OutdoorNI.com Does... Coasteering Northern Ireland
Posted on October 17, 2011 @ 4:53 PM in
OutdoorNI.com does Coasteering Northern Ireland is the latest in our regular blog feature ‘OutdoorNI.com does…’ which is our opportunity to showcase the exciting outdoor activities available in Northern Ireland.
Find out how OutdoorNI.com’s newest recruit Sarah Nelson got on when she embarked on an afternoon’s coasteering with CoasterringNI
Having exhausted all the usual birthday ideas for my sister an afternoon spent clambering over the rocks of the North Coast and jumping into the sea seemed like the perfect gift. Not only did it mean there was no need to attempt to wrap anything, it also gave me an excuse to free load on the birthday bandwagon.
Realising we wouldn’t be able to go until October, I was pleasantly surprised to find that coasteering is offered all year round, a quick email to CoasteeringNI and we were good to go. The meeting place of Ballintoy harbour was a treat in itself with spectacular views and a beautiful sandy beach making this whole jumping into the sea thing seem surprisingly very appealing. We met Stephen, our instructor for the day, and two others who had booked on to the session. After our introductions we were kitted out with wetsuits, buoyancy aids, helmets and gloves. There were wetsuits for all shapes and sizes and Stephen made sure everyone was comfortable and happy with their kit.
A short cross country walk (where everyone took great care to stay away from the puddles despite the fact we were minutes away from being submerged!) brought us to our starting point. On the beach Stephen gave us a safety briefing and then came the question – is anyone afraid of water or heights? A water baby at heart, the crashing waves and salty sea water I could handle, but heights on the other hand…The question was met with silence, nobody wanting to admit they weren’t the ‘cool adrenaline seeking types’. Even so we were all assured that if there was anything we didn’t want to do then there would always be another way – we were all there to have fun!
Before getting into the water there was time for a quick photo opp (because who doesn’t want a photo of themselves in a skin tight wetsuit complete with MJ style white socks and Bob the Builder helmet?). Then the moment everyone was waiting for – time to get wet! After the initial cold first waves hit us it wasn’t long before the wetsuits had us nice and warm. We swam towards our first challenge of the afternoon – a climb up a rock surface protruding from the sea. Once everyone was assembled at the top we were briefed on the proper way to jump so we wouldn’t hurt ourselves. Before we knew it Stephen had jumped off the edge and was preparing to film our not so elegant jumps into the secluded pool. Somehow I had managed to be first up. A deep breath and a leap of faith and I was in. So this is what an adrenaline rush feels like?! – having a fear of speed, heights and a hatred for anything that remotely reassembles a roller coaster, this was something that had so far eluded me.
The next hour was spent amongst the waves, climbing out onto the rocks – which sometimes proved quite the challenge. With the waves constantly changing the water level it was all about timing. Every time you thought you’d made it the waves came down around you and you were left dangling attempting to hold your body weight - unless you have Madonna like biceps this was not an easy task! We all soon got the knack, realising it was all about using the force of the water to lift you up – third time lucky and a few laughs later I had made it. Once out it wasn’t long before we were back in and time for our next challenge; imagine the travelator from hit 90’s show Gladiators – only the water version and this was what we were up against. The narrow passage into a rounded pool had created a forceful suction that seemed impossible to swim against, however timed right you were easily pelted into the calm waters beyond. Once in it was time to float about and laugh as everyone else tried with all their might not to be defeated.
It was now time to jump off our highest point yet; thankfully during the steep climb to the top everyone had great patience for me and my slow rock climbing! Every sport I have ever tried I have been told ‘you are going to hurt yourself’; my cricket coach begged ‘please don’t try and catch the ball’, in my short lived hockey days I had my fair share of falls, and let’s not forget that time I managed to injure myself whilst waiting to even get on the boat! Unfortunately for me coasteering was looking to continue my trend ‘I think you are going to face plant’ are the reassuring words I heard from Stephen as we assembled at the top of our 15ft drop. All joking aside we were reminded how to jump safely and avoid the dreaded belly flop. One by one we stepped onto the ledge, composed ourselves (some taking longer than others!) and took the plunge. After building our confidence with two jumps from this height it was time to go higher! How high is ‘higher’? was my immediate reaction before deciding to at least climb on up and see for myself. Once at the top I was most definitely certain that I would fall attempting to climb back down so jumping of the edge seemed like the best option. Wobbly kneed and heart racing I tentatively steeped towards the ledge, a deep breath and a scream later and I had faced my fear.
The session flew in and before we knew it, it was time to head onto the shore. On the walk back we still didn’t enter the puddles – after you’ve just gone coasteering, jumping into two inches of water just isn’t going to cut it! All in all it was a great way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon and I can’t wait to do it again, so if you’re reading this sis – I think I know what I want for my birthday!
Check out OutdoorNI.com’s coasteering and bouldering section for even more options.
£45 per person – all specialist equipment provided