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Me and my health: big wave surfer Al Mennie on his lifestyle

Outdoor lifestyle: professional surfer Al Mennie
Outdoor lifestyle: professional surfer Al Mennie
Outdoor lifestyle: professional surfer Al Mennie

By Linda Stewart

The 38-year-old professional big wave surfer Al Mennie (38) from Portrush has pioneered and surfed big wave spots in Ireland and globally, and rode the record-breaking storm on December 1, 2007 at Mullaghmore Head when the biggest swell ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean smashed into Ireland. He lives with fiancee Sara O'Neill and dog Blyton on the north coast.

Q: Do you take regular exercise and if so, what?

A: I do all sorts of stuff and most days I am either surfing, on a paddleboard or swimming in the sea. I also weight train twice a week. I am lucky to live near the beach - when I'm not in the sea, I will be near it walking the dog or something.

Q: What is the worst illness you've had?

A: I can't really think of anything, but from surfing I have had broken ribs, have split my head open several times and have been concussed. I often think I've been very lucky - when you think about the things I have done in surfing it could be a lot worse!

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: I am extremely healthy and am well known for having two diets. I eat very well and see myself as an athlete and need to fuel my body, but you will see me in a well-known fast food chain the odd time.

Before a 'big surf', I like to feel lighter and am just so focused on my head space that I don't really eat too much on the day of a big event. I don't drink energy drinks and train more on a regular basis and try not to change much from my normal plan.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: It has to be sweets - and in particular jelly sweets - I sound like a big child!

Q: Do you drink and smoke, and if so how much?

A: I have never drank or smoked. I get up very early in the mornings to go surfing at first light and don't want to be hungover. I have always been that way and am also a bit of a control freak. I love the outdoor lifestyle and being hungover doesn't appeal to me at all.

Q: Do you take any supplements?

A: I take whey protein which is a powder and dairy product. Every morning I take a shake and add two scoops of protein powder and it just means I don't have to eat chicken breasts to get the protein I need. It is a convenience thing.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: I am not very good at that! I am full on all the time and because I am a surfer, people think I must be chilled out - I am actually really far from being chilled out. At night I'm writing books or working on some sort of plan. The only time I switch off is when I teach martial arts and that's because I am usually talking to a group of people. I definitely do not relax when I am surfing! Sara is exactly the same and we both work on things to all hours of the night. She is a fashion designer and loves what she does. We are lucky that our work is our lifestyle.

Al Mennie surfing at Portballintrae
Al Mennie surfing at Portballintrae

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: I am a terrible sleeper. I usually go to bed about midnight and get up around 5am in the morning. So I get somewhere between four and seven hours sleep maximum. Sara on the other hand could sleep upside down!

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: I haven't really slowed down enough to think about that. My granddad died when he was 60 and my dad when he was 50 and I sometimes wonder how long is left on the clock. Because they both died young, I have lots of people keeping an eye on me. I don't really think about getting physically old.

Q: What is your go-to product that keeps you feeling healthy?

A: I remember seeing a social media post from a personal trainer about drinking honey and lemon. So every day I get a whole lemon and mix this with a few spoons of honey and hot water. Apparently it cleans out your insides and is good for detoxing.

I am outdoors all the time and am fairly robust when it comes to getting colds, but this past winter I have had no colds or anything and think this is because of the honey and lemon - it is very simple to do.

Al Mennie features in Tide which concludes on BBC Two Northern Ireland this Sunday, June 16, at 9.45pm. Episodes one and two are available to watch on BBC iPlayer

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