Listen now 28 mins
With freezing waters and long dark winters, Ireland may seem an unlikely place to surf, but the surfing industry is growing fast and may even aid recovery of recession hit coastal communities north and south of the border.
Broadcaster Mark Patterson has surfed for nearly 30 years, and is fascinated by the role the ocean is playing in replenishing small coastal towns like Portrush in Northern Ireland, and Bundoran in the Republic of Ireland. Once bustling seaside resorts, both have endured a long decline, taking a hard hit during the recession.
Now they are drawing a new crowd - surfers. Many come to learn the basics and taste their first salt-water experience, while others travel from far overseas to sample Ireland's waves, considered by many to be world-class, on a par with anything found in Hawaii, Australia or California.
Mark learns that a few intrepid souls began to explore remote waves along Ireland's coastline in the early 60's, sometimes dressed only in jeans and t-shirt as they braved the freezing waters. Now with modern wetsuits and affordable boards, everyone wants to learn; from 58 year old Elaine in Portrush, to a group of teenage girls who feel empowered by surfing.
In Bundoran Mark meets the surfer instructor who feels the ocean saved his life. After losing his job at the height of the boom and turning to drink, a radio advert for lifeguard training set him on a new journey, and a new future by the coast. In Portrush Mark meets a 6 time Irish champion who toured the world chasing his surfing 'drug', until the lifestyle nearly destroyed him. And then there are the surfers who risk their lives for the ultimate thrill - surfing monstrous waves up to 60 ft high.
It's not The Beach Boys, bronzed bodies or bikinis - this is Coldwater California.
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