Category Archives: Surfing

A Week at The Surf Experience

I don’t often take a sun holiday these days, but I had a fabulous time last week at The Surf Experience in Lagos, Portugal. I’m not an accomplished surfer by any measure, but there is nothing quite like the thrill of catching a few waves in the sea with the sun overhead – a nice change from the indoors world of academia.

Not for the first time, I signed up for a residential course with The Surf Experience in Lagos. Founded by veteran German surfer Dago Lipke, guests of The Surf Experience stay at the surf lodge Vila Catarina, a lovely villa in the hills above Lagos, complete with beautiful gardens and swimming pool. Sumptuous meals are provided by Dagos’s wife Connie, a wonderful cook. Instead of wandering around town trying to find a different restaurant every evening, guests enjoy an excellent meal in a quiet setting in good company, followed by a game of pool or chess. And it really is good company. Guests at TSE tend mainly to hail from Germany and Switzerland, with a sprinkling from France and Sweden, so it’s truly international – quite a contrast to your average package tour (or indeed our college staff room). Not a mention of Brexit, and an excellent opportunity to improve my German. (Is that what you tell yourself?- Ed)

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Hanging out at the pool before breakfast


Fine dining at The Surf Experience


A game of cards and a conversation instead of a noisy bar

Of course, no holiday is perfect and in this case I managed to pick up an injury on the first day. Riding the tiniest wave all the way back to the beach, I got unexpectedly thrown off, hitting my head off the bottom at speed. (This is the most elementary error you can make in surfing and it risks serious injury, from concussion to spinal fracture). Luckily, I walked away with nothing more than severe bruising to the neck and chest (as later established by X-ray at the local medical clinic, also an interesting experience). So no life-altering injuries, but like a jockey with a broken rib, I was too sore to get back on the horse for few days. Instead, I tried Stand Up Paddling for the first time, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s more exciting than it looks, must get my own board for calm days at home.


Stand Up Paddling in Lagos with Kiteschool Portugal

Things got even better towards the end of the week as I began to heal. Indeed, the entire surf lodge had a superb day’s surfing yesterday on beautiful small green waves at a beach right next to town (in Ireland, we very rarely see clean conditions like this, the surf is mainly driven by wind). It was fantastic to catch wave after wave throughout the afternoon, even if clambering back on the board after each wasn’t much fun for yours truly.

This morning, I caught a Ryanair flight back to Dublin from Faro, should be back in the office by late afternoon. Oddly enough, I feel enormously refreshed – perhaps it’s the feeling of gradually healing. Hopefully the sensation of being continuously kicked in the ribs will disappear soon and I’ll be back on the waves in June. In the meantime, this week marks a study period for our students before their exams, so it’s an ideal time to prepare my slides for the Eddington conference in Paris later this month.


I caught a slight cold on the way back, so today I’m wandering around college like a lunatic going cough, ‘ouch’ , sneeze, ‘ouch’.  Maybe it’s karma for flying Ryanair – whatever about indulging in one or two flights a year, it’s a terrible thing to use an airline whose CEO continues to openly deny the findings of climate scientists.


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Filed under Surfing, Travel

Waves and music in Doolin Co. Clare

I’m spending the last week of the holidays in Doolin, Co. Clare in Ireland, one of my favourite spots in the world. Right on the westmost edge of Europe, Doolin is a tiny village that has a very special landscape and tradition. It’s also a mecca for traditional music, not to mention one of Europe’s best surfspots. What a place.

Doolin, Co. Clare

Most evenings I get my fiddle out in O’ Connors pub, jammin with old friends and new. The standard of playing is very high – Clare is the birthplace of much of Irish music – but the locals are always very welcoming. It’s a different crew every night, so it’s great experience for a Dublin musician like me, playing tunes I rarely hear. There’s also a fantastic atmosphere in the pub every night as it’s packed with international tourists who have travelled to Doolin specifically to hear the music.


During the day  there’s the surf. Few of the tourists realise that Doolin is neatly sandwiched bewteen Fenor and Lahinch, two of the best surf beaches in Ireland. At the moment I’m teaching the manager of the hostel and his kids to surf, it’s very satisfying. That said, there are bigger waves coming on Thursday, so it’ll be out back for me from then on..


What a place, I’ll be sorry to go back to being a boring scientist. I’ve even got fit again without really trying!!

Update: photo for PW

surfer physicist

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The best surfspot in the world

This week I’m back hard at work after a short break with The Surf Experience in Lagos, Portugal. It was certainly worth taking a few days out, staying in a beautiful big house in the Algarve with about 20 other guests. Each day we went to the beach in a convoy of jeeps, west or south coast depending on the wave conditions.

Arrifana beach on the west coast

As usual, the camp was full of Germans – my favourite people to go on holiday with, and a great opportunity to improve my German. There was a lovely atmosphere in the house every evening, as the guests dined together and shared a few beers before collapsing into bed. Defnitely my favourite surfspot in the world.

Surfcamp in Lagos

I got plenty of work done too – I read a chapter of Manjit Kumar’s book on quantum physics every night, as I have been asked to review it for Physics World, the flagship magazine of the Institute of Physics. Today, it’s back to the real world, as I take our third years for a course in the quantum theory of solids.

On the plane home, I had a great thought for their first lecture. I think I’ll do some revision by getting the class to derive de Broglie’s relation from relativity, and to show how it led Schrodinger to his wave equation (they’ve already had a course in qt). It’s a nice starting point for solid state physics, and I had great fun going through the derivations on a napkin on the plane home (ok, they’re not really derivations but such outlines give students a great feel for the quantum world) – really nice physics.

Next week is Science Week in Ireland, and I’m giving several talks on the LHC, so I’m knee deep in that preparation too…sigh. I miss Lagos.


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