Easkey Britton

Easkey Britton

Breaking Barriers — Easkey Britton makes waves far beyond the world of surfing as an environmentalist and ambassador for women's sport.

Five-time Irish National Surfing Champion and British Pro Tour Champion Easkey Britton has surfed some of the biggest and gnarliest waves in the world. She’s also got a number of historic firsts under her belt: she was the first Irish person to surf Teahupo’o, or the ‘hell-wave,’ the first woman to get towed in at Mullaghmore and the first woman to surf in Iran. Easkey is a figure who transcends surfing. She’s a passionate campaigner on environmental issues with a PhD in Marine Science to her name and also an ambassador of women’s surfing.

She recently returned from her second trip to Iran, where she aroused immense curiosity among the locals. In the hope of inspiring women across the world to challenge cultural restrictions and find empowerment in sport she encouraged Iranian girls to try surfing. Here, Easkey talks about female surfers in the media, her experiences in Iran, and our interconnectedness with the ocean.

Female Surfers in the Media
“Women in sport and the media do not have a good relationship in my opinion. It is still so male-dominated: all the images we see and the media coverage. I think it’s wonderful for us to express the beauty of our bodies but on our own terms. Unfortunately, when women are used in the media it tends to be in an exploitative manner. To encourage young girls in to surfing it is important to have positive role models and for talented female athletes to be able to share their stories to inspire, opening the way for others to follow.”

“The biggest lesson Iran taught me was the importance of unknowing all you think you know: leaving your misconceptions and judgements behind and opening your mind and heart to new possibilities. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive from local Iranians, both men and women. They had never seen surfing in that region before, let alone seen a woman doing it for the first time. I surfed a remote part of Iran called Baluchistan, where there’s a real interest in exploring the potential to develop surfing. The bigger story is about the importance of sport in women’s lives: for freedom and empowerment. It means a lot for women of different backgrounds to come together and share their experience of surfing for the first time in a place where it is not acceptable for women to participate in sport or to show their bodies in public.”

“A totally magical experience. I was just 16 at the time and it was my first big globe-trotting adventure and my first time surfing in boardshorts over a coral reef. The place was breathtaking. We were lucky and Teauhopo’o was kind to us. Playful… beautiful, even. Although, they were the biggest, heaviest barrels I’d ever seen at that stage in my life. My heart started pounding each time the boatman whistled to signal a set approaching. I ‘kissed’ the reef pretty hard!”

“I love feeling at home and surfing with my family. The wild darkness of the ocean that I’ve never really felt anywhere else. It is so elemental.”

“Environmentalism should really be a way life. The research I do focuses on the relationships between people and the sea, understanding those processes of interaction in order to encourage, support and promote sustainable practices from the grass-roots level all the way to the policy level. The problem is the issue of scale; it would be so much better if we could slow it all down, focus on the quality of our interactions with the ocean, not on short-term quick fixes and profit maximisation. Instead, making better connections between the species and habitats in the sea and those whose livelihoods depend on it; the local coastal communities that are dependent on the health of the seas. Our wellbeing and the wellbeing of the seas are completely interrelated and the sooner we realise that the better.”

“I never got to meet Rell Sunn but I’ve always been inspired by her all-round, water-woman skills, compassion and tremendous grace and grit in the face of heart-breaking challenges.”

“Before I could surf I would paint the rocks on the reef with my Mum while Dad was out surfing. Until I got bold enough to follow him, anyway! I mostly paint in watercolour with some acrylic. I love getting big sheets of handmade paper to let loose on. I haven’t done it in too long; it builds up inside me until I’m about to explode and becomes this huge release. I just have to do it! It’s another form of creative expression, just like surfing.”

Watch Easkey’s new TED talk Just Add Surf .