The first time I met Fergal I was pleasantly surprised by how affable, unassuming, and down-to-earth he was. We talked about common interests; no, not surfing especially (although it may have been discussed), but trees. Fergal and his brother, Kevin, had only recently begun posting their Growing Series online. It was through this medium that I became aware of the full extent of his horticultural endeavours and, perhaps lesser acknowledged (in media circles at least), passion. Fergal and a motley-crew of locals, nomad surfers, and on any given day, warmly-welcomed volunteers, are staging a silent revolution at the Moy Hill Community Garden.
That same initial meeting, at the Shore Shots Irish Surf Film Festival, occurred shortly after watching the excellent documentary Unchartered Waters by Craig Griffin about Wayne Lynch. In the fullness of time, I can’t help but smile when I reflect on the uncanny coincidence, or rather resonance of both surfers’ journeys; the parallel, or blurred, lines if you will.
Both goofy-footers, both prodigiously talented – Fergal will deny this, attributing his prowess to hard-graft – surfers at an early age, both seemingly ‘dropped off’ the radar at the peak of their success.
Lynch, once described by Reno Abellira as “…the Future of Surfing Incarnate”, shied away from publicity saying that he wanted to be “just a surfer, not a star”. Later it emerged he spent close on three turbulent years on the run from conscription and Vietnam! For many, Jack McCoy’s 1978 film, A Day in the Life of Wayne Lynch, defined what we’ve come to know as the ‘Soul Surfer’.
In many ways, Smith’s trajectory is not dissimilar. Thankfully, no military-service or conflicts to mention; sponsor courtship, fanfare wildcard invitations to spots like Cloudbreak and Teahupoo: All heady stuff for a young surfer! Gone (partially) are the cover pages (see SURFER Magazine cover) and fewer sponsors remain. Nonetheless, Smith carries on regardless. Paddling heavy waves is what matters. For him, this is where the heart runs deepest in surfing.
Most of the breaks that he, and a core group of surfers based in West Clare, ride are relatively virgin waves in the Irish surfing historical timeline. The rulebook is quite literally being rewritten with each substantial swell. The unprecedented swells of last Winter are case(s)-in-point, making for limit-testing feats and pioneering wave riding on these shores.
Feel from sponsorship agendas and the distraction of ‘Surfing Industry’ concerns, Fergal can now dedicate himself wholeheartedly to the pursuit of waves of consequence on his own terms. The reality of the opportunity afforded him by past sponsorship is not lost on Smith. Yet, central to his decision to change tack was Health and Well-being. Stepping aside from the corporate surfing world has enabled focusing on his other great interest in life: Growing Your Own. Easily understood in the context of his upbringing, Fergal grew up on an organic vegetable farm outside of Westport, Co. Mayo. Now based in Clare, he is the talisman of a community-supported renaissance in growing wholesome nutritious food. ¡Viva la Revolución!
Fergal Smith will speak about his personal journey at the Surfer’s Academy – Chasing Dreams, Charging Waves, & Coming Home to Ground.
Why not check out the Surfer’s Academy Trailer Series – Four Boards and A Piano by Kevin Smith, featuring Fergal’s masterly wave riding, will be shown during the Surfer’s Academy at The Glasshouse on Saturday 13th September 2014. Tickets cost €25/person.
For Tickets and Registration visit: http://www.surfingdoctorseurope.com/registration/
Note 1: Under sixteen (16) year-old attendees go free but must be accompanied by at least one adult.
Note 2: Online registration is COMPULSORY to attend this event.