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Image / Living / Culture

Taylor Swift sent the Galway paddleboarders a letter when she heard about their ordeal


By Sarah Finnan
04th Aug 2021

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift sent the Galway paddleboarders a letter when she heard about their ordeal

Taylor Swift sent the Galway paddleboarders a handwritten letter after she heard about their story... they're fans of hers and she's a fan of them too, it seems.

The country was rocked by the story of Ellen Glynn and Sara Feeney last summer, two Galway cousins who spent a terrifying night in the water after getting blown off course by the wind. 

Out for an evening paddle around Galway Bay, while Sara’s mother walked the dog, Ellen was a proficient paddleboarder who had introduced her cousin to the hobby during lockdown. Herself a very capable swimmer, Sara was a natural at it and the duo would often head out for a quick dip before sundown. However, it may have been a trip that the girls had made many a time before but things quickly went awry on the night of August 12th when a 20-minute spin turned into a 15-hour wait in the freezing cold. 

Setting off from Furbo beach around 9:30 pm, the cousins inflated their paddleboards before realising that Ellen had forgotten her wet bag which she would bring with her to keep her phone dry while out at sea. Deciding that it wasn’t that important as they were only planning a short trip anyway, the two headed out regardless. 

Donning lifejackets and already having checked the tides beforehand, the duo was well prepared for the trip but the changeable weather threw a spanner in the works and they ended up much farther out than they had anticipated. A north-westerly breeze turned north-easterly and the inflatable boards were like sails in the wind. Unable to paddle back to shore, they found themselves stranded out in the middle of nowhere with no means of communication. 

Making the quick decision to tie their boards together and continue trying to paddle parallel with the coast, a mixture of adrenaline and the warm sea temperatures kept the girls going but it was an unimaginably long night for the two who were exhausted and hypothermic by the time morning rolled around.

What could easily have been a tale of woe, thankfully had a much happier ending though and the girls were found clinging to a lobster pot marker buoy by local fishermen Patrick and Morgan Oliver after 15 hours in the water. Rescued 17 miles from where they had last been seen, the two were rushed to University Hospital Galway for treatment but both girls recovered well and returned home to their families as soon as was possible. 

Reflecting back on the traumatic ordeal in a new documentary that aired on RTÉ during the week, Ellen compared the experience to being in a nightmare you want to wake up from. But despite their terror, neither one let the “what ifs” run away with them. Previously admitting that they distracted themselves by singing Taylor Swift songs, the girls kept their spirits high belting out the lyrics to her song Exile. 

Since hearing about the famous tale of the Galway paddleboarders, Ellen and Sara revealed that Ms Swift had actually been in touch with them following the incident – even sending them a handwritten note and a painting because she was so moved by their story. 

Getting a personalised letter from their idol definitely helped the situation but there are still many stages to processing what they went through according to Sara who said, “Sometimes I just want to talk it out, and I’m so lucky that there’s [sic] amazing people around me that I have there to listen….and then other times you just feel like, ‘No, that wasn’t me, that never happened’, and it’s just… trying to find the balance and getting back to normal.”