GOING THE EXTRA MILE

editorial image

RECORD-BREAKING surfer Al Mennie has conquered a gruelling challenge for charity by paddling from Northern Ireland to Scotland.

Plucky Al had to dodge tankers and tackle fierce currents during the paddle, which covered over 30 miles of treacherous sea.

The local man, who has ridden some of the largest waves on record, was taking part in the challenge to raise cash for the Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke organisation.

“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,” said Al, who left the Giant’s Causeway at 6.30am on Tuesday morning.

“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.

“I made a final dash for it and made it to the rocks right under the famous war monument and was greeted by the island’s only surfer.”

To prepare for the marathon journey, 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 currents hindered his pace.

He said: “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”

“I was passed by a Danish tanker, several commercial trawlers and an oil rig.”

Mennie used a specially ordered 20ft paddle board and had expected the 26 mile journey on paper to take eight hours.

And despite ordering a specially designed wetsuit to ward off the cold the surfer ended up wearing suncream and sweating as he battled the sea.

The idea for the challenge came from the similar stamina-sapping paddle races between islands in Hawaii - albeit in warmer conditions.

His 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.