It's Monday morning 5am. I'm getting up to catch a bus to Garretstown. The one spot I researched to have some waves and a surfschool that could hook me up with a surfboard & wetsuit to fit the conditions: It's October in Ireland and I thought it'd be a good time to put another country on the list of places I have surfed...
Little did I know that nobody wants to surf in Ireland in October. Apparently all surf rentals are closed. Hope remained though and I was riding that bus in hopes of catching a break.
The busdrive was magical. The bus driver stopped at random places to let people on and off. At some point he stopped and ran to get an icecream. I mean, why not right? When we arrived at the stop, I figured I ask this kind soul how I can get to the surf rental... His response I'll never forget:
"You want to go surf right now? Well, you could try to walk to the place you're looking to rent a surfboard from, but it'll most likely be closed. You need to walk straight for half an hour... then you need to take a right. If you miss the right, you're basically lost."
It was at this stage I started losing hope. I figured my endeavors were futile and I perhaps should give up on my surf expedition... I think the driver saw the confusion in my eyese when he was passing along his directions and so he came up with something even better.
"Sit tight, I'm gonna have a little break now... but you're more than welcome to stay on the bus and I'll try to give the guys a call later. I don't have their number, but someone might just jump on the bus and have advice."
Can you believe it? Here I was, pretty much lost in Ireland and this driver offers his company during his break time to figure this one out with me. He says he surfs a little once in a while himself and he knows there might be other spots too. A little while later, people start jumping on the bus and the driver's break is over. He starts litteraly questioning every single person who jumped on the bus if they surf and/or if they know the number of the surf rental I wanted to go to. With success! A girl had the number, and a phone call later we have the owner on the line. He mentions that the store is closed, but if I came from that far for a surf sesh, he was gonna do everything in his power to get me in the water!
This is where the bus driver offers to drive me all the way back to where I started. When we got back, the driver gave me directions to a surf store where there's another guy who'll give me further directions. The bus driver stops me on the way out after I thanked him for all his help and asked what I owed him for the bus ride back...
"You know what? Show me your ticket... Hmm, I see, it's not stamped. Just go back to the bus station and tell the clerck you made a mistake on your ticket purchase and he'll give you your money back!"
I couldn't believe it. Here I was, thinking I made a massive mistake getting on this 5am bus to go surf with little to no chances of actually catching a wave and I meet these amazing guides who just send me along the way... always getting a little closer to my goal. All I needed was a little patience and trust that it will all work out.
We arrive at the store and I explain my story so far to the lady at the counter. She laughs and tells me to sit tight. The owner of the store will drop by and will need to drive his girl to school. He'll take you along for the ride and drop you off at his surf spot. He'll lend you the gear you need and his wife will drop by after your session to pick you up and drop you off at the bus station to go back home!
I'm just awestruck. These people went out of their way to help me get into the water. When we arrive at the surf spot, the store owner wishess me a good session and informs me his wife will meet me in 2 hours. I'm all alone now. I'm thinking what did I get myself into? I've never surfed this spot and one of the rules is to never surf alone. I check the conditions and it seems brutal. I got a winter wetsuit, gloves, booties and a hood to protect me from the cold. I check how to get in the water. I trust the guy claiming it's safe. I go in and I have one of the roughest surf sessions I had in my life.
I'm basically struggling to catch a wave and I felt there was this rip that was just not safe. After a few tries, I decide I call it quits and get out. I'm surounded by a flock of birds swarming around in the evening sun. It has been a long day. The session was rough but satisfying. At this point, two other surfers came out and they jump in the water. The rip I was afraid of was actually a perfect little rip that helped them out and pushed them into the perfect spot. It was amazing to look at. If I had more energy left, I would've joined, but I was grateful for the lesson. It's always better to be with other surfers or at least know the spot. I'm happy with my feet in the sand and ready for a good night rest, content I could cross surfing in Ireland off the list.
This is where my ride came in. The store owner's wife dropped me off in town and told me I best wait in the only bar in town no to get cold. The bus stop was just right outside. The day was not done with me yet and the night only just began.
I go in and I see 4 senior men at the bar stools. Figuring it would be nicer to sit at the bar rather than at a table on my own, I take a seat a few seats away from them and order a Guiness. Of course these locals knew what was going on... A stranger on an odd night in their bar? We need to invite this guy over to join us! This is were I met Gerard and the guys. Gerard was a pheasant hunter and we bonded quickly as I informed him about my grandfather being called Gerard. The guys quickly started buying me beers and Gerard told me about his grandson my age. At some point, he runs outside and he proudly presents the bounty of the day.
I'm having such a good time, I realize I have to get going not to miss my bus. A few moments later... Gerard stepped out. He looks at me with what I can only describe as lots of emotions in his eyes. He walks to me, wordless... and shakes my hand. When I realized he put a FIFTHY euro bill in my hand and looked up to ask why? He just shook his head, nodded and walked back into the bar.
I can only explain it to myself until today that he thought I was a tired lonely traveler, who could use the money more than he did and he probably hoped that one day, when his grandson was out there in a position like my own... his kindness he showed to me would be passed onto his grandson by another. To this day, I will always remember Gerard and will treasure his sentiment to pay it forward when I'm old and a kid could use a miracle, or in my case, just a kind soul who just made his day unbelievable.
"May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks. May your heart be as light as a song. May each day bring you bright, happy hours that stay with you all the year long." – Irish Blessing