The Shambles interview (questions by Shane Meehan)
Shambles, you have a degree in the Physics and Chemistry of Advanced Materials and then you retreated to the wilderness to study traditional Irish music. You could be earning big bucks today but you chose to put bodyboarding first, looking back would you change anything?
Not a thing mate. I could be in Dublin or London right now sticking a thermometer in a test tube, doing mind numbing research, but I would be missing out on scoring sick waves with you. I’d hate to let you have all those waves to yourself dude. No amount of financial security from chasing a career in science could replace the experience and good-times I have enjoyed from chasing swells all over Ireland with you and the most epic crew of Irish and Cornish shamberts. I could’ve been a scientist but now I am sponsored by Science, I think that was the kind of scientist I really wanted to be when I grew up as a boog-stoked grom.
Your nickname is Shambles, what is the most shambolic thing you’ve done recently.
A while ago I got a gig judging an international Kayak surfing contest and we were getting paid five hundred euros. All the surfers who arrived to judge were broke so the contest organisers ended up giving us a hundred euro advance on your paychecks to keep us ticking over for the week. The event went really well and all the judges were hoping we would still get paid the six hundred bucks as a reward. When it came to payday each judge came out of the office smiling and told me, ‘nice one shambles, we got six hundred’. I was last in to receive my cheque, but when the main event organiser wrote me out a cheque for five hundred euros I thought he was trying to wind me up, so I ripped up the cheque when he handed it to me and said, ‘ha ha, very funny, come on, give me my real cheque’. The guy’s jaw dropped and he started to turn purple, he was fuming. I could hear the rest of the gang outside the door laughing their asses off so I knew I’d been had. Luckily, the guy wrote me out another five hundred euro check, although I still think he was pretty pissed off.
If you weren’t a bodyboarder what would be doing today?
I’m not sure, I would probably be working at CERN in Switzerland like some of my other classmates trying to find the Higgs-Boson particle, but I don’t really care about that anymore. I hope the scientists find what they are looking for, or else it is all just a big waste of time and money, which is pretty tragic when you think about the level of poverty in the world right now.
Like many bodyboarders in Strandhill you are keen to ride a wave on any waveriding craft but what makes you chose the boog as your number one craft?
When the wave are tiny I generally take out a beginner surf school board or a longboard, or if the waves are really onshore or soft I’ll take out a mal or twinnie to have fun on. I also have a dropknee board, a red and yellow retro Gerry Lopez lightning bolt, a bellyboard and I love to bodysurf too. I’m amped on all types of waveriding because I want to be in the water as much as possible. But when a swell hits and the waves turn on I’m always riding a boog. I try and have respect for anyone out in the ocean trying to catch a wave, regardless of what craft they are on, and I expect the same respect in return. It is epic in Ireland because there is no major animosity between surfers and bodyboards, as there is in other parts of the globe, we are all friends who push each other in our respective waves when the waves get serious. Some of the top Irish standups ride boogs too, and likewise some of the top boogers can ride a surfboard equally well. Now I’m sponsored by Science I have the opportunity to test out their new range. I can say from experience that these boards are some of the best, if not the best, wave riding vehicles available on the planet. The boards I ride are helping me take my surfing to the next level and that’s what matters. For me, a bodyboard is the most functional way to ride a hollow wave. You catch more waves, you can turn and go on pretty much anything and they generally don’t snap in two when you wipeout on a bomb. Plus, you can surf 2ft – 20 ft on the same board, what other wave riding vehicle can claim that type of versatility?
Apart from bodyboarding what else are you passionate about?
I like all kinds of outdoor activities, I do yoga and try to eat healthy, which is important to progress in bodyboarding. As far as other interest go I enjoy playing banjo and learning Irish traditional music. I also read a lot, I love books and literature and I am passionate about writing. I love history and I want to write a book about the history of my local area. One thing I have become involved in recently is joining in beach cleanups as part of an Irish Clean Coasts program. I think as surfers we have a special responsibility to help clean up the marine environment. I am also a part of an Irish charity called Rennafix (www.havinalaugh.ie) which promotes exercise and outdoor activity as a way to combat anxiety and depression.