Sea Kayaking Around The Emerald Isle

Checking in with adventurers mid-expedition: this week Justine Curgenven, who's paddling Ireland.
Justine Curgenven is paddling 1,000 miles around Ireland
Justine Curgenven is paddling 1,000 miles © Justine Curgenven
By Tarquin Cooper

Adventure sea kayaker and film-maker Justine Curgenven has done some miles at sea — including a circumnavigation of New Zealand. She's currently about 30 days and 660 miles into a 1,000 mile kayak around Ireland. She put down the paddle long enough to give us the lowdown.

How's Ireland? As wet as everywhere else?

Sunny, actually!

What's the crack?
We have 50 days to kayak about 1,000 miles around Ireland. This is about 20 miles a day – 6 or 7 hours of paddling on average, every day. We aren't going for any speed records, just hoping to enjoy the scenery and meet some local people. With me are my partner Barry Shaw and a friend, Roger Chandler.

Must be easy after New Zealand?
Irish waters can be very challenging. They get 2-3m swells quite regularly and are known for their surf beaches, which we are trying to avoid! Shallow reefs around headlands combined with swell creates lots of boomers and breaking waves. There's also tides of up to 5 knots, and large sections of cliffs where you can't land. Yesterday we had to paddle for 3 hours into a strong headwind just to find a spot to land.

Ireland's rugged coastline offers great paddling
Ireland's rugged coastline offers great paddling © Justine Curgenven

Is it technically challenging?
Yep — but it's almost all got to do with the weather. It can be easy and peaceful, or very difficult.

A day in the life?

Get up at 6am, cook porridge or occasionally have bagels, peanut butter and bananas. On the water at 7.30! We typically stop every hour or so for snacks, to put sun cream on, or whatever, usually without getting off the water.

Between 11am and 2pm we land for lunch, stretch our legs, look around if it's a nice place. Then get back on the water for another 3-5 hours. Our longest day had been 11 hours paddling, covering 34 nautical miles. The shortest day has been about 10 miles.

Once we land, we put the tent up, cook a meal of pasta or rice, have a couple of hot drinks, lay any wet kit out to dry and relax a bit before going to bed around 9-10pm. By then, we've really run out of batteries!

Justine stretches before another day in the office
Justine stretches before another day © Justine Curgenven

Would you recommend it?

I can’t believe we’ve been going a month already. Time really does fly when you are having fun. I’m still really impressed with the scenery, the people and the wilderness feel to Ireland. If you like circumnavigations then it’s really a great island to paddle around. If you prefer a multi-day trip then there are so many wonderful coastlines and islands to explore.

I wish we had longer than 50 days and could visit more of the inviting golden sandy crescent beaches that we pass, or nose around more of the ruins that are littered on islands and headlands. There must be thousands of islands here – each one with it’s own character.

Check out Justine's blog for more adventures around the Emerald Isle.

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