BLUESURFEST Ireland: A Celebration of Inclusion in Sport and Well-being
BLUESURFEST Ireland, a three-day festival held in Co. Donegal, Ireland, from the 22nd to the 24th of September 2023, successfully concluded as part of a European Blue Surf Festivals network. The festival, delivery by local partner Liquid Therapy, aimed to raise awareness of inclusion in sport at local and regional levels, emphasizing the physical and mental health benefits of surfing. BLUESURFEST showcased a diverse range of activities, including inclusive sporting events, music performances, film screenings, and educational events. These activities aimed to engage attendees in conversations about the importance of inclusion in sports and the role of surfing in promoting health and wellbeing.
On Saturday 23rd, a seminar titled ‘The Power of Blue’ was held in the Sandhouse Hotel, Co. Donegal, Ireland. The event, which attracted over 100 attendees, provided a platform to discuss and explore the positive aspects of surf therapy and the benefits of Blue Space. Experts and professionals in the field shared their knowledge and experiences, sparking meaningful discussions and providing attendees with practical information to promote inclusivity in their respective spheres. Talks included Maria Walsh MEP, Dr. Easkey Britton, Dr. Jamie Marshall expert Blue Health researchers, Liquid Therapy’s panel of experts interviewed by Dr. Karl Thomas from Creatovation and Mark Pollock, the well-known explorer and entrepreneur.
On Saturday afternoon, several ‘taster classes’ were held including yoga, introduction to surfing and surf therapy giving participants some practical experiences to take home. In addition, Liquid Therapy’s in house volunteer training, which was informed by the INCLUSEA tool for surfing instruction. This tool, developed during the European project INCLUSEA, aimed to establish common European and international standards for those who lead adapted surfing teaching or surf therapy programmes. (More information at: https://inclusea.eu/resources/ ).
On Saturday afternoon local author and Donegal based pioneer big wave surfer, marine social scientist, Easkey Britton, held a Book Reading & Signing from her latest book, Ebb & Flow. The book is an exploration of water’s power to heal us, inspire us and offer us spiritual meaning and connection with the sea.
On Saturday night, the National Premiere of ‘Shaper Series’ with Gearóid McDaid & Tides Surf Magazine was held in the Eclipse Cinema Bundoran, Co. Donegal. The ‘Shaper Series’ is a short film produced by Tides Surf Magazine, which explores the fascinating world of surfboard shaping. The film offers viewers an intimate glimpse into the lives of Ireland’s most talented shapers as they meticulously craft custom-made surfboards for top Irish professional surfer Gearóid McDaid.
During the premiere, attendees had the opportunity to listen to talks from Gearóid McDaid and several of the shapers featured in the film, as they were interviewed by Katie McCanena, former Irish Windsurfing Champion. These discussions provided valuable insights into the art and craftsmanship behind surfboard shaping, shedding light on the dedication and skill required to create high-quality boards. The event was followed by music from T.A. Narrative with Treehouse Live, bringing the Limerick natives, to Bundoran, for their debut live show in the North-West of Ireland.
Finally, on Sunday, the Liquid Therapy OPEN event, a one-day inclusive surfing event for the whole family was held on Rossnowlagh Beach in Co. Donegal. Over 60 young people participated in a fully inclusive surfing event on Rossnowlagh beach, with support from Liquid Therapy’s team of volunteers.
BLUESURFEST was one of six festivals being hosted in “blue communities” across Spain, France, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, and Italy during Autumn 2023. This collaborative effort aimed to create a network of events that championed inclusion in sport and well-being, leaving a lasting impact on communities throughout Europe.
The success of BLUESURFEST would not have been possible without the support of our sponsors, partners, volunteers, and the local community. Their dedication and commitment to promoting inclusion and well-being have been instrumental in making this festival a resounding success.
Overall, BLUESURFEST 2023 was a remarkable event, the first of its kind in Ireland, that not only celebrated the power of surfing but also served as a platform to raise awareness, educate, and advocate for inclusion in sports.
BLUESURFEST is a European project which is co-financed by the Erasmus + Sport Programme.