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How to improve surfing with “pop-up” training is one of a number of “online” activities that a north Mayo Gaeltacht outdoor pursuits centre is offering to students this summer, The Irish Independent reports.

Coláiste Uisce, which teaches surfing, sailing, windsurfing and kayaking courses through the medium of the Irish language, had just spent some €0.5 million preparing for this season when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

It is one of a number of Gaeltacht colleges which had to cancel residential courses this summer.

It has opted to offer a “virtual” Gaeltacht experience to students Juggling skills, environmental awareness walks and other task-based lessons through Irish form the core of “Blas Choláiste Uisce” which the college is now taking bookings for.

The five one-hour interactive online sessions culminate in a virtual céilí mór which students can participate in at home with their instructors.

The centre founded over 25 years ago by former Air Corps pilot Ciarán Ó Murchú and his wife Máire has taught courses to over 20,000 students and employs up to 17 full-time staff throughout the year.

Read more on The Irish Independent report here

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Surfing schools have appealed to the Government to extend the Covid-19 wage subsidy scheme to their sector, as surfers return to the water.

They have also called on Minister for Tourism Shane Ross to lower the VAT rate for surf schools to ensure the sector can survive.

A statement issued by the Irish Surf School COVID Safety Working Group says it is “delighted to be able to open again with safety, as usual, the number one priority”.

Surf schools are required to submit detailed Covid-19 safety plans to the representative body, Irish Surfing, before re-opening, the statement says.

Safety measures include:

  • Online bookings and payments
  • Small group sizes (maximum of eight people from June 8)
  • Travel restrictions (customers must travel no more 20 km from June 8)
  • Two-metre social distancing for groups on land and in the water
  • Hand and equipment sanitation must be observed

“Surfing is proven to improve mental health and boost well being,” the group says, and “after a gruelling two-month lockdown, more people than ever are hoping to relieve some stress and boredom by returning to the waves”.

Learning to surf in the West of IrelandLearning to surf

“Surf schools are now an important part of the prime offering of most of the most popular Irish seaside resorts,” the group says, with “hotspots” like Bundoran, Strandhill, Lahinch and Tramore drawing surfers from around the world.

“Surfing is not a niche sport in Ireland any longer. Surfing is now a mainstream recreational activity, which should come as no surprise to an Atlantic island nation that is now world-famous as a cold water surfing paradise,” it says.

The working group warns that some surf schools will not open until travel restrictions are relaxed again in July, and notes the majority of surf school owners cannot access the wage subsidy scheme for their employees.

“For many, this is going to delay reopening for some meaning their 2020 season will only be four or five weeks long,” the group says.

The working group says it is liaising with Sport Ireland, Irish Surfing and the Irish Association for Adventure Tourism to plan for the survival and recovery of the surf school industry.

However, it is seeking an extension of the wage subsidy and lowering of the VAT rate from 23 per cent. It notes that the rate is currently nine per cent in the Netherlands.

Irish Association of Adventure Tourism (IAAT) Brendan Kenny said that his group was “delighted to see that surf schools are re-opening, and we believe that the activities sector can lead the recovery of the Irish tourism industry”.

“Now more than ever, our country needs the physical and mental health benefits that activities deliver, so we'd encourage everyone to consider what experiences are available to them within the current public health guidelines,” Mr. Kenny said.

“There are however considerable obstacles for our sector including seasonal staff not benefiting from the wage subsidy scheme. We would urge the Government to deliver clarity on this issue which threatens businesses in our sector - none more so than the surf schools,” he said.

In relation to the VAT rate, the Irish surf school working group has appealed for its sector to be viewed as tourism, rather than sports business, and have the rate reviewed.

Irish Surfing development officer, Zoe Lally noted that a “surge” of people to beaches over the June bank holiday weekend had resulted in beaches and car parks being closed.

She said that some local authorities are “reluctant to authorise surf schools to reopen.”

“I would reiterate the importance of schools operating responsibly. Guidance from local authorities must be adhered to. It is particularly important that people are not enticed to travel past the 20-kilometre distance to surf and that surfing is not responsible for generating a surge in activity and crowds,” Ms. Lally said.

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Top student surfers will gather in Mayo in early March for the Surf Intervarsities 2020 when hosts Galway-Mayo Institute of TechnologyI(GMIT) hope to secure a “three in a row” national title writes Lorna Siggins

Up to 200 surfers are expected to participate in the annual weekend of surfing on Achill island from March 6th to 8th.

The 20x20 Women in Sport campaign entitled ‘If she can’t see it, she can’t be it’ will be central to the weekend’s events.

GMIT Mayo Clubs and Societies’ Officer Sophie Devereux says “we are delighted to be part of this campaign”.

“We have reached out to surfers from around the globe and will use the Intervarsities to continue to spread this vital message,” she says.

GMIT Mayo has won the last two national championships in 2018 and 2019 and hopes to seize the title again this year.

Nigel Jennings, GMIT Mayo Sports Officer, says the 2020 Surf Intervarsities will “further enhance GMIT Mayo’s reputation as a national power in the realm of outdoor adventure activities and reinforce Mayo’s growing reputation as the destination of choice for outdoor adventure activities”.

Prof Neville McClenaghan, GMIT Mayo campus vice-president, said it would highlight the skills of Mayo campus students studying the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Arts Honours Outdoor Education and other programmes.

He said it was also a “great opportunity for talented surfers from colleges across the land to come and demonstrate their talents here in Mayo, the adventure capital of Ireland”.

Published in Surfing
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#Lifeboats - Bundoran’s RNLI crew assisted a surfer safely to shore on Saturday afternoon (10 November).

The volunteers launched after a member of the public raised the alarm, having spotted someone they thought to be in difficulty and waving their arm off Rougey Point in Bundoran.

The Irish Coast Guard requested the inshore lifeboat to launch at 3.28pm and 10 minutes later the lifeboat, helmed by Killian O’Kelly, was at sea.

Weather conditions at the time were blowing a light south-easterly wind and there was a three-metre swell.

Once on scene, the lifeboat crew observed that the surfer, while not in difficulty or in any immediate danger, was in a challenging part of the sea and some distance away from the shore.

The crew made the decision to take the teenager onboard and transport him safely back to Bundoran Lifeboat Station.

Speaking following the callout, O’Kelly said: “We would like to commend the member of the public who raised the alarm this afternoon — that is always the right thing to do if you see someone you think or know to be in difficulty.

“While this surfer was not in any immediate danger, he was some distance from shore so we made a call to assist him safely back to shore.”

Elsewhere, a person who went missing while kitesurfing off Ballybunion in Co Clare yesterday evening (Sunday 11 November) was found on land several hours later, as RTÉ News reports.

The kitesurfer, who had come ashore at Kilkee, was said to be suffering the effects of cold after spending as much as two-and-a-half hours at sea and was taken to hospital.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#Rescue - A surfer was rescued from the sea off Northern Ireland yesterday evening (Monday 1 May) after more than 30 hours in the water.

Belfast Coastguard co-ordinated the search for the missing man who had gone surfing near Campbeltown in Argyll, Western Scoland on Sunday and failed to return.

A large area of sea and shoreline was searched from lunchtime on Monday when the alarm was raised, involving RNLI lifeboats from Campbeltown and Islay in Scotland and Red Bay in Co Antrim, as well as coastguard rescue teams from Campbeltown, Southend, Gigha, Tarbert and Port Ellen, and HM Coastguard’s rescue helicopter based at Prestwick.

Dawn Petrie at Belfast Coastguard Operations Centre, who was co-ordinating the search, said: “Hope was fading of finding the surfer safe and well after such a long period in the water and with nightfall approaching we were gravely concerned.

“But at 7.30pm tonight, the crew on the coastguard rescue helicopter were delighted when they located the man still with his surfboard and 13 miles off the coast.

“He was kitted out with all the right clothing including a thick neoprene suit and this must have helped him to survive for so long at sea. He is hypothermic but conscious and has been flown to hospital in Belfast.”

HM Coastguard reminds all coastal users this summer to be prepared before you go out on the water or at the coast where conditions can change quickly. Tell someone where you are going and take an appropriate means of raising the alarm in an emergency.

RNLI Add: 
A Northern Ireland lifeboat was involved in the huge search and rescue operation for a missing surfer who left a Scottish beach on Sunday morning and spent 32 hours at sea before being found last night (Monday 1 May). Red Bay RNLI were requested to launch by Belfast coastguard to join with the Scottish lifeboats, Campbeltown and Islay, along with rescue teams from Campbeltown, Southend, Gigha, Tarbert and Port Ellen and the Coastguard rescue helicopter based at Prestwick. The man was eventually located by the coastguard helicopter and transferred to hospital.
The young man had set off to go surfing off the Argyll coast on Sunday morning and had not been heard from since 11.30am. In a huge search operation RNLI lifeboats were launched on both sides of the Irish Sea with Scottish and Irish lifeboats searching the extensive body of water for the missing man.
At 7.30pm the missing surfer was located by the coastguard helicopter and was still with his surfboard 13 miles off the coast.
Commenting on the search and rescue operation Red Bay RNLI Coxswain Paddy McLaughlin said, ‘This was a huge search and rescue operation. To have lifeboats launched from both Scotland and Ireland shows the incredible effort that went into the search. Our lifeboat crews along with our colleagues in the coastguard undertook an extensive and detailed search in the large area between the two coasts and thankfully this resulted in a successful outcome.’
‘The young man wore the correct clothing and stayed with his surfboard, giving himself valuable time and keeping safe. It just shows that even after 32 hours at sea people can be found and rescued. We wish the young man a full recovery after his ordeal.’

Published in Rescue
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#Surfing - Between Land and Sea is a new documentary on the surfing culture of Lahinch that’s currently touring with screenings around Ireland, as TheJournal.ie reports.

Chronicling ‘a year in the life of an Atlantic surf town’, Ross Whitaker’s film set out to capture the characters of the Co Clare coastal spot that’s become a gateway to some of Ireland’s most spectacular waves.

Big wave surfing isn’t just a sport for its top names — it’s a lifestyle. And the film gets to know a number of those who have made it their life’s work to get in harmony with their environment.

Among them are Ollie O’Flaherty, a regular at the Riley’s break at Lahinch as well as Aileen’s under the Cliffs of Moher, and Fergal Smith, the subject of two other recent films on the organic farming collective he’s helped establish for himself and fellow wave chasers.

Smith also features in Common Ground, a new film from Finisterre in which the surf clothing brand’s ambassadors — including women’s surfing pioneer Easkey Britton — met to share their challenges and achievements thanks to the power of the waves, as Huck reports.

Another recent surfing video from Red Bull shows what happened when Barry Mottershead invited American surfers Cody Thompson, Justin Quintal and Nate Zoller to taste the waves of the Wild Atlantic Way.

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#SUP - South African adventurer Chris Bertish has become the first man to cross the Atlantic by stand-up paddleboard, as the Guardian reports.

The big wave surfer took 93 days to traverse the ocean from Agadir in Morocco to Antigua, where Ireland’s ocean rower Gavan Hennigan set his own transatlantic record in January.

That effort required Bertish, 42, to paddle some 43 miles a day on his custom 20ft expedition paddleboard designed by Phil Morrison, the naval architect also responsible for the latest National 18 design.

The Guardian has more on the story HERE.

Published in Surfing

#Surfing - Two Irish surfers are nominated for ride of the year in the 2017 WSL Big Wave Awards after taking on the monster swell at Mullaghmore Head last month.

Conor Maguire and Peter Conroy were in the right place at the right time on 9 February to get a tow-in to the ‘emerald walls’ at the surfing hotspot off Co Sligo.

Bundoran resident Maguire found himself barrelled by the kind of surf usually associated with the big wave paradises of the Pacific.

Meanwhile, Northcore team member Conroy, from Co Clare, caught his own massive wall of water to stake his claim among the world’s top riders.

Both clips were captured by Clem McInerney, who was also on hand to shoot one of American surfer Will Skudin’s two nominated efforts at Mullaghmore — as well as Dublin-based Emirati surfer Mo Hassa Rahma’s spectacular wipeout, as The National reports.

Published in Surfing

#Surfing - It’s no longer such a secret that Ireland has some of the most sought-after swells among the world’s top big wave surfing talent.

But beginners aren’t left out of Surfer Today’s list of '10 surf spots you must visit in Ireland', with Inchydoney in West Cork and Achill Island in Co Mayo noted for their scenery as much as their perfect starter waves.

Sligo features on the list with two wave hotspots, Enniscrone and Easkey — both just west of Sligo town, which again hosts the Shore Shots Irish Surf Festival on the weekend of 22-23 April.

The North West is also the ancestral home of Irish-Australian surf pro Mick Fanning — famous for his close call with a shark off South Africa in 2015 — who recently paid a visit to sample the surf for himself, as documented in this new Rip Curl video:

Published in Surfing

#Surfing - Lahinch-based surfing pro Fergal Smith is the subject of not one but two recent online documentaries — and neither for his big wave exploits.

Smith turned to organic farming after a globetrotting surfing career, teaming up with fellow wave-riders Mitch Corbett, Matt Smith and others to start the Moy Hill Community Garden.

Having grown up around organic farming all his life, Smith saw an opportunity to share what he learned with his fellow surfers — and encourage young people to get interested caring for the land.



Their organic farming collective and its location on the stunning Wild Atlantic Way are the subjects of ‘Beyond the Break’, a short film for The Perennial Plate — a series that aims to highlight local producers around Ireland’s breathtaking landscape, as the Clare Herald reports.

Yet at the third episode of ‘food ranger’ Mark Harris’ Endless Winter Europe series shows, Smith and his surfing mates still make time for the water when the surf is up.

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Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

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