Kieron GribbonConor McKinneyTim Rickerby
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The Last Day of Summer at Benone

Posted on October 26, 2012 @ 2:24 PM in Beaches

When we talk about summer we imagine beaches, sun, water, laughter, BBQ’s, ice-cream and so on. The list is endless and to some of us this is the best time of the year. While flicking through my diary the other day I saw a small inscription beside October 28th which said “Last Day of British Summer”. Surely this must be wrong? But when you think about it we have had some nice weather over the past few weeks which could make you think it is summer. But in Northern Ireland it seems that people can’t stop complaining about the weather and when I mention the word summer the most popular response is “What Summer???”

Well from owning a surf school and being on the beach for 12 hours a day I can safely say that there has been a summer and it was glorious. I think in Northern Ireland we should take summer as a time of long days, moderate temperature and a lot to do. We really aren’t close enough to the equator to be depending on sun every day to make our past times enjoyable. As I sit and write this I try and figure out why people complain about the weather so much. My conclusion is that when you look outside from a warm sheltered house it can sometimes look quite miserable, especially if it is raining. But what I find is that if you spend the majority of your day outside, the rain really doesn’t affect you, maybe that’s because I’m in a wetsuit but usually that rain just passes over and you end up with a few hours of lovely weather.

But it also comes down to the individual. I see people every day that come down and use the beach for walking or swimming no matter what the weather is and then there are people who only come down when the sun shines. The important thing is that they are out and about and enjoying a stretch of beach which is beautiful and free to use.

At Long Line Surf School we tried to encourage a beach lifestyle the minute we opened. The best way we found how to encourage this was mainly through the children as they don’t care as much about the weather.  For the kids there were school trips down to the beach to come surfing which was amazing. To see all those children excited to be given the freedom to just run into the water and to experience it all for themselves. During the school term we also had our own Board Riders Club which consisted of 3 primary schools from Limavady as well as one secondary school. This small bunch of keen surfers came down after school once a week and had a great time while progressing their skills of surfing. Once the Summer Holidays had begun we started our KIDS BIG DAY OUT programme which occurred every Friday from 10am -5:30pm. This really showed off the outdoor lifestyle with the kids being outdoors the entire time with surfing in the morning, lunch in the picnic area even with torrential rain and then beach games followed with a swim in the sea to finish. This became a very popular day at Benone with Kids coming back every week. 

As well as big days out and normal surf lessons we also ran a number of events to get people to come down and experience Benone Beach in a different way. On the 9th June we ran Irelands first Surfing Disabled Festival for young people aged 8-25 with disabilities. This was a great day for all as usually you find that it would be the siblings of the disabled people who would be going and trying these great outdoor sports and so we created the event in order to get everyone involved and with a team of lifeguards and surf instructors we made this day a complete success and a date that will be kept in the diary for next year.

In June we also ran the ‘North Coast Annual Waterman Championships’ which consisted of lifeguards, swimmers and members of Triathlon clubs coming down to enter in an endurance event of run, swim, paddle and run. Seeing a lot of adults having a go at this who may have never considered entering anything like this before was great and especially as you finish the trial with your friends and family cheering you on.

As July set in, the campsites filled up, the lifeguards started duty, everyone was in full swing and Long Line Surf School became very busy and over the two months to follow we met some great people, made some new friends and even squeezed in a few BBQ’s in between. That is what summer is about, long days with good surf, warm waters and friends learning new skills and giving anything a go. Talking about giving anything a go we were given the most amazing opportunity to run a Blind Surf Session during the summer with a number of members from the guide dogs for the Blind NI. By using our custom made surfboards for people with disabilities we were able to get people with visual impairments on surfboards and instructors on the back of the board in order to help steer the board and keep it balanced. It turned out to be one of the best days of my career as a Surf instructor and something which I found very rewarding. We’ve even got the local surfing community to raise money for the charity in early September at the special surf contest which also consisted of a blind category where the competitors were given blacked out goggles to try and surf with in order to create awareness on how difficult and sometimes intimidating it can be.  

Now that the Summer on Benone Beach is over, the crowds are starting to leave and the local people still walk the beaches I can now look back and really appreciate this SUMMER no matter what the weather was like. The beach is there for communities and friends to come together and enjoy nature whether it is having a BBQ, surfing, swimming or just grabbing an ice-cream and sitting in your car watching the beach lifestyle unwrap.

At Long Line Surf School we find that Benone is there to be enjoyed all year round as well as the other beaches on the North Coast and we are very happy to be part of it. Keep an eye out next year for all the events you can become part of.

For more information on Long Line Surf School and what they offer at Benone Beach please visit their profile on

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Dan Lavery
Dan Lavery  Owner & Instructor at Long Line Surf School

Dan is the founder and owner of Long Line Surf School and was previously Junior Irish Longboard Champion. He is young but very knowledgeable in the sport and has been a surf coach for many years now as well as being a beach lifeguard on the North Coast for 3 years. does… Sea Kayaking

Posted on September 14, 2012 @ 8:40 AM in AdventureCanoeingBeaches does Sea Kayaking is the latest in our regular blog feature does - which is our opportunity to showcase the exciting outdoor activities available in Northern Ireland.

OutdoorNI’s Sarah Nelson spent an afternoon Sea Kayaking on the North Coast Sea Kayak Trail with Simply Sea Kayak  .   Here’s how she got on…

Sarah Nelson - Simply Sea Kayak

It’s not often blue skies and sun shine make an appearance in Northern Ireland – especially if you have planned to do something outside!  Normally with the mere mention of a trip to the beach the clouds descend and the heavens open so you can imagine my surprise (and obvious delight) when there wasn’t a cloud in sight as I made my way to the sandy shores of East Strand Beach, Portrush for my first taste of sea kayaking. 

After arriving at the beach and enjoying a quick walk round the impressive new pedestrian promenade I met the rest of the group joining me for the kayaking session and was introduced to Gareth and Steve our friendly and enthusiastic instructors for the afternoon.  Straight away it was time to get stuck in and we were kitted out with all the necessary gear including waterproof jackets, buoyancy aids and spray decks (a sheet made out of water-tight cloth sized to fit over the opening, or cockpit, of the kayak to prevent water coming in).  It wasn’t long before we were all sitting in our kayaks on steady ground for a very literal ‘dry run’.  After learning how to adjust our boats to suit our own measurements we were taught what to do in the event of a capsize - luckily for us the conditions were pretty much perfect so any chances of an impromptu swim where very slim, nevertheless it was most definitely an essential piece of information to learn.  Ensuring we had the foundations for an enjoyable journey on the water Gareth and Steve taught us how to handle the paddle, coming round us one by one to make sure we had the correct technique down before we headed out to test our new found skills.  It was then time to buddy up and carry our crafts down to the beach – the first arm workout of the day and certainly not the last!

After a shove in the right direction we were off - skimming across the waters of the spectacular North Coast Sea Kayak Trail. As I glided along with minimal effort over the crystal clear water I almost forgot where I was letting my mind wonder with thoughts of the Caribbean until the Northern Irish accents behind me confirmed such idyllic places do actually exist right on our doorstep! We continued to paddle along in twos, kissing the coastline and exchanging banter along the way.  After putting our steering skills to the test getting up close to the rocky coastline we then began to make our way over to the impressive skerries – a chain of small islands formed from cooled volcanic lava.    

Keen for us to experience the beauty of this section of the coast that can only be explored by water Gareth and Steve pointed out the wildlife on the island including the large population of breeding seabirds and told us to look out for the rabbits  – I’m still trying to work out how they got there! In an effort to help us appreciate this rich area of fossils Steve challenged us to kayak as close to the island as possible without playing dodgems with the rocks – all I can say is thank goodness plastic doesn’t dent! 

Deciding we had to get evidence that the sun actually does shine in Northern Ireland the guys got out the Go Pro camera for a group shot - it was time for the first serious manoeuvre of the day.  Thinking I was coping rather well with the 180 degree turn after looking over to see everyone waiting for me in a perfect line and Steve remarking ‘I’d hate to see you reverse a car’ (which I have to admit isn’t a pretty sight!) I eventually managed to slide into position for the Kodak moment. 

Photo shoot over we continued to navigate between the basalt islands whilst a few friendly seals popped up to say hello.  Before we knew it, it was time to start heading back in with the current behind us to give a welcome helping hand as we paddled our way back to East Strand. 

Having previously never paddled before I really did feel that I had achieved a lot in an afternoon with the guided journey allowing me to put the skills learnt at the start of the session into practice.  It also gave me the opportunity to experience just a small glimpse of what the North Coast has to offer to sea kayakers, opening my eyes to the endless possibilities for day paddles and expeditions on Northern Ireland’s Coastal Trails .   

It is safe to say that ever since our paddle the rowing machine is no longer doing it for me! I’ll happily swap a workout in the gym for clear waters, stunning views, and a fresh breeze any day. However not only was my introduction to sea kayaking a good work out it was definitely a memorable experience and one that has left me unable to think of a more relaxing and peaceful way of experiencing an unique perspective of Northern Ireland’s incredible coastline.

Activity Provider:

Simply Sea Kayak



Introduction to Sea Kayaking

Cost per person, per day:  £45.00

(includes all specialist equipment,  no experience required)

Know someone who might like to give this a go?  You can purchase the ‘North Coast Sea Kayaking Experience’ online from the Gift Voucher page.  




Latest comment posted by Calum on May 3, 2013 @ 4:26 PM

Looks great fun, there's nothing better than being out on the water with the fresh air hitting your face, a real delight! Great pics, thanks for sharing! Read more >

Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson  Marketing Officer

Sarah joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in 2011. A firm believer in giving anything a go at least once (unless it involves jumping out of a plane at 6,000ft!) she is always looking for new adventures in the outdoors and can often be found wandering the Mournes or Glens of Antrim attempting not to get lost!

Top Beaches for Dog Walking

Posted on August 20, 2012 @ 4:43 PM in Beaches

Northern Ireland’s beaches with their long stretches of soft sand to explore, endless amounts of water to wade in and the likelihood of not bumping into anyone else, really are ideal for you and your four legged friend. Not only will they provide a welcome change of scenery they are also sure to make your dog’s tail wag even more compared to the usual day to day walks in your local area.  

With this in mind, have hand picked the best beaches in Northern Ireland which allow dogs all year round, so all you have to do is grab the lead and off you go.

Beaches for dog walking

  • Ballyholme Beach, Co. Down - Ballyholme Beach is approximately 1.3 km in length and consists of a typical sandy beach with a rocky shore at each end.
  • Crawfordsburn Beach, Co. Down – Crawfordsburn Beach is approximately 0.7 kilometres in length and comprises of sand with a rocky shoreline at either end.
  • Groomsport Beach, Co. Down – Groomsport Beach is approximately 0.5km in length and consists of sand interspersed with rocky outcrops.
  • Helen’s Bay Beach, Co. Down – This beach is approximately 0.5km in length and features a beach front of sand with a rocky shoreline at either end.
  • Millisle Beach, Co. Down - Millisle Beach is a popular rural beach on the Ards Peninsula and provides 150m of golden sand to explore.
  • Portstewart Strand Beach, Co. Antrim - Portstewart Strand is the perfect spot to spend lazy summer days and take long walks into the sand dunes, which are a haven for wild flowers and butterflies.

Portstewart Strand

There are plenty more beautiful beaches in Northern Ireland that you can enjoy with your dog, check out for a comprehensive list of dog walking beaches.  Please note that some beaches have restrictions and zones in place for dogs in the summer months so make sure to check out the website before you visit. 

Please be a responsible dog owner and ensure your dog is kept on a lead where appropriate.

Alternatively, if your dog fancies something a bit more adventurous than walking on the beach, why not take him surfing! :-)


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Beverley Magowan
Beverley Magowan  Senior Marketing Officer

Beverley used to be a keen horse rider but since joining a local cycle club in 2013 she has developed a passion for 2 wheels instead of 4 hoofs! Meaning she can often be found on a bike exploring the roads across the country! does…SurfSUPNI

Posted on June 20, 2012 @ 2:57 PM in AdventureBeaches does is the latest in our regular blog feature ‘ does…’ which is our opportunity to showcase the exciting outdoor activities available in Northern Ireland.

OutdoorNI’s Sarah Nelson spent an afternoon Stand up Paddleboarding in Portballintrae Harbour with SurfSUPNI.   Here’s how she got on…

For those wondering what stand up paddleboarding even is here’s a bit of background for you… Stand up paddleboarding (SUP), also know as stand up paddle surfing is an emerging global sport with a Hawaiian heritage.  An ancient form of surfing (with a paddle), it re-emerged as a way for surfing instructors to manage their large groups of students, as standing on the board gave them a higher viewpoint.  It is now a sport in its own right and is the latest craze to hit Northern Irish waters.  A fun, exhilarating and relaxing way to explore our country’s many beautiful waterways, learning to SUP is a must!

Not only is it an ancient sport but all the celebs are at it!  From Jennifer Aniston to Pierce Brosnan and Rihanna they’ve all had a go and it’s even featured in Flo Rider’s recent music video – if it’s good enough for Flo Rider it’s good enough for me! And on that note I booked my first lesson with   

Stand Up Paddleboarding Northern Ireland

Portballintrae was a lovely setting in itself and having arrived early I treated myself to a quick ice cream and took in the view before heading on down to the Surf SUP NI headquarters at Portballintrae Harbour. 

It is here where I was met by John Bustard – the owner of who kitted me out with a wetsuit, some lovely new wetsuit booties and a buoyancy aid.  John introduced us to our equipment including our boards…a lot bigger than a normal surfboard I had visions of myself struggling to control it out of the water never mind in it, but after being shown the correct way to hold it, we were able to carry them on our own no problem.  It was great to learn the simple things like handling the equipment as it showed us how accessible the sport is to do on your own.

As we headed down to the waters edge John warned us that the only thing we needed to worry about where the Somali Pirates – I was willing to take my chances.  We buddied up and all had a go getting comfortable paddling on our fronts whilst getting helpful tips such as how to use the handle to get the correct positioning, where to put the all important paddle and how to turn. After successfully negotiating our way around the shallows of the harbour, we headed back to dry land to practice our paddle strokes.  John told us it was all about the core – and that if we wanted Cameron Diaz abs this was the way to get them - I don’t know about rock hard abs, but I like to think I at least worked off the ice cream!

Once John was confident we had the technique down it was time to attempt standing up.  At this point I started to think it mightn’t be as easy as it looked – according to my wii fit experiences my balance leaves a lot to be desired for, this coupled with the fact that we had all just been given advice about ‘safe falling’ meant I was fully prepared to get wet!  However a firm believer in ‘slow and steady wins the race’ and taking it in stages; to the knees and then onto the feet it wasn’t long until I was actually standing up with not a drop of water in site and I wasn’t the only one – everyone in the group managed to stand up on their first go.  Once up it was a great feeling and I’m pretty sure it’s the closest anyone will ever get to experiencing walking on water!  Enjoying my new found skills I paddled round the harbour taking in the stunning setting, thinking to myself, ‘it doesn’t get much more relaxing than this’.    

However this was soon to change, not content with everyone being dry – John set us a challenge to do a 360 degree turn on the board while it stayed in position.  Slowly, but surely and most definitely wobbly I managed to master it.  Then it was time for a bit of fun; a race to a mark, standing up, turning around and then racing back.  With my nice dry wetsuit giving me renewed confidence I was off!  Soon realising there’s no time for slow and steady in a race I tried my best to quickly turn around, but then came the dreaded wobbling, all I could hear were John’s futile shouts; ‘Bend your knees! Bend your knees!’ but it was too late I was in. Well, it was bound to happen at some point!   

We then ventured out further and were even lucky enough to be treated to a seal popping its head above the water, no doubt curious about the strange people floating on the water.   Happily paddling along I attempted to take Johns advice of how to get better steerage by standing further back on the board but before I knew it I was submerged once again, thankfully this time no one was looking – but unfortunately there’s no hiding the splash!

It was then time to peacefully paddle back into the shore as our session was coming to an end.  I can safely say that this is the perfect package for anyone who wants to try out Stand Up Paddleboarding for the first time and is a great way to learn all the basics you need to enjoy SUP on your own. Always making us feel at ease John made sure everyone was using the correct technique every step of the way helping us to lay good foundations, something which will no doubt come in handy as going by the fun everyone had I think it is safe to say that this is most definitely not the last time we will be SUPin’.

Activity Provider:


+44(0)77 9661 4844


From £35 per person – all specialist equipment provided


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Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson  Marketing Officer

Sarah joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in 2011. A firm believer in giving anything a go at least once (unless it involves jumping out of a plane at 6,000ft!) she is always looking for new adventures in the outdoors and can often be found wandering the Mournes or Glens of Antrim attempting not to get lost! Does...Surfing with Long Line Surf School

Posted on May 8, 2012 @ 11:14 AM in AdventureBeaches does Surfing is the latest in our regular blog feature ‘ does…’ which is our opportunity to showcase the exciting outdoor activities available in Northern Ireland.

Find out how’s Sarah Nelson got on when she embarked on an afternoon’s surfing with Long Line Surf School.

My family have spent many a year having a rainy picnic on the beach; mum and dad sheltered in the car while my sister and I body boarded the waves doing our best Baywatch impressions. However despite always heading straight for the sea on holidays and living with a beach on my doorstep for four years I have never actually had a go at surfing.

So when Long Line Surf School recently launched on the North Coast I couldn’t wait to have a go.  Based at Benone Beach, away from the hustle and bustle of the seaside towns Long Line Surf School is situated in the perfect natural setting for that chilled out vibe that comes hand in hand with the sport.  Long Line HQ – a purpose built distressed wood cabin situated right on the boardwalk beside Benone Tourism Complex adds to the whole surfing experience.  It is here where I and a few others who were taking part in the group session met our instructor for the lesson, head coach and owner of Long Line Surf School, Dan Lavery. 

After a warm welcome Dan kitted us out with wetsuits and booties before everyone had a quick change, eager to get to the beach.  We were also given stylish Long Line branded rash vests for over the top of our wetsuits – so at least for a few minutes I looked the part – however it’s safe to say any such illusions were soon to be shattered once I was in the water!

We were then introduced to our surf boards and buddied up to carry them a short distance along the board walk to the beach – a treat in itself with the stunning Binevenagh Mountain as the backdrop to our walk and indeed the whole lesson.  As we came through the grassy dunes there it was; a stunning 7 mile stretch of sandy beach complete with crashing waves making it easy to see why Northern Ireland is one of Europe’s premiere surf spots..

Once on the beach we had a brief safety chat where Dan assured us that we were in safe hands - all Long Line surf instructors are fully trained surf coaches with ASI (Academy of Surfing Instructors) and hold Beach Lifeguard qualifications.  Next it was time to get to grips with our boards and learn the lingo so we knew the correct terminology for the different parts. Before we knew it, it was time to hit the waves for some body boarding to get used to handling the boards in the water.   As we headed into the sea it didn’t take long for the first cold waves to heat up thanks to our cosy wetsuits. If it wasn’t for the dark clouds…and the rain… and the wind we could have almost been in Hawaii.  All joking aside the session proved you don’t need fantastic weather to head down to the beach – with the right equipment the chance to have a go at surfing is reason enough!

After about 15 minutes of experiencing the rush of the waves speeding us into the beach it was time to head back to the sand to learn the one thing crucial to surfing –learning how to stand up.  Dan gave us all a demo before we practiced the positions on our boards.  Just about managing to stand up on the security of dry land, I quickly came to the realisation that this whole standing up on the water thing mightn’t be as easy as it looks…Thankfully Dan helped us put everything into perspective, explaining how long the average surfer spends on their feet and that even if we managed to get on our knees that would be encouraging enough– although I couldn’t help but have the feeling that this was directed at some more than others!  He also took the time to show us what not to do – some great tips to try and save us the hassle of working it out the hard way. 

Now it was the moment we’d all been waiting for – the chance to have a go ourselves.  Armed with determination and my all important surf board I headed in.  After my first few attempts it was clear that ‘If at first you don’t succeed…’ was to become my personal mantra for the afternoon.  It didn’t take long to accept that I would be spending the majority of my time in the waves as supposed to riding them but luckily for me - falling in was half the fun!  I eventually managed to progress onto my knees – an achievement in itself.  Others in the group were a lot more successful with the majority managing to stand up so at least I was able to live vicariously, acting as an all important witness and joining in on the celebrations whenever somebody successfully stood up and rode into the shore.  

Dan spent his time in the water dividing his attention between us with an enthusiasm that quickly rubbed off on those taking part.  When he wasn’t giving us tips and shouts of encouragement he was taking footage on the schools Go-Pro camera.  This latest technology allows those priceless moments that are normally restricted to memory and forgotten with time to be captured for friends and family to see.  For the more serious surfers hoping to progress their skills this technology is also a great tool for analysing technique. Unfortunately I think the only thing any footage of me will be useful for is to serve as a reminder of what not to do.  Well, either that or for blackmail purposes!

Before I knew it Dan was giving the signal for one more go and I was reminded of my younger days when I would stubbornly object to such calls from my mum and dad however having realised this was not quite appropriate I headed in with the others.  To be honest my arms where pretty knackered anyway! Back at the cabin Dan put on some chilled music and we all got changed.  Throughout the whole session Long Line’s Surf School’s aim to ‘encourage a lifestyle... not just a sport’ was put into practice with an emphasis on having fun in a beautiful, stress free environment.  This was perfect for someone like me who doesn’t have a competitive bone in their body when it comes to sport (which is probably a good thing given my ‘surfing’ performance).  Saying that, there was still plenty of opportunity for those with a competitive nature to set their own personal challenges.

All in all it was a fantastic afternoon - if I had this much fun only getting half way there, then imagine what it will be like when I finally manage to stand up!  I will most definitely be rounding up a few mates and heading back for another lesson– even if it is in the hope that they will take the bad look of me!

Activity Provider:

Long Line Surf School 

Long Line Surf School is open all year round



From £25 per person – all specialist equipment provided

Latest comment posted by mccall gilfillan on May 9, 2012 @ 6:52 PM

yeah! go Dan! Long Lines Surf School is our new neighbour and Dan is a super instructor for all ages and abilities, a real assest to Downhill/Benone. -McCall, from Downhill Hostel aka THE beach ... Read more >

Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson  Marketing Officer

Sarah joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in 2011. A firm believer in giving anything a go at least once (unless it involves jumping out of a plane at 6,000ft!) she is always looking for new adventures in the outdoors and can often be found wandering the Mournes or Glens of Antrim attempting not to get lost!

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