From Fear of Water to A Gleefull Rower

I remember my first holiday in Castlebar. I was accompanied by my great
grandmother who was visiting our dear friend Cynthia. As soon as I got over the five-
hour journey, the excitement of her estate and ponies, she came up with the first of
many ‘Waterbody’ adventures around County Mayo. We went to Lough Carra which
was adjacent to an enchanted estate called Moore Hall. Like all our trips it was
accompanied with jaw dropping stories and folklore. On arriving at the Lake she had
me don a wetsuit.
I had a big fear of water but Cynthia encouraged me enter by the shallow edge. The
shrieks and screams that came out of me almost gave my great-grandmother a heart
attack. She was waiting in the car and so worried about I being in the “dangerous”
water. Yet, the water wasn’t even above my little knees. I learned later that she grew
up near the river Main, County Kerry. Unfortunately, there were some tragedies and
she was warned not to ever ‘go near the quay’. As I got older my fear of the water
persisted. Even though the pool was very safe, I dreaded swimming lessons.
Three summers ago I visited Cynthia in Corran near Achill Sound. At Keel beach, I
once again had to face my aquaphobia as she introduced me to body boarding. It was
a scorching hot day. So I was relieved to get my feet off the hot sand. My
grandmother, who loves to sunbathe, said she thought we would never return to shore.
At this stage I was much more confident of Cynthia’s skill. I gradually relaxed and
enjoyed riding each wave, feeling the sensation and energy of the water.
In October 2014, I joined Muckross Rowing Club. I remember my first day vividly, I
reluctantly entered the safety launch. Even though I was assured it could not tip over,
I was very nervous. Eventually, one of the amazing coaches got me into a Killarney
6. They are big traditional boats. All of a sudden the fear subsided. As I rowed past I
saw others in sculling boats, which are narrow and small. I thought I would never set
foot in one of them. Six months later I rowed one and the sense of elation and near
emersion in the water felt better than the Killarney 6.
Each weekend I got more confident. My first regatta was Muckross Head 2018, in
Cork. Sadly we did not win. However, I felt a deep pleasure at having participated
and being part of a team. The beautiful weather in summer 2018 and 2019 was
magnificent. From early morning to late evenings, the water was like glass with the
sun glistening on it. In Carlow, May 2019, I won my first regatta. I must say it was a
very proud moment. Towards the end of 2019 things got very serious in rowing. I was
under 16 category and trained seven days a week: weight sessions before school, erg
(rowing machine) practice in the evenings and weekends on the lakes.
In spite of having numb, blistered hands and being up at the crack of dawn I have
never been more proud to say “I row”. It is even more significant when I realise I
have overcome water phobia that spanned four generations. Thankfully, the
confidence I gained, through joy in water has spilled over to other areas of my life.
My gratitude goes to all those who have supported me and to the agencies dedicated to
ensuring attractive waterways.