Camile Thai interviewed with the best selling author, blogger, surfer, coeliac and all-round cool and interesting person – Finn Ní Fhaolain.
On your blog as in life, we can see that you love the sea, can you tell us what it is that you love so much? Do you have the same feeling wherever you are in the sea or is it different when you’re home in Ireland?
I’ve lived by the sea ever since I was little and it’s always been a massive part of my life, from recreation – beach days rain or shine with my parents and friends, to sports – surfing, SUPing, sailing, swimming or even just running on the beach and even just for a good state of mind, be that a quiet walk by the sea or a quick plunge in the cold salt water. For me, it’s everything, food, the subject I studied in college, my adrenaline and also my calm. Life at sea vs living by the seaside is quite different. I love working on ships, but technically you’re not generally allowed in the water (so I actually spend more time in the gym in those weeks!) so the freedom I find there is not seeing land for a few weeks, it might also sound a bit mad but not being connected to land and for the most part your normal day to day (and often the internet!) is a wonderful way to touch base with your brain and not get distracted. I find I’m either focused on the work I’m doing or in my down time my brain is flooding with ideas for when I come home. I came up with the concept for the blog while I at sea and also the idea for an exciting venture next year this summer while in the Atlantic this summer.
How did you start surfing? A family member, friend? And how long have you been surfing? Where is your favourite surfing spot?
I got a week of surf lessons as a present from my dad, I think he was trying to find a way to occupy a bored teenager during Easter holidays. After the week I was hooked and spent the summer of that year saving for my first board. I’ve been surfing a long time, but my skill certainly doesn’t reflect that! I love all the spots locally around where I live in Donegal. There’s so much choice with different reefs and beaches that there’s usually a good chance of a wave breaking somewhere!
I understand that you started the “watober” (water+ October: reboot and challenge yourself every day to go swimming, surfing..) as a way to release all the pressure surrounding you when you didn’t know what your life would be after your studies. Many people have joined you in this challenge with the years, are you still doing it now? What is your “watober” routine like? Are you challenging yourself a bit more everytime?
The reactions to #watober were absolutely amazing, so many people got in touch or came along for the adventure. This year I didn’t do it, now that I live right on the beach I’m in the sea a lot anyway and also I just got a new tattoo! So I’m not allowed in the sea for at least two weeks. But I’ve been delighted to see one of my very best friends Aoife continuing it on this year. I reckon I might give it a go again next year. In the first year, I managed to go right into November and get to 50 days!
You’ve studied marine science and eventually found your way intothe research in which you graduated. Are you still taking part in some research projects now?
Yes indeed and hoping to do even more next year. This year I did two weeks at sea with my supervisor from my masters doing species IDing on a deep sea cruise and next month I’m getting trained up as a marine mammal observer with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (such an amazing group of people) so really looking forward to that.
On your blog, you mention that your point of view is different from bloggers who “tell you a salad tastes better than a hamburger”, is that one of the reasons why you started your blog in the first place?
Yes absolutely. I think it can be very disheartening when you see these hyper-fit, insanely motivated people eating “perfectly” and working out all the time. I think when you’re starting out from a more normal baseline, a busy working person, maybe with a family comparing yourself with these perfect ideals can feel like it’s setting you up for failure. It’s really important for me to give people simple options, easy recipes and to make fitness and healthy eating fun (and tasty) so that it’s not a chore to incorporate it into your already busy day. It’s all well and good for me to talk about eating healthy and working out 24-7 because it’s my job 🙂
You were diagnosed as a coeliac 7 years ago, was it a ‘relief’ to find out, how did it change things for you? What was your reality, did you stop going to restaurants for instance?
It was such a relief! My uncle and my granddad were coeliacs so there was already some understanding in my family of what to do even though by and large at the time there wasn’t much info out there about coeliac disease. The reality at the start was pretty rough, I was still really weak and skinny and had missed a fair bit of college in the first year to go in and out for tests. On the food front it was also pretty sad (rice cake peanut butter and jelly sambos), I was very shy in restaurants at the start and was frequently “glutened”,(Given a dish that contained glutn even though it was marked gluten free) that’s why I’ve a whole section for gluten-free people at the back of the book talking about restaurants and the social anxiety around eating out. It is such a different story now though I no longer limit where I travel to based on food ( I was so worried about Italy for so long), I just plan and prep a bit more!
From your several years of blogging, you just released a cookbook “Finn’s world: do what you love, love what you eat”, how does it feel? Was it the accomplishment of many years searching for yourself and for others, or was it something you had wanted to do for a long time? / if you looked back a few years ago, did you imagine that you would release a cookbook based on your lifestyle and diet?
It was so amazing in April to see the first books hitting stores and to stand next to the book stand in Aldi. I’ve been working on the recipes since I first found out I was coeliac, so that’s over 7 years and then the book itself was a few years in the making. I was so delighted when it came out as a huge part of making the book was that it was the cookbook I wished had existed when I first started eating gluten free and trying to have a healthier diet. I would never have imagined that the book would be published when I was in my twenties as I used to joke that I would quite science after 20 years and go off to do a chef course and write a cookbook. So I guess I was a bit early, it all started when I was 25 so I guess we could call it my quarter life crisis!
If this interview has struck a chord with you or even if you are just interested in finding out more about Finn, Pop over to her really cool website HERE.
If you would like to try Finn’s delicious wild Atlantic prawn stir fry you can order it HERE