I was floating in a boat off a remote island change in Sumatra when my phone suddenly picked up a rare pulse in reception and a text message came through from my Mum back in Ireland, ‘first, first, first, yippeee!!!’ I couldn’t believe it, I’d got a 1st class Hons BSc in Environmental Science. Three years of juggling academia and a surfing career and I’d actually pulled it off.
I remember before I started university, I had become a full-blown surf nomad travelling the world solo for 3 years and people kept telling me I would never be able to settle down, I’d find it too hard to get stuck back into study…I can’t say I’ve settled down but I’ve just fully realised that it is possible to to do and be all that you dream and that you should always dream big. Make the impossible possible. That’s not to say it’s ever going to be easy, there is no easy ride. But if there were then where would the fun be, there would be no rush of excitement. Being based on the North Coast at Coleraine’s Univeristy of Ulster definitely helped me. Waking up every morning before class and looking out at the sea, being able to squeeze in surfs between lectures…and having the support of all the staff at the Environmental department and Sports Union. I still travelled, I still surfed and competed, I even managed to fit 2 National titles, a first at the British Universities Championships and the Roxy Pro UK Pro Tour event last year. The final run to the finish was tough though and I guess something’s got to give. I lost the National title for the first time in 5 years and had to cut back on contests but I feel that could have been a blessing in disguise. It gets harder and harder to win, and it was becoming all about the win with more and more pressure and expectations being heaped on me by myself and those around me. I was beginning to lose sight of what it was all about, that spark and fire that gets you you’re win. Now I feel I have more freedom, I’m surfing better than ever, I’ve got the excitement back because I’m focused on the pursuit again, focused on what surfing means to me; the expression of self, creating big art on the waves. I’m hungry again, hungry to learn, grow and push myslef. And have a lot of fun doing it! My graduation is the end of one chapter but it also feels like I have a new book, with, clean white empty pages to fill ahead of me…
Going on a boat trip to the Mentawais was just what I needed after the intensity of finishing final year. I was so amped for waves and Indo is truly surf paradise. I was on board with the best crew of girls from all around the world – the world’s top female surfers; World champ Sofia Mulanovich from Peru, World tour surfers Bec Woods, Sarah Bearmore, Nicola Atherton, Serena Brooke from Australia, charger Ornella Pellizari from Argentina and Roxy longboarder Kassia Meador from Californi. Having such a mix of cultures and surf styles was so inspiring for my surfing. We scored one of the most epic swells to hit the Mentawais in years and our Skipper, Mark had the gift of finding A class waves without the A class crowds. Our list day was one of thosemagic sessions, surfingall day until the sunset, sharing the good times with just one other boat of 6 stoked Kiwi surfers, hooting each other into waves golden glowing barrels.
After our 2 week surf fest and the girls all went their own way across the world again I made a little stop-over to check out Bali for the first time. Arriving at Uluwatu felt like a place of worship, a sacred place to revere and honour. One of the true surf ‘Meccas’. All along the cliff path and through the sea caves are offerings to the gods. It was alos here where I made my sacrifice to the gods of the sea…I hadn’t had a bad wipeout in a long time. It’s actually a good thing to get a few knocks now and again. Makes me feel more relaxed because I know I can handle myself, I pay my dues and learn to always respect the power of the ocean. Except for a heavy hold-down in the Mentawais I’d come away unscathed, no reef cuts and I hadn’t had a proper beating in a long time. My first wave was perfect; head high, fast, hollow left at Racetracks and I flew down the line. I was paddling back out and another wave came through. Another surfer beside me asked if I was going so I swung around without thinking, put my head down and went. In hindsight maybe that was my karma, I should have given him the wave. Instead I maybe got a little too greedy and cock. I knew it was all wrong before I got to my feet but I was committed, there was no going back. I was way too deep and very late, the wave sucked out under me, pulling board from under my feet and pitching me over on top of it. I slammed into the tail, in between my fins, face first. It was over in an instant. I flet a little dazed and remember pulling my board to me and looking at the missing fin, wondering for a moment if I could still surf it on two fins! Then I put my hand to my chin and it came away with blood. Luckily my friend Matt Luckie (great name!) from Melbourne was out surfing with me and he helped me to shore but I kept asking ‘where are we?’ I remembered my name but everything else was like waking up from a hazy dream and trying to piece it back together again. Finally all the peices fell into place sitting watching the most spectacular sunset from a warung on the cliff, icing my face. I was only concussed briefly but it’s a very unsettling experience. I also reckon I must have some pretty cool angels watching over me. Looking at my poor board I don’t know how I came out of it as lightly as I did. There was a big hole in the tail nearly all the way through from my chin and I snapped one of the fins off with my head but a part from a light grazing under my chin I wasn’t cut and nothing broken. My face was a bit puffy the next day but I got to chill out at Blue Point inifinity pool overlooking Ulus, best recovery day ever!
(post-concussion at Ulus)
I still managed to score another big swell at Impossibles and get home early for the AC/DC consert in Dublin and my graduation ceremony.
The Britton Clan L-R; Becky-Finn, NC, Easkey and Barry (Photo: Roo McCrudden).