Irishwoman rides wave of success all the way to the ‘Oscars of surfing’

WHILE the glare of the world media focuses on a certain wedding in Westminster tomorrow, in California a young Irish woman will be enjoying her own night in the spotlight at an awards ceremony dubbed “the Oscars of surfing”.

Donegal’s Easkey Britton is one of just five women from around the world nominated in the Girl’s Performance category at the 11th annual Billabong XXL Awards, which recognises surfers who have pushed the sport to the extreme.

She received the nomination for surfing a massive barrel wave in Mullaghmore at an international competition in February. The wave was so huge she had to be towed into it by jet-ski.

“I never thought it would happen, but the enormity of it is slowly starting to sink in. As well as being honoured, it’s also a great encouragement and it’ll give me plenty of fire and drive to keep getting better,” she said.

The four-time national women’s champion was born into a family of surfers, is named after a legendary Irish wave and began surfing when she was 5. The Britton obsession began when Easkey’s grandmother brought home two surfboards for the family hotel in Donegal in the 1960s, not realising she would spark off a surfing revolution.

“Dad and his four brothers found them and started to experiment — it was probably about a year before they figured out that they could stand up on them. But once they did there was no stopping them.”

Easkey surfs competitively while studying for a PhD in marine conservation at the University of Ulster in Coleraine. The sport has grown massively in popularity over the past five years but she isn’t bothered that big-wave surfing in Ireland is still male-dominated.

“It really doesn’t matter to me — when you’re being towed into 40ft waves, the ocean strips gender differences away. But I am really looking forward to meeting the other four girls from around the world who have been nominated.

“I’m taking my dedicated surf- mum with me — she’s more excited than I am, so I couldn’t leave her behind. She surfed herself and she’s been a big support, so it’ll be great to have her there.”

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