So what makes an Irish woman jump on a plane, surfboard secured in the cargo hold and head to Iran? Turns out that it’s just because she can. No other reason needed. Nice. By doing this, rocking up and simply seeing what was going down, Easkey Britton and five time Irish Surf Champion became became the first woman to surf in the Islamic country. The name ‘Easkey’ itself is a creative spelling on ‘Iasc’ the Irish for ‘fish’ and she’s named after a famous surf break off the west coast of Ireland where her Dad taught her to surf. Easkey’s Grandmother returned from California in the 60′s with two malibu boards to lean against a wall inside her hotel. Fortunately her sons had other ideas, rescued the boards & learned to surf and ever since it has been in the Britton blood.
One of the very first things Easkey noticed when she tucked her board under her arm in Chabahar, southern Iran, last September and waded into the sea was the look of astonishment on the locals faces, even the local coppers did a drive by to check out what was going on. But apart from people being overtly curious and hooked to watching the going’s on of Easkey and film-maker companion Marion, they were left alone.
One of the things that Easkey had to be careful about was respecting the country’s traditions and religion, so she donned the usual Iranian women’s head covering as well as a lycra hijab and headed out back to do her thing.Having had this experience and talking to local women about their aspirations and hopes for Iran, has somewhat changed Easkey’s focus for the future. She’s been looking into taking the sport to other reaches of the globe where women may have difficulty taking up surfing for all sorts of reasons be it, religious, geographical, cultural.
“There is a small surf culture in Bangladesh and India. Women and girls are learning to surf in the most extreme of conditions – such as in the Gaza Strip. I especially want to teach in places where people do not normally have the opportunity to learn”
It encourages women to think of themselves differently and help, even in a small and indirect way to change out-dated and traditional attitudes which keep women subservient. Just like the skateboarding idea Skateistan introduced to Afghanistan back in 2007, Easkey sees her traveling and introducing surfing to women from all walks of Middle Eastern life to a sport which can empower them, set them on the road to self-discovery and at the very least, give them something to call their own where for the majority, they’re dictated to by brothers, fathers, husbands.Surfing has taken Easkey around the world – she was the first Irish person to surf Teahupoo aged 16 and the first woman to ride the giant wave Aileens at the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.
“It is a challenge and it is escapism. It is about being in nature and being far from the world – just you and the waves. It is truly lovely.”
Of late one of the many things she’s worked on is WellCoast – The Human Wellbeing and Coastal Resilience Network, brought together by a common concern over the growing vulnerability of coastal people and the ecosystem services on which they depend.
Watch the the roundup viideo from Easkey and film-maker Marion Poizeau’s trip to Iran.