The recession was a blessing in disguise

The recession was a blessing in disguise

Trading the corporate world for sun, sand and vitamin sea

Fran Duffy knows how to live life to the fullest. Along with teaching swimming, surfing and lifesaving, the Donegal woman is also a bus driver, a special needs volunteer and a married mother of three!

Fran is originally from Belfast and has always been extremely active – routinely running, swimming, and clocking up hours in the gym.

Hearing what her life is like now it may come as a surprise to learn that Fran spent 15 years behind a desk working in administration and accounts.

“I always enjoyed the office life, I’m very sociable and loved constantly meeting new people but I always knew my heart wasn’t fully in it. There was this nagging feeling to do something more outdoorsy. I have always been very energetic, full of life and love being out and about, so the office environment could feel quite restrictive. I felt drawn to doing something more physical.”

When the recession hit, Fran saw it as an opportunity to revaluate and change career to something that suited her in a deeper way. Fran had always loved the ocean and knowing that being in the water was where she felt the happiest, she decided to dive into the unknown and begin a career as a lifeguard and surfing instructor.

“I researched many options and finally got in touch with Donegal Adventure Centre about their Donegal ETB Surf Instructor & Beach Lifeguard Course with Donegal Education and Training Board. After speaking to the course tutor, I realised that someone like me could actually take part in a course like this and that it was open to everyone. So, I to applied for a place on their Beach Lifeguard and Surf Instructor Course and then all I had to do was swim fast enough to pass the trials.”

Which she did. In lightning time.

“The course itself was great. Our tutors were really invested in our learning and would tailor lessons to suit our progression. The course was physically tough, and I found myself out of my comfort zone at times, but I knew my tutors were experienced enough to keep us safe while challenging us. As well as the course content, I learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of. I began to believe in myself, always growing in confidence. There was also a lot of support from Donegal ETB and made it possible for me, as a parent, to return to education and training.”


Fran Duffy as a qualified surf instructor and beach lifeguard

“After finishing the course, I worked at Donegal Adventure Centre for six years as an outdoors instructor and surf instructor, continued to add on new relevant qualifications and eventually progressed to become a tutor on the very Donegal ETB course that I began with.

Fran certainly didn’t leave the social side of work in the office in Belfast. She tells us: “I work with so many different groups of people, including people with additional needs which I particularly enjoy. I also volunteer with Liquid Therapy – a charity which allows people with special needs to experience the ocean and learn to surf.

"It is an honour to be able to give this experience to someone who may not normally have this opportunity. I am hugely motivated by being part of a person’s skill development and to watch them grow in confidence as a result."

Fran’s advice to someone who is thinking about changing their career path is to take that step into the unknown: “It could change your life tremendously as it did mine. If I hadn’t applied for that first course, I could still be sitting behind that desk in the office for another 15 years!”