After success on the junior circuit, EU-hopeful Arran Strong suffered an epileptic fit that kept him out of the water for the better part of a year. During that down time, Arran pivoted to being a triathlete before returning to the water around Portugal, Hawaii and more.
A couple of days ago, Arran, from is from the UK but grew up in Spain, released a fresh edit that tells his story and eventual redemption – and yeah, it's packed wall-to-wall with Portuguese barrels. We also caught up with this legend to talk through his episode, filming and striving to get back on the horse.
Talk us through the epileptic fit, what happened, where were you? And how old were you when it happened?
Finishing my Junior Career I had received a wildcard for the World Junior Finals in Australia, which was my last competition as a junior in 2018. Moving on to the open category and doing the tour WQS in South Africa and Europe in 2019.
I had about three contests previous to this incident and I was going through a lot of emotional ups and down, not really stable with a lot of bad results and losing my confidence. Right after the event in Lacanau, in August 2018, I was suffering various convulsions, that I didn't understand at the time and lead to an epileptic seizure. I was hospitalised in France until my mother picked me up to go back to Spain.
Was that the first time you’ve had one? What brought it on?
It was the second time I suffered convulsions but the first real seizure was after the contest. I had many difficulties, emotionally, and I wasn't bringing them out, and also my way of dealing with it, was not the best way at the time, not making the right choices in my lifestyle with nightlife and not getting good sleep for many days.
Must have been heavy – and the advice was, ‘stay out of the water’, how did you stay sane?
After spending time in Spain with my family, I moved back to Portugal to find a professional neurologist to support and guide me through, in order to come back to my dream of surfing.
It was a painful process knowing that I couldn't go into the sea, but slowly I found an objective to keep my mind busy and stable. So I decided to dedicate my time to train for a 70.3 Iron Man. This helped me to stay focussed and motivated for seven months.
And did that help with the mindset and surfing in general?
I found that a triathlon could be a good alternative, and a complete different view on competitive surfing. Helping me to gain a lot of inner and outer strength, I was feeling better than ever, when I completed the 2.1km swim, 90km bike and 21km run in 5 hours and 10 minutes.
So, when did you get back in the water?
Literally the day after the Iron Man in September 2019. I was back surfing, after probably the most emotional days of my life. It felt like I had overcome this barrier in the best way possible.
And this edit was all shot over the course of a few years, when you’ve been on the bounce back right?
This movie actually started last year, however throughout my travels I have collected some of the best moments around Europe, Mexico and Hawaii. We made a selection of some of the best moments and thought about a powerful message to demonstrate it.
With this out there, it seems you’re back out there, what’s next for Arran Strong?
Well the Movie The Strong Man helped me create a base, not only for my YouTube channel but also to inspire other people that may be having difficulties overcoming certain barriers in life.
There will be three other episodes coming out this year with the help of Ricardo Pina as a producer. Also I have been busy finishing my documentary Back On Two Feet which is being produced by Reinaldo Andrade with the aim to be shown in film festivals around the world and publishing it to the public by the end of 2022.
Career wise I am focusing on qualifying for the 2024 Surfing Olympics representing the Open British Team and participating in European WQS tour with an objective of a top 10 finish.