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Discover SUP hosted the second running of The Eye Race, the final event in the 2023-2024 Irish Winter SUP Race Series, on April 13th, 2024. The race, which took place in the waters of Howth Sound and Ireland's Eye, Dublin, was a true test of endurance, and 16 stand-up paddle board racers from all over the island of Ireland competed.

Despite an ominous forecast that predicted high winds from the West and intense gusts, the race management team spotted a window and made a wise decision to move the proceedings earlier in the day. This schedule change had a knock-on effect of putting everyone on the challenging side of the local tidal streams, meaning the final leg of the course would have wind and tide against the racers.

12 racers lined up on the start line, divided into two classes: Class 1 for boards 11’6” - 14’ over a 10.5km course and Class 2 for boards 11’6” and less over a 5.5km course. From early on, the Class 1 Males were led out by Ross McGarry, who developed a commanding lead over his nearest rival, Patrick McCormack.

In the Class 1 Females, Mary Dowling led out Carla Milne; however, midway through the race, Milne found some extra speed and strength to reel Dowling in and swap positions. In the Class 2 Males, Colm Kenny, who has had great success across the series, was seriously challenged from early on by Olan Savage, a new racer to the series and The Eye Race.

Discover SUP hosted the second running of The Eye RaceDiscover SUP hosted the second running of The Eye Race Photo: Annraoi Blaney

As the race progressed, the wind speeds changed significantly, developing a severe chop and leading to retirements even if they were through gritted teeth. However, seven racers crossed the finish line, pushing hard against the wind and tide. In the end, McGarry held onto his commanding lead unchallenged to win the Class 1 Males. After a retirement by Milne, Dowling paddled on to reach the race time limit to take victory in the Class 1 Females. In the Class 2 Males, Savage crossed the line just over 6 minutes ahead of Kenny to take first place.

The Eye Race was held in very challenging conditions Photo: Annraoi BlaneyThe Eye Race was held in very challenging conditions Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Eoin Kernan of Discover SUP, and Race Director, commented after the race, “The success of this second running of The Eye Race is absolutely down to the team around me. In very challenging conditions, we were able to deliver an enjoyable and safe race, which was commended by the racers."

The race was held in the comfort of Howth Yacht Club, where a prize-giving for both The Eye Race and the overall series was held. Kernan also invited everyone to come and check out Howth, a great location for SUP from both a racing and touring perspective, with Discover SUP.


Class 1 - Female
1 - Mary Dowling - 02:15:00
RET - Carla Milne

Class 1 - Male
1 - Ross McGarry - 01:00:51
2 - Patrick McCormack - 01:19:41
RET - Steven Bishop
RET - Martin Rowe
RET - Patrick Murtagh
DNS - Darren Cox
DNS - Morgan Bushe

Class 2 - Female
RET - Karen Concannon*
DNS - Sinead Murphy

Class 2 - Male
1 - Olan Savage - 53:33
2 - Colm Kenny - 59:42
3 - Iain Hall - 01:17:58
4 - Ciaran Shorthall - 01:39:15
DNS - Declan Gordon*

*Unofficial class participant due to board size


Race Director - Eoin Kernan
Safety Officer - Colm Murphy
Safety Team - Daniel Mikus
Safety Team - Marin O’Carroll
Safety Team - Paul Phelan
Beachmaster - Jay Gavin
Start / Finish Line - Harriette Lynch
Start / Finish Line - Elaine Rowan

Published in Howth YC
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The RNLI has teamed up with British Canoeing to encourage people to make safety a priority before taking to the water.

And echoing their safety advice is a kayaker who claims his trip to the coast may have ended in tragedy had he not been carrying the correct kit.

The summer safety campaign is in response to figures showing the number of lives saved while kayaking or canoeing by RNLI crews more than doubled last year in comparison to 2021.

Stand-up paddleboarding has continued to increase in popularity as last year, RNLI lifeboat crews saw a 21% rise in launches to paddleboarders across the UK and Ireland, in comparison to 2021.

It is a particular issue on Anglesey, where RNLI lifeboat crews at Trearddur Bay, Moelfre, Holyhead and Beaumaris have seen the number of people rescued while taking part in these activities rocket from six in 2021 to 37 in 2022.

RNLI crews are urging visitors to the coast to make safety a priority this summer. It’s a message shared by kayaker Guy Lowdes from Llandegla, who was returning from the Skerries near Holyhead with a group of 10 other kayakers back in December when he got into trouble.

Guy says: “I’m an experienced coastal kayaker and never did I expect to find myself in this situation. My kayak was capsized by a rogue wave and I found myself in the water on a very cold December afternoon. The tide pushed me one way and my boat the other, I must have been in the water about 20 minutes.”

Guy’s friend was able to remain with him and thankfully had a personal locator beacon (PLB) which he used to call for help. A rescue operation was mounted including a helicopter and RNLI crews from Holyhead and Moelfre.

“I’m just so grateful we had a means of calling for help, so we could alert the RNLI to exactly where we were located,” Guy says. “I was starting to feel incredibly cold and poorly despite wearing a dry suit. I’m convinced if I’d have been there any longer with the failing light, we may never have been found.

“Once the RNLI arrived and I was taken onboard Holyhead’s lifeboat, the adrenaline stopped. I felt very unwell and cold. I’m so pleased to be here today sharing my story and hoping people take heed of the RNLI’s advice and never set up without having the necessary equipment. My story just goes to show how dangerously unpredictable the sea can be.”

The RNLI and British Canoeing are raising awareness of how to stay safe on the water when planning to stand-up paddleboard, kayak or canoe on any type of water.

Their safety advice is to:

  • Wear a buoyancy aid or personal flotation device.
  • Carry a means of communication to call for help in an emergency.
  • Check the weather before heading out.
  • Tell others of your plans so they know when you will be returning.
  • Paddle within your ability.

The Anglesey coastline in Wales has become a mecca for people wanting to take to the sea and experience these popular activities, but local RNLI crews are encouraging people to heed by their advice.

Vince Jones, RNLI mechanic at Moelfre says they have been inundated with calls to stand-up paddleboarders in particular.

“We want people to enjoy our stunning coastline but are urging people to think carefully before setting out,” he says. “Many of our calls are to people being blown out to sea in offshore winds. We ask people to think carefully about the weather and tides before setting off and ensuring they have a means of calling for help.”

For more information on how to stay safe during paddlesports, see the RNLI website HERE.

Published in Water Safety
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It was that time of year again for the keen Stand Up Paddlers to get into the Santa and Elf costumes and take to the water in Bangor Harbour on Belfast Lough.

Eighty-two went afloat and raised £600 for the local lifeboat with safety cover by Safer Waters NI. All that effort makes them hungry and Iain McCarthy of SUP Hub thanked the Zero waste market store Lightfoot for the refreshments as well as Bangor Marina for permission to use the Harbour and the SUP Hub Team for the volunteering time to help make this run safely.

The winner of Fastest Santa was Kelly Marie Wood, and the fastest Juniors were Theo and Jonas Hamilton. Fancy dress winners shared the prizes - Sylvia Watt, Phil Forsythe, Karen Sykes, Christine, Gemma and Maggie McCullough.

This was the fourth year of the Santa SUP at Bangor HarbourThis was the fourth year of the Santa SUP at Bangor Harbour

This was the fourth year of Santa SUP, and in that time it has seen over 250 Santas take to the water. Iain McCarthy, who runs the company, was delighted with the response: “We have raised over £2500 over the years for the Lifeboat, and we hope to make a fixture of this event on the first weekend of December every year to continue supporting our local lifeboat team, promote our city and celebrate the good fortune we have to be surrounded by such brilliant bodies of water”.

Published in Belfast Lough
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SUPhub NI is well known for its Santa SUP but this year the Halloween Social paddle in Bangor Harbour on Belfast Lough exceeded expectations as it was slotted in at short notice, taking advantage of a weather window on the evening of Sunday 30th when 28 paddlers braved the cold.

Iain McCarthy, who runs Suphub said “We were delighted with the turnout for such a last-minute event. Huge thanks to everyone who took part; even with such short notice, this was a cracking turnout with some particularly impressive costumes”. He continued – “Thanks also to the Lightfoot Zero Waste Market for the pumpkin soup and hot chocolate”.

The Halloween Social paddle in Bangor Harbour on Belfast Lough had costume awards for all agesThe Halloween Social paddle in Bangor Harbour on Belfast Lough had costume awards for all ages

A double win in the race and costume awards went to Jilly Sykes, and Theo Hamilton won the Junior race.

£220 was raised for Bangor Lifeboat. Iain McCarthy added; “ Given that the lifeboat volunteer crew had just finished a 20-hour rotation SAR operation in Belfast Lough with multiple agencies, we were delighted to raise some money and show support for our local lifeboats”.

The next big dressing-up opportunity will be the 2022 Santa SUP on 3rd December, when it’s hoped that last year’s turnout of 96 will be beaten.

£220 was raised for Bangor Lifeboat at The Halloween Social paddle in Bangor Harbour on Belfast Lough£220 was raised for Bangor Lifeboat at The Halloween Social paddle in Bangor Harbour on Belfast Lough

Published in Belfast Lough

In the first of three extracts from Lorna Siggins’ new book, Search and Rescue, the journalist and regular contributor recounts the harrowing ordeal of two Galway cousins, Sara Feeney and Ellen Glynn, who were reported missing on 12 August 2020 after they went paddle boarding off Furbo beach in Co Galway…

Air temperatures of around 18 degrees had fallen to 15 degrees
 during the night. Even though the sea was warm – at around
 18 degrees – the estimates for survival at sea in normal clothing would be around twenty hours. The two women weren’t aware of this, but they were well aware of their vulnerability in bikinis and lifejackets.

Ellen was worried about her own lack of tolerance for cold, 
but the water had been warm that evening. They kept checking the
shore lights, paddling and waiting, and still feeling bad about ‘all the hassle we were causing’.

Neither wanted to say what they really thought. Ellen, who
was a little stressed, felt an uncontrollable urge to burst into song. She belted out the lyrics of Taylor Swift’s ‘Exile’. ‘At first I’d say Sara thought I was a bit insane,’ she said later. ‘But she just sorta started singing along … it was a distraction … that was just before the first boat came.’

Sara recalled: ‘We definitely knew there was activity and people looking for us. At one point, a boat lit a flare close to us to signal to the helicopter … We thought they would pick up the reflective strips on the boards, or on our buoyancy aids. … Not long after that, we saw the first helicopter. It felt like they were very close … You get that initial sense of relief and then … we would scream and roar and no one could hear.’

They continued to paddle, all the while straining to identify the lights on the shore. In the downdraught caused by the helicopters and the wash from searching vessels, they struggled at times to stay on the boards. Ellen had fallen off once already, earlier in the night. Instinctively sensing they needed to keep their spirits up, they chatted about what they would most like to do when they arrived back. Ellen said she was really looking forward to a hot shower and getting into comfy pyjamas. They talked about how lucky they were to have their lifejackets on, how people were looking for them, how they were going to be found and how everything would be fine.

Father and son Patrick and Morgan Oliver, who rescued Ellen Glynn and Sara Feeney after they were found off Inis Oírr in August 2020. With the Olivers are Galway RNLI lifeboat crew members (from left to right) Olivia Byrne, Sean King, Ian O’Gorman, Cathal Byrne, Stefanie Carr, Declan Killilea and Lisa McDonagh who were out all night on the search | Credit: Joe O’ShaughnessyFather and son Patrick and Morgan Oliver, who rescued Ellen Glynn and Sara Feeney after they were found off Inis Oírr in August 2020. With the Olivers are Galway RNLI lifeboat crew members (from left to right) Olivia Byrne, Sean King, Ian O’Gorman, Cathal Byrne, Stefanie Carr, Declan Killilea and Lisa McDonagh who were out all night on the search | Credit: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Ellen remembered at one point thinking about how cold it 
must be for those sleeping out every night with no homes to go
 to. She only had to be ‘there for one night’, she told herself. The line from ‘Exile’ about seeing ‘this film before’ and not liking the ending kept looping around in her head, and she sent silent mind messages to her mum, reassuring her that she was okay.

While on the water, they witnessed the meteor shower and
marvelled at bioluminescent light for a time as the seas were lit up by the chemical reactions of millions of tiny marine organisms.

‘So I remember, when we saw the shooting stars, I’d always
wanted to see them, so I thought that was really cool, and then the plankton in the water,’ Ellen said. ‘They’d been in the water a year before that, and I didn’t get to see them, so I was kind of thinking in my head, “Am I getting to see all this stuff now because I’m going to die?”’

Sara said: ‘With the meteor shower, between the two of us there was some amount of wishes made. To be honest, I’d sacrifice a
meteor shower and bioluminescence just to get home safe...We were singing, talking, anything we could to keep our moods up. If fear was seeping in, one of us would reassure the other...

‘It was horrible to be out there and realise everyone would
 be worried sick, and it felt really awful that everyone spent
 so many hours looking for us. I think if we had panicked at 
all, things could have been very different. I know if Ellen 
had panicked, I would have found it very difficult.’

The weather deteriorated and the rain was so heavy that it hurt.
 They had stopped seeing any lights of vessels, any search activity now. Their last sight of a helicopter was just before the lightning storm at around 4.20 a.m. When the aircraft flew off, they knew they would have to stick it out to first light.

At that point, Sara had a clear memory of being enveloped 
in a fear that she could not articulate, knowing the impact any 
mention of this might have on her cousin: ‘The chances aren’t too good for you if the helicopter couldn’t be out in those conditions … you know … because the size of the helicopter compared to us and all we have is the boards … You see the helicopter going in, because of the stormy weather, and that didn’t bode well for us. We didn’t even verbalise what might happen, or what we might both be thinking. Ellen probably had total understanding of what was going on, but neither of us really communicated that to each other … we didn’t really say that out loud at the time. If we had started talking like that, it was just another level of hopelessness we didn’t need.’

The Galway RNLI inshore lifeboat returning after the cousins were found on their paddle boards off the Aran island of Inis Oírr | Credit: Joe O’ShaughnessyThe Galway RNLI inshore lifeboat returning after the cousins were found on their paddle boards off the Aran island of Inis Oírr | Credit: Joe O’Shaughnessy

They lay down on the boards, trying to stay as stable as possible in waves of up to 2 metres in height, hoping they could just wait the night out. Ellen thought they were being carried towards Kinvara, though she wasn’t sure.

Sara had a sense her cousin might be falling asleep, so she played word games with her to keep her alert and urged her to kick her legs every so often to keep warm.


The Galway RNLI crew came alongside Barna pier during the
 night for extra fuel and a crew change. By 5 a.m. local fishing
 vessels were out.

Back on Cappagh road, the light came on in Mary Feeney’s
 bedroom, waking her and her husband, Tommy. Her eldest, 
Karen, and youngest, Donal, were at the foot of her bed. They 
explained that they had some news. Her two granddaughters were 
missing at sea. As she tried to make sense of the information,
 Mary remembered giving Karen and Donal a couple of lamps to 
take back out with them.

Back in Galway lifeboat station, co-ordinator Mike Swan
 arrived around 6 a.m. to check in with his colleague Barry Heskin, who had been on duty throughout the night. The situation was not looking good, given the night’s bad weather on the bay. Some of the lifeboat crew who had been out in the early hours had crashed in chairs or were lying on the pool table to grab some sleep. Breakfast rolls had sustained them during a long night at sea and Swan had organised a box of the same for colleagues on the RNLI Aran lifeboat.

Sailor and yacht chandler Pierce Purcell received an early morning call and set his energies to putting the word out among the sailing clubs, while the family put out posts on social media, appealing for help. Several fishing vessels contacted John O’Donnell on the Aran lifeboat to get advice on where to search. Ferries serving the Aran Islands based in Doolin and in Ros-a-Mhíl also declared they would assist. Several private pilots – John Kiely and Patrick Curran – joined in with a light plane and helicopter respectively, as did Aer Arann on its routine flights between Indreabhán and the islands.

An Irish Coast Guard S-92 landing at University Hospital Galway with cousins Ellen Glynn and Sara Feeney on board, after they were flown from Inis Oírr | Credit: Joe O’ShaughnessyAn Irish Coast Guard S-92 landing at University Hospital Galway with cousins Ellen Glynn and Sara Feeney on board, after they were flown from Inis Oírr | Credit: Joe O’Shaughnessy

‘We took one of our ferries out from Doolin at 9 a.m. – the
Jack B – with Captain James Fennell, my nephew Martin Garrihy
and myself on board. Island Ferries was also searching in between sailings out of Ros-a-Mhíl, and Bill O’Brien of Doolin Ferries,’ Donie Garrihy said.

‘We scoured around Inis Oírr and were then told to search between Inis Oírr and Inis Meáin as far down as the lighthouse, and then got a call to double back up from Inis Oírr towards Spiddal.’

The Oranmore-Maree Coastal Search Unit became involved, as did the Marine Institute. The institute had expertise in modelling, combining tide, currents and weather to predict drift patterns on the bay. Over the first daylight hours, there were a number of reported sightings: several kayakers out searching and several objects that turned out to be lobster pots were mistaken for the paddleboarders.

Galway Bay’s name belies a sea area as large as the county. As
Mike Swan explained later: ‘It is like driving from Galway east to Ballinasloe, and then searching from Loughrea in the south-east to Athenry to the north-west … a big area, a load of fields, and then you are looking for two girls and it’s night-time. If there’s a wave at all and someone is 100 metres away,
there’s no way in hell you’re gonna see them … you only see them when you’re on the top of the wave … and you must remember too that the boat they’re in might be on the bottom of the wave. So it is all about searching slowly and methodically …’

Friends, relatives and people who didn’t know the families drove 
many miles to join the search, some having left their homes in the middle of the night. Deirdre was aware of her daughter’s resilience, and the fact that both young women were, as her sister Helen put it, two smart, sensible girls. She had an inexplicably strong sense of hope and, for some reason, she couldn’t get a Taylor Swift song out of her head.

From Chapter 17, “Why aren’t they turning around?”. Search and Rescue: True Stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 by Lorna Siggins is published by Merrion Press, €16.95/£14.99 PBK.

Published in Book Review

Skerries RNLI were tasked Wednesday morning (25 May) by Dublin Coast Guard following 999 calls reporting a paddle boarder in distress in the water off Bettystown beach.

Shortly before 11.30am the volunteers in Skerries launched their Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Louis Simson. The crew plotted a course for Bettystown beach and proceeded as quickly as possible through difficult weather conditions.

Dublin Coast Guard had also tasked the Irish Coast Guard’s Dublin-based helicopter Rescue 116, and just as the lifeboat was arriving on scene they had begun winching a woman from the water.

She had been blown out to sea on her paddle board and was reportedly exhausted and very cold.

Rescue 116 then landed on the beach and with the assistance of Drogheda Coast Guard Unit the woman was transferred to an awaiting ambulance.

To prevent any hazards to navigation, or any additional 999 calls regarding the paddle board, Dublin Coast Guard requested its recovery and the lifeboat subsequently located it just over a mile away before returning to station.

Speaking about the callout, Skerries RNLI’s Gerry Canning said: “This is a great example of all the rescue services working together to ensure the best possible outcome.

“We would advise anyone intending to be on or near the water to check the weather and tides for the local area.”

Published in Rescue

Larne RNLI in Northern Ireland launched to the aid of a group of paddle boarders who were caught in an offshore breeze at the weekend.

The volunteer crew were requested to launch their inshore lifeboat by Belfast Coastguard at 2.09pm on Sunday (8 May) following a report that five people on two paddle boards were struggling to get back to shore.

The lifeboat was launched from East Antrim Boat Club into a moderate sea with an offshore breeze and made its way to the last reported location of the group at the entrance of Brown’s Bay off Islandmagee.

Having located the casualties and their paddle boards towards the middle of Brown’s Bay, the lifeboat crew observed that the offshore breeze was blowing both boards out to sea and that the group were having difficulty trying to return to safety.

Two of the group managed to make their own way back to the beach unaided, while the remaining three were transferred into the lifeboat.

Upon returning the casualties and their paddle boards to Brown’s Bay beach, they were handed into the care of Portmuck’s coastguard team.

Speaking following the callout, Larne RNLI helm Scott Leitch said: “We are very grateful to the member of the public who realised that something was wrong and called 999 and asked for the coastguard and we were delighted to help.

“As the weather gets warmer and more people travel to the coast, we would remind everyone planning a trip to sea or an activity on the water, to always carry a means of communication so they have a way of contacting the shore and to always wear a lifejacket or flotation device.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
Tagged under

A woman has been arrested after the death of a fourth person following a paddleboarding tragedy in South Wales last weekend.

As Wales Online reports, three people died at the scene after an incident on the morning of Saturday 30 October on the Cleddau River in Haverfordwest — north of Pembroke and just 100km across St George’s Channel from Rosslare.

The three were later named Nicola Wheatley (40), Morgan Rogers (24) and Paul O’Dwyer (42). O’Dwyer is said to have died while attempting to rescue the others.

A fourth person, Andrea Powell (41), was recovered from the scene in critical condition but Dyfed-Powys Police confirmed this morning (Saturday 6 November) that she had died in hospital.

In the same statement, the police also confirmed that they has arrested a woman from the South Wales area “on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter as part of the investigation. She has been released under investigation.”

Wales Online has more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update
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Portrush RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat was launched this afternoon (Thursday 3 June) to reports of stand-up paddle boarders in difficulty off Ramore Head.

Due to the fact that the crew had already assembled for some training, they were able to launch immediately just before 3pm.

Conditions were optimal on Northern Ireland’s North Coast today, with excellent visibility and a smooth sea but a strong offshore wind which made it difficult for the five paddle boarders to return to shore.

When the lifeboat arrived on scene, three of the boarders were alongside a local fishing vessel and the lifeboat crew picked the remaining two up.

All five paddle boarders were transferred to the lifeboat and brought back to Portrush Harbour before 3.30pm, where they disembarked exhausted but otherwise well.

Beni McAllister, lifeboat operations manager at Portrush RNLI, said: “These paddle boarders were lucky, in that the offshore winds were quite strong and the five were exhausted trying to get back to shore.

“The local fishing boat was on scene and assisted until the lifeboat arrived. The fact that we had a crew ready to go meant we could respond very quickly.

“We would ask anyone planning a trip to sea to check the weather conditions, especially tides and winds to make sure it is safe to go out. Always have a means of communication with you and make sure someone knows when you will be expected back.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Skerries RNLI rescued two stand-up paddle boarders after strong currents and Force 6 offshore winds prevented them from making their way back to shore.

Shortly before 2.30pm yesterday afternoon (Sunday 28 March), a retired Skerries RNLI volunteer noticed a man and woman struggling to make their way ashore on their paddle boards near Red Island in Skerries.

He alerted the lifeboat operations manager and following a brief discussion it was decided that the pair were not making any progress.

Dublin Coast Guard were contacted and the decision was taken to page the volunteer crew and launch the Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Louis Simson.

The crew rounded the headland at Red Island and arrived on scene in a matter of minutes, funding the man and woman both extremely tired from fighting against the wind and tide.

They were taken on board the lifeboat along with their paddle boards. A first-aid assessment was carried out but aside from being exhausted they did not require any further medical assistance, and the pair were returned safely to the beach at the lifeboat station.

Speaking about the callout, volunteer lifeboat press officer Gerry Canning said: “It doesn’t matter how good your equipment is, or how prepared you are, things can still go wrong at sea.

“We would remind anyone going to sea to carry a means of contacting the shore for help, even if you do not intend to go far. Something as simple as a phone in a waterproof pouch can make all the difference.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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