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Life swivelled on axis: From surfing champion to becoming pastor at church he co-founded in Lahinch

John McCarthy says his life as a surfer meant he could do whatever he wanted but that it wasn’t a life built on anything solid.

“A LIFE WITHOUT foundations or guidelines” – that’s how John McCarthy describes his existence before he became a pastor.

He was a pioneer of Irish surfing and was one of the first to ride Aileen’s Wave at the Cliffs of Moher – a wave he’s credited with naming – and even starred in an iconic bank advert filmed there.

He also won bronze for Ireland at the European Surfing Championships, McCarthy explained:

Between the age of 13 and 30 I live to find the next wave and that satisfied me and I was happy to do that.

However all that changed when he started looking for answers as he felt lonely and unsettled. He became a born again christian is now a pastor at a church he co-founded in Lahinch.

A radio documentary ‘Shipwreck and Deliverance’ travels with McCarthy a decade after his rebirth as he returns to a surfing event. Producer Brendan Daly said:

For nearly 20 years, McCarthy styled himself as a classic surfer dude. Handsome, athletic, and outwardly confident, surfing was essential to his identity and his ego, but he was drinking heavily and struggling with loneliness.

In the documentary McCarthy describes how his life as a surfer meant he could do whatever he wanted but that it wasn’t a life built on anything solid.

“Saturday night you’re trying to be everyone’s friend in the pub, you’re the last man to leave at the party but the problem is Sunday morning.

“You go down to work and you’ve got a hangover and trying to be patient with your staff or trying to be patient and caring with your customers is the last thing you think of when you’re badly hungover. That was part of the weekly cycle – that was normal.”

John 2

McCarthy said he had an unsettled soul. “I definitely would have had a consistent loneliness.

I came to the point where I was like: ‘Okay, I’m ready to start looking for some answers’.

He said he began by reading a book on world religions and from that he bought the Bible.

Shortly after he attended a Christian Surfers’ Conference in Devon in England and experienced an epiphany.

I had such a thirst in my soul and I surrendered, it’s easier to surrender when you’re broken. That was a personal decision between me and God but it changed my life.

McCarthy then gave up surfing at the Cliffs of Moher due to concerns about his personal safety and whether he was serving God’s will.

“I had a good excuse, I had to look after my kids and what if something happened.”

However he got back on the surfboard and headed to the cliffs after an experience where he believes God told him to. The documentary follows McCarthy as he heads back to the waves.

“I don’t need an excuse to be going surfing but it’s really important to me to know I’m in the will of God. For me it’s a big thing to know I can have peace and I’m doing what God wants me to do.”

‘Shipwreck and Deliverance’ broadcasts on Newstalk on Sunday, 19 November at 8am and is repeated on Saturday 25 November at 10pm.

Read: British doctor escapes Australian shark attack by ‘punching it in the face’>

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