospital to have my appendix removed. The following year, 1986, I represented Ireland as the sole U-18 at the World Championships in Newquay England, where I can remember drawing a heat against a young Ross Clarke Jones. In 1987 I obtained Britains first sporting scholarship for surfing awarded by Swansea University in South Wales. I spent 3 very good years there studying a Joint Hons. Degree in Oceanography and Geography surprising myself and my tutors by getting a 2.1. This was a miracle as I spent most of my time studying the waves on the south Gower reefs instead of going to lectures. Here I met and shared a house with Paul Russell the Mark Richards of surfing in Britain. They used to call him Mr. Consistent. Paul was definitely one of the best surfers of the 1980s he was English, British and European Champion and one of a few elite surfers to beat Tom Curran in a heat. He was a surfing contest machine. I learnt a lot from him. Not only was he a very good friend to me but he was my mentor and coach, he taught me a lot about tactics in surfing heats and I owe a lot of my success and indeed my 6 consecutive National titles from 1989 to 1994 to him. In 1988 we traveled together to the world games in Puerto Rico in the Caribbean where I achieved a ground staggering result of 97th in the World. Other than my National titles my most prized achievement was coming 32nd in the world , the highest placed Britain at the 1992 World Championships in Lacanau France. Here my claim to fame was beating Grant Frost the no.1 seed from the Australian team who then went on to become World Champion. After graduating from Swansea University in 1990. I returned home and with my father opened Troggs The Underground Surf Shop in July 1991. Following its success a second shop at Portstewart was opened in 1994. The shop has given my wife Frankie and myself a fantastic opportunity to travel during the quiet business months of January and February. With several round the world trips and surfing adventures I have been fortunate to have the pleasure of riding some of the best waves on the planet some of which include the following:
J-Bay South Africa
Pavones Costa Rica
Cloudbreak Tavarua Island, Fiji
Raglan New Zealand
Uluwatu Bali Indonesia
Lakey Peak Sumbawa Indonesia
Macaroni's Mentawi Islands Indonesia
Spot X Western Samoa
And many more...
Surfing has given me the greatest pleasure in life (although I must admit I've just discovered Snowboarding and it's pretty good too!!) and its given me purpose and direction. It's granted me the desire to travel, to surf and meet other people and experience life. As my father would say "Surfers live other people simply exist." But the best thing about surfing is surfing at home with your mates. I love surfing in Ireland and hand on heart I've had my best waves right here in Portrush at East Strand. I look forward to surfing with you.
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Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland