Water sports: the info

Ireland boasts over 5,600km of pristine coastline, temperate conditions, plenty of lakes, rivers and waterways. You name the water sport, we’ve got it

Kayaking at Portrush, County Down
Kayaking at Portrush, County Down


Massive waves pick up speed as they travel across the Atlantic and crash against the Irish coast producing excellent surf in the south, west and north. The coastline also provides a great variation in the direction of breaks, meaning you can find offshore surf in every wind direction.

Spring and summer are the best times of year to surf, with August/September water temperatures averaging around 16°C. This dips, at the coldest time of year in January/February, to around 8°C. From October to April a 5mm wetsuit, boots and gloves are recommended. A 3mm wetsuit is suitable for the rest of the year. Surfing lessons for beginners, coaching for improvers, board and wetsuit hire are usually available at surf clubs around the island.

Wakeboarding at Portumna, County Galway
Wakeboarding at Portumna, County Galway


Being an island, Ireland has a long tradition of sailing. Good news for budding seafarers. With excellent ISA and RYA approved sailing schools for beginners to advanced levels, and expert companies organising bareboat, skippered, crewed and flotilla charters, the options here are overflowing. Well-equipped marinas, too, are on hand to greet those bringing their own boats to the island. Ireland regularly hosts prestigious national, European and world-class championships, so get out there and compete in your class event any time of year.


Canoeing is a rare thing in sports: an all year-round activity. Regardless of the weather, different seasons offer a huge variety of options. Among your choices are whitewater racing, leisurely canoe tours, sea kayaking, rowing challenges and canoe trails. If you’re up for the challenge, the first dedicated canoe trail on the island is the Lough Erne Canoe Trail, a 50km route linking Upper and Lower Lough Erne with the Shannon Waterway.

Sub-aqua diving

Dive underwater along a coastline that stretches 5,600km in a season that runs from March to October. Offering visibility that averages over 12 metres, you can uncover a cornucopia of sub-aqua flora and fauna, as well as hundreds of sunken wrecks. Be sure to tell us if you find treasure.

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Thrill seekers and their high-powered boats can master aerial manouevres, grabs, spins and inverts on an abundance of locations around the island. Most facilities will ask you to bring along a towel and swimsuit, with wetsuits, skis, boards and buoyancy aids all provided for you. Oh, and they’ll also provide the boat, too!


The elite of the windsurfing community regard Ireland as one of the best windsurfing locations in the world. Top venues making their hit list include Brandon Bay in County Kerry, Clew Bay in County Mayo, and Portstewart in County Londonderry. Most centres will provide you with wetsuits, buoyancy aids and the latest models of windsurf appropriate for your size and level of skill. Leave the wind to Mother Nature.

Safety first

Although the lure of the water sounds exciting, always remember: safety comes first. Always let people know where you are going, when you are leaving and what time to expect you back. Bring all the necessary safety equipment with you or confirm with your rental firm that safety equipment is provided, and check everything is in working order before you depart.

Official Links

Canoeing Northern Ireland

Irish Boat Rental Association 

Irish KiteSurfing Association

Irish Sailing Association 

Irish Surfing Association 

Irish Underwater Council 

Irish Water Safety 

Irish Waterski and Wakeboard Federation 

Irish Windsurfing Association 

Northern Ireland Federation of SubAqua Clubs 

RYA Northern Ireland Council 

The Canoe Association of Northern Ireland 

The Irish Amateur Rowing Union 

The Irish Canoe Union 

Waterways Ireland

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