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Meet the people who’ll promise you an active summer

 

Longing for something exciting and different to do over the coming weeks? Lee Henry talks to a surf school owner in Portrush, the manager of a Co Londonderry outdoor activity centre and a mother who organises races in great places.

‘I love being by the sea, it has a calming effect and the North Coast waves are world class’

Carl Russell (35) is owner and  manager of Troggs Surf School in Portrush. He says:

I took over Troggs Surf School in 2005 and became manager and owner two years later. Since then, the school has progressed and is now the only award-winning Quiksilver and ASI surf school in Northern Ireland.  

The activities we specialise in are surfing and stand up paddleboarding (SUP), for people all different ages and abilities.

We have three staff in surf school at present and we are all ASI level 1 or 2 Surf and Paddleboard Instructors with RLSS beach lifeguard qualifications.

The surf school is open all year round for lessons, but prime time bigger surf is from September through to April. Conditions outside those months are generally good for first timers or beginners.

We see a big pick up in July and August. The equipment that we use means that people can surf all year round without being too cold. Wetsuit technology is changing the game. 

We have all kinds of people who come surfing with us, from kids in our camps to businesses, sporting teams and tourists from all areas of the world.

At kids camp, we spend time focusing on surf safety and awareness, which is essential for kids to stay safe when they go to the beach. 

Ulster and Irish rugby players like Ruan Pienaar, Andrew Trimble and Johann Muller have surfed with us.

I think Andrew did his first lesson with myself and if I'm honest he was one of the fastest learners I've ever seen. I'm pretty sure he still surfs.

We've also had all the top NW 200 riders come along for a session and they were pretty fearless.

Most recently we had the Mini Lions rugby team.

They did a team building session with us before they went off t o play in New Zealand. 

With regards to the surf, the North Coast has its world-class days, without a doubt.

Having surfed may places all over the world, I have caught waves here on the North Coast that are as good as anywhere.

It may not happen quite as regularly as it does elsewhere, but when it's good, this is the place I want to be with my friends, encouraging and laughing at each other.

It's a breath-taking place with a large number of world class beaches in a pretty confined space. There is a great community spirit here and I love being a part of that. 

"We also get big waves over the winter.

"All of Ireland offers fantastic surf and people perhaps don't realise that. 

During the summer months it's warmer and water temperature generally goes up, and I feel people are more attracted to outdoor sports at this time of year.

Many of the people who come to us like a challenge and follow a more active lifestyle.  

I love being near and in the sea. It has a calming effect on me and to be able to combine my passion with my career is special.

I love to see people's performance levels progress from something that my team or I have done.

To see people have fun and enjoy being active is great."

Troggs Surf School, tel: 028 7082 2335 or visit troggssurfschool.com

‘Many families use us as a base to tour the rest of the country’

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Family fun: Hugh McCloy with wife Jolene and daughter Ruby

The Jungle NI general manager Hugh McCloy (37) lives in Draperstown with his wife Jolene and daughter Ruby (11). He says:

The Jungle opened in Magherafelt in 2005 as a farm diversification project that transformed a dairy farm into Northern Ireland's first combat paintball site. Since then, we have grown extensively and now offer lots of activities for people of all ages and abilities. Our crowning moment was winning the Northern Ireland Tourist Board's Best Visitor Experience in 2016.

We have a tree-based ropes course and we're also the first adventure centre in Ireland to introduce downhill zorbing. It's great craic. We have forest segways and llama trekking set over five kilometres of trails, clay pigeon shooting, archery for the crack shots and Fright Night adult Halloween experiences for the crack pots.

We dedicate Sundays throughout the year to families. Prices vary according to each activity from £5 per person for the Gruffalo Trial to £35 for the full Tree Top Adventure for adults.

We do find the summer period busier. As we have developed onsite glamping, we see more and more families use the Jungle as a base to tour the rest of Northern Ireland. Being centrally located, we are well placed for those who might want to explore the rest of the country during their summer holidays.

We see a heavy influx of school kids between May and June and because we can tailor our activities to suit community and youth groups, we work closely with Royal National Institute for Blind People and various autism groups which use our services quite regularly. We have specially trained staff for all our activities.

We accept that we do have activities that have a risk attached, but with properly trained staff we are able to risk assess and limit any chance of things not going to plan.

We have had famous faces visit over the years. Stephen Nolan and the late Gerry Anderson came zorbing once. They both had a lot of fun.

Former footballer Gary Lineker and his ex-wife Danielle Bux also visited, as did actor Luke Evans, who starred in the Hollywood remake of Clash of the Titans in 2010. He was fantastic, although unfortunately we couldn't afford the most recent incarnation of Dracula to act in our Fright Night Halloween event for adults.

We do have other famous faces visit though I can't tell you who they are as they come here to get away from the hustle and bustle of public life.

We have 75 beds in our residential building and over the summer we will see groups from Ireland and England come to stay and take part in activities.

We have hosted some of the UK's largest businesses including PWC, BT and McCloskey's Engineering, and we can cater for groups of 1,000 people.

We have themed our corporate days to make them more attractive and different with the Crystal Challenge, Jungle Olympic and Get Me Out of Here. We also host hen and stags all year round. Some of our activities aren't for the faint of heart.

As a family, Jolene, Ruby and I get the opportunity to enjoy the activities on occasion. Ruby has been a great test dummy for many of the kids' activities. And during Fright Night we get the opportunity to test out our acting skills to see just how scary we can be. It's brilliant. Oddly, I find that acting and scaring people is one of the best stress relievers known to mankind.

Once we get our Christmas Wonderland over us, we take a few days off and get back into action. Being one of the largest adventure centres of its kind in Ireland, we don't really have an off-season, though it can be a little quieter in January, which allows us to prepare for the year ahead. Summer is definitely a great time for us."

Jungle NI, tel: 028 8674 8881 or visit thejungleni.com

‘We’re very lucky in Northern Ireland as we’ve so many beautiful places to run in’

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Game of runs: Carol McMenamin and running at the Dark Hedges

Born2Run co-founder Carol McMenamin (54) lives in Dundrum with her husband Terry and daughters Ciara (20) and Katy (17). She says:

W e started Born2Run five years ago. Our first race was the Castleward Challenge near Downpatrick and our motto is 'great races in great places', so all of our races take place in beautiful locations, all multi-terrain, off-road events.

I was into running beforehand. Three of us founded Born2Run, myself and husband and wife Gerard and Jane Roe, and we were all, and still are, members of the Murlough Athletics Club, which is based in Dundrum, Co Down. We were all recreational runners - you wouldn't call us elite athletes at all - and we could see that there was a gap in the market.

There were a lot of people organising races around the country that were well organised but didn't take place in particularly attractive locations, or they were at good locations but weren't particularly well organised.

So we thought that there was a gap for the type of events that we now do, which are really experiential days out for all the runners involved.

We've built up a group of runners who come to most if not all of our events throughout the year, including the Belfast Telegraph Run Forest Run series, which happens in winter. We have a full calendar of events now, 15 a year, and it's just growing and growing in popularity.

It's not a club so we don't have members, but with the Sea to Sky event that happened in Newcastle last Friday, for example, we had between 800 and 1,000 runners, from all over Ireland and some travelling from abroad, Italy and the like, because the run is so beautiful.

It's a 5k and 10k race that starts on the promenade in Newcastle and goes up into the foothills of the Mourne mountains and then comes back down. It's a real mix of terrain. So over the course of a year we would have between 10-15,000 runners.

I think the popularity of running recently is in part down to the recession. It was free, people could exercise and all they needed was a pair of trainers. But then people see their friends getting fit and healthy and they think, "Well, if she can do it, I can do it!" And that's why Born2Run has taken off. Running used to be more club-focused, elitist, but now it has really opened up to a cross section of people. That's its appeal.

We do see a pick up in the summer. All you have to do is look around to see that there are more people out running in the summer months. But our winter races, including the Run Forest Run series, are hugely popular, maybe because there's not much else on at that time of year.

In the summer, though, runners are spoilt for choice. We're very lucky in Northern Ireland, we have so many beautiful places in which to run. Our next event is Dam Busters in the Silent Valley on August 19. A 5k, 10k and a half marathon, and all are welcome.

Find out how to enter on our website, born2run.com

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