OVER the past year-and-a-half, if you watched the sun shining on golden sand, or heard the sound of light surf washing on the shore, such vistas were doomed to vanish at the call of your alarm clock.
But for Ayesha Garvey and the rest of the Irish surf team, from May 22 to June 7, they could close their eyes each night knowing that when they woke, they would rise to Pacific waves breaking just beyond their window.
Ayesha is originally a Castlederg girl, whose lifelong love affair with surfing reached a zenith at the beginning of this month when she traveled to El Salvador to compete in the World Surfing Games.
Qualification for the Olympic Games was up for grabs.
Although none of the coveted Olympic spots returned to Irish soil, the squad gave a strong account of themselves, further cementing Ireland’s reputation as a rising power in world surfing.
The Swansea-based physio has spoken this week about her life in surfing, and what it’s like performing on one of the grandest surf stages of them all.
“It was a beautiful location,” said Ayesha, “right in the heart of Central America, surfing the Pacific Ocean. It was dreamy stuff.
“When we first arrived, there was a lovely big swell and the waves were pumping,” her voice warming as she recalled the fresh memory.
“We had a week of practice before we paddled out into competitive waters, so we took full advantage of the pre-comp swell.”
On the surface, surfing seems like one of the more enjoyable Olympic sports to prepare for – no debilitating weight cuts, no lung-bursting hill-sprints, no collapsing in a pool of sweat on the gymnasium floor.
“You don’t get to a high level without being dedicated and training hard, but yeah, in the week before competition your preparation is mainly just surfing – getting to know the competition-site waves and working on heat strategy.
“There was one right-hander (a wave that breaks from left to right) that we had nicknamed ‘the quad-burner’ after a few days – it just ran on forever.”
But as Ayesha alluded to, today’s preparation for competitive surfing means strength and conditioning, mobility training, and breathing work.
“In the week running up to the competition there was lots of yoga – it helps nurture all the fundamentals which underpin a good performance.”
Unfortunately for the Irish team, their scores just weren’t good enough to see them through to the Olympics, but speaking to Ayesha, that seems rather beside the point.
“The chances of qualifying were always fairly slim, because the competition was that strong and the positions were so few,” she reflected.
“There were only two spots available for European surfers in the male and female divisions – so four in total.
“We are competitive and we like to win, and surfing is a great way to learn how to channel your aggression and competitive drive in a positive manner, but surfing is about more than winning competitions, and life is about more than surfing.
“Life’s about finding your passion, and I’ve been lucky in my life that I’ve found a few. Surfing is a star that burns bright in my world, and it’s guided me to some beautiful places.
“And I’ve been fortunate that I’ve found something similar in my work as a rotational physiotherapist working for the NHS – I look forward to work everyday. I’m energised by it. It’s a force for good in my life and the lives of the people I help.”
Ayesha finishes with some lasting advice, “Immerse yourself in what you love and you’ll never be too disappointed with how things turn out.”