Nathan Kingerlee of Outdoors Ireland

He is living the dream and driving a big silver Jeep.

Nathan Kingerlee, founder of Outdoors Ireland, an outdoor adventure and training company boasts a daily life of  leading treks up Carauntoohill, setting up kayaks on the Lakes of Killarney at sunset, teaching snow and ice climbing courses to the eager and washing out wetsuits at dusk.

Courtesy of Nathan Kingerlee

Seven years in business and Kingerlee has perfected the ultimate balancing act of being both a man of the office and securing time out on the field to take part in his adventures.  “My aim is to inject wild factors in every-thing you do and combine the most amazing experience with value for money.”  Nathan Kingerlee’s life epitomizes this agenda, his upcoming adventures include sailing or kayaking the whole of Ireland’s coastline, road-tripping it up across the country in a caravan and expanding Outdoors Ireland to encompass Galway amongst its conquests.

A rundown of a typical day, the more mundane side only; “I get up a six, walk the dogs, go to the office and sort out bookings, check the weather forecast and update the social media sites. Then I drive to location meet the clients, head off on the adventure, return, clean equipment, sleep and start all over again!”

He always knew the lifestyle he would live so ever the pragmatic he wasted no time and left secondary school early. Kingerlee took on a two-year instructor course and following that at the youthful age of 22 he started Outdoors Ireland. He ignored the doubters and now at twenty-nine years of age he is exactly where he wants to be.

The perks of his lifestyle sometimes disguises the lingering reality of his job. He gets three days off a year and during the busy season he rises at six and returns to bed at twelve, exhausted. It is tough, but it is worth it;  “The best part of my job is reading Trip Advisor and getting our clients responses and emails back and then there are these moments when I am setting up for the day ahead alone and I get to see incredible things that only I get to see.”

Courtesy of Nathan Kingerlee

According to Kingerlee, Ireland has got an abundance to offer the global adventure world; “Adrenaline, landscape, excitement, music, and a certain ‘craic’ that is lacking in other countries. Ireland is an incredible product, the adventure may be harder to find but when you do, its priceless.”

Her economy may be sputtering and weak but hidden in Ireland’s hills and lakes the adventure she can offer is slowly creeping to life and when it explodes, Nathan Kingerlee will be slap bang in the thick of it.

Raise your Guinness to the best surf spot in Europe

Photographer Gary McCall

The clock tolls 6am. A phone rings in the mighty village of Bundoran in the North West of Ireland. The answering machine clicks into place and broadcasts the message to the sleeping household. “Get up quick, a massive swell is coming,” the voice of a local surfer, Ronan Oertzen floods the room. The surfers rise in hurried silence, they pull on their winter wetsuits, clasp their surfboards in hand and tear out the door into the frigid waters of the Atlantic ocean. There, they escape into blissful oblivion, where it is just them and their board, alone in the vastness of Ireland’s angry waters, relying solely on their skill to tame the waves. This is surfing. Beware, if you try it once it will hence forth consume your life.

Ireland is rapidly becoming recognised for her quality barrels and it will remain up there with the Aussies and Hawaiians legendary surfing statuses for one reason. It is different from everything that they offer. According to DiscoverBundoran, the local tourism board; “Whilst it’s not the tropics, when it pumps, there are few places you’d rather be.”  It is cold water surfing which requires serious guts in comparison. If you fall off your board in Australia, you will land in a jacuzzi. If you fall off in Ireland, you will land in a tub of ice-cream. The Atlantic hosts an average temperature of nine degrees Celsius, usually combined with a forecast of substantial winds and torrential rain. So when you are out scaling the cliff edges in search of the good spots and are padded in a 5mm thick neoprene wetsuit, booties, gloves and hood. Remember, Ireland has earned the right to call her surfing extreme.

Bundoran, County Donegal is offering you waves on demand year round, accommodating for both beginners and pro’s. “The North Atlantic in winter is the most prolific swell generating area on the planet so with a little imagination waves can be found almost every day,” according to magicseaweed.com, the surfing forecast website. The rush is in the chaos of riding a board while mother nature attempts to take you down. If dread has began to creep in, never fear it eases up a notch over the summer and you can catch some epic, clean waves.

The town has hosted an array of international surfing competitions. This summer it pulled off the European Surfing Championships, ‘Eurosurf Bundoran 2011′ for the third time. A ten day party for surfing evangelists, which transforms the little town into a makeshift city with a pumping atmosphere. Two thousand spectators clad in jumpers and raincoats set up camp at Tullan Strand to watch the action. “It’s just amazing to watch the cream of Europe’s surfers right there on our doorstep for a week and see some world class surfing,” says Shane Smyth, the Eurosurf press officer . There is something mystical about going surfing in Ireland; the un-crowded beaches sitting against a backdrop of mountains and costal roads. Shane coins the appeal as “a certain romanticism.”

Ronan Oertzen of the Irish surfing team recalls the event; “The atmosphere between the teams was great and electric when one of us were competing in a heat. There was some great surfing in the Eurosurf this year and the waves that we got where world class, it is so rare to get such quality surf in a comp. This one is going down in the history books for sure. ”

Events clustered around a surf theme are held regularly by the local surf schools. In June there is the annual Sea Sessions a combined surf, skate and music festival which promotes home grown musical talent like The Villagers and BellX1. The surfing  aspect of it sees Europe’s finest  pitted against the best Ireland and the UK can offer. Then running through the year, you have got some pretty retro options to choose from, including surf and yoga retreats, surfing and English language programmes, intensive training sessions, surfing stags or hen nights and obviously parties galore.

Surfing holidays in Ireland are not just about the waves. It is the aftermath, retiring to the local pubs wrecked and exhilarated after a day battling the surf. It is the warmth of the people, the strange accent and the ‘craic’ that makes Bundoran worth braving the weather.

 Information panel:

Boards can be hired out for the small fee of €20 for the day. This includes wetsuit rental.

However if you want to learn the trade, there are four main surf schools/lodges to choose from; Bundoran Surf Co. (www.bundoransurfco.com), Turf and Surf (www.turfnsurf.ie) , Donegal Adventure Centre (www.donegaladventurecentre.net) and Surfworld Bundoran (www.surfworld.ie)

If you are interested in heading to the Sea Sessions Festival, keep an eye out on its website; http://www.seasessions.com/lineup.html , it usually runs  late June.

For more information on things to do and places to see in Donegal, check out the DiscoverBundoran website (www.discoverbundoran.com)

Side Bars:

Top 5 Cold Water Surf Destinations:

1. Nova Scotia, Canada

2.Tasmania, Australia

3.Donegal Bay, Ireland

4.Essaovira, Morocco

5.Yakutat, Alaska

Gaelic Surf lingo:

ag marcaíocht na dtonnta – surfing

cé mhéad ar cíos do bhord surf? How much to rent a surfboard?

Cá bhfuil an trá? – Where is the beach?

Cá bhfuil na tithe tábhairne? – Where are the pubs?

go raibh maith agat- thank you

A trek up Croagh Patrick

If you are a native Irish and are unaware of the status of the mountains that sit on your doorstep, than shame on you, but at least now you know. They are immaculate and grueling and you can find one to scramble up in almost every county. But if you are a native Irish and you are aware of this catalogue of land and still fail to use them, then my apologies but you are a fool and you are missing out.

 

Croagh Patrick is one of Ireland’s more famous sleibthe (mountain) as it is a pilgrimage and recreational route combined. It sits eight kilometers outside the quaint town of Westport, County Mayo and its summits reaches 2,507 ft. All I have ever heard about it growing up, far, far away from it (5hrs) that it is tough, really tough. I did not train for it, but I hold a general level of fitness so on impulse I decided last week that I would attempt to scale this beast. The truth be told, it was grand. Breaking it down, there are two stages, the first is fine once you develop a rhythm. At the half way point it flattens out to meet the base of the steep climb to the summit. Here is where things get tricky, especially if you are trying to drag your mother up it after you.To add to the heartache it is buried in shale all the way to the top. At the base, you can rent sticks to aid your ascent, best one euro fifty I ever spent.

 

It was a pleasant sunnish day for Ireland, so naturally the mountain was packed. People of various sizes and ages littered the main route, with a constant wave of people passing you then stopping to rejuvenate, then passing again. There was the unfit, been dragged up by an eager friend or relative red-faced and bleary eyed, then the foreign tourists speaking in a foreign tongue and smiling at all who they pranced by. There were the seasoned hikers who all dolled up in their hiking gear made it all look so easy and finally there was the minority who ran up it and who I gaped after both astounded and jealous.

 

At a leisurely pace it takes about two hours to get up and down it. A weathered church sits on the top surrounded by a view of the sea and greenery that Ireland can be proud of. People dined there on ham and bread rolls and flasks of tea. What I love about mountains, well hills, and the people who climb them is the atmosphere that is created along the trek. The shared experience of pain and triumph breaks the ice and allows everyone on board to chat, to congratulate or to offer words of encouragement. On the descent I met a local man who had walked this route sixty-nine times this year, instantly I felt like a fool. I smiled at the man while thinking fair play to him who actually got and was living by the code I was preaching. The Irish landscape and the people who walk its green pastures are steeped in history, and there to be taken advantage of if you can just force yourself to look beyond the weather.