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green stand up paddle boards on the shore of lake gill

It all began in a different universe only five counties away. Pulled in to a layby on the side of a small country road sat the van, towing a rather precarious trailer full of luminous green SUP boards. It was the very same van you’d be accustomed to seeing at the Wild SUP Tours shed and this was one of her first SUP excursions. Ed and I were new to the adventure as well, and we loved it!

a woman sitting on a bench next to a tree

Ed was working as the surf instructor at the Surf ‘N Stay Hostel and Lodge in Strandhill, co. Sligo. I had recently rocked up there too, fresh off a plane from New York City. One of the perks of volunteering at the hostel was getting as many free surf and SUP lessons as I wanted and Ed was only too happy to oblige.

Ed had only been stand up paddling a hand full of times by this point, but he is a tested and true water man so is able to pull such things off. I had only been paddling once before, but I have a fearless streak and am happy to dive into new activities with gusto. Together we made a good team and were able to take people on SUP tours of Lough Gill, home to the famous lake isle of Innisfree. This is were our touring style was born. He and I were delighted to be out on the water exploring, even if we didn’t really know what we were doing.

ruined house covered in ivy

The sun was shining, the water was glassy and there was a slight breeze blowing, creating little peaks in the open spaces. As a group, we paddled over to one of the many islands that dotted the lake. From the very start, exploring was always a key reason for why Ed and I enjoyed stand up paddle boarding, and this tour was no exception. We pulled up to the grassy edge of the island and stepped off onto the shore.

We found a little old ruined house, covered in moss and ivy. It is easy to see where fairy stories come from in these sorts of places. Near by, strung from a branch of a tree, swung a tire swing. With out further ado, I was on the swing, grinning from ear to ear, laughing in pure delight, spinning around like a madman. I’m not sure what our fellow paddlers thought of the spectacle. Yet, after proving it’s sturdiness, some of the others decided to try out the swing as well.

Ed and I stood a little apart, looking on towards the happy scene, enjoying the beautiful day. I remember turning to each other and saying in near perfect unison,

“I think we’re enjoying this more than they are!”

group of people in wetsuits posing in front of a surf school

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

lough gill co sligo from 1900

Lough Gill. Co. Sligo Ireland

A poem by William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.