Belfast Telegraph

Surfer paddles 30 miles for charity

A world beating surfer has conquered a marathon challenge with a difference by dodging tankers, trawlers and an oil rig to paddle from Northern Ireland to Scotland.

Al Mennie, who has ridden some of the largest waves on record, struggled through fierce currents, over 30 miles of sea for nine hours and 25 minutes, before making landfall on the Isle of Islay.

The big wave surfer set off from the Giant's Causeway in the dark at 6.30am on Tuesday.

"When I got to the rocks I lay down for five minutes and said to myself 'right, you are not getting out of the water until you get to Islay'," he said.

"But it was really tough, tougher than I expected. It was very demotivating at times.

"The final stretch of three miles was the toughest. I could see the cliffs but the current wouldn't let me get to them. Then when I finally broke through, the current sucked me westerly and almost sent me past the end of the island."

In training, Mennie had paddled 23 miles in a time of five hours. Blessed with good weather but choppy seas, the journey along the edge of the North Channel and North Atlantic saw him do the first 12 miles at an average speed of four mph before he ran into trouble.

"It was like hitting a brick wall. Hours four to seven all blended together and I covered very little distance as the currents and tides tried to stop me. My speed dropped to 1.6mph on average at times due to the currents coming at me from different directions," he said. "I was passed by a Danish tanker, several commercial trawlers and an oil rig."

Mennie's successful voyage can now go alongside his surfing exploits which have seen him ride record breaking waves off California, Ireland and Portugal and negotiating huge breakers up to 90ft high.

The charity endurance test raised money for the Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke organisation.

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