The winners of the 2022 Outsider Awards were announced and presented with their awards at the Sugar Club in Dublin last night and many of the awards have made their way west of the Shannon this yearCongratulations to the award nominees and winners across all categories, some incredible feats were achieved over the last twelve months.
With 12 categories in total, the Outsider Awards celebrate people and organisations that are doing amazing things outside mainstream sports in the Irish outdoor and adventure scene. Most of the nominees are ordinary people who are quietly taking on extraordinary challenges. These awards shine a spotlight on their inspirational achievements.
Along with the awards ceremony, two panel discussions took place. The first of which was the Leave No Trace Ireland panel presented by Roz Purcell, and the second was the Theatre of Adventure Panel where Jamie Crawford, Karen Weekes, June Curtin, and Damien Browne discussed all facets of adventure.
Outsider Woman of the Year supported by Sport Ireland: Dr. Karen Weekes, Rower
Outsider Woman of the Year Dr. Karen Weekes (55) spent 80 days at sea as she rowed across the Atlantic solo, never taking her eyes off the prize. Making the 3,000-mile journey from the Canaries to Barbados, she battled enormous waves that threatened to capsize her in the middle of nowhere. Despite all the threats and dangers, Karen pulled her oars until she crossed the ocean and became the first Irish woman to row solo across the Atlantic.
Outsider Man of the Year: Damien Browne, Rower
Outsider Man of the Year Damian Browne. In June 2022, Damian Browne set off from Manhattan in the United States with the objective of completing a world-record row across the Atlantic. Over the 100 days that followed, Damian experienced the best and the worst of the Atlantic Ocean. He arrived in Galway on 4 October 20222 after more 2,686 hours at sea and more than 3,450 nautical miles rowed. The row took nearly two months longer than expected and almost ended in tragedy when Damian hit rocks as he was landing in Ireland.
The Olly O’Neill Most Inspiring Person: June Curtin, Sea Swimmer
Outsider Audience Choice Award winner June Curtin from Snamhai Sasta.
In 2013 Jane’s life changed forever when her husband commit suicide. She was left with two young kids and unsurprisingly this was incredibly difficult and her own mental health began to suffer.
June had tried walking, yoga, and going to the gym to improve her mental health, but none of them hit the mark for her. Then one day, as she glanced out her window towards Spanish Point, she saw swimmers bobbing up and down in the sea. The next day she was in the water with them. Since then, she has set up a swimming group called Snámhaí Sásta and those in the group and others head out each morning for a dip in the sea. The group helps people get outside, meet others, and get through difficult times in their lives, while also feeling part of a community. In December 2022, June swam in the sea three times per day for 21 days to raise money for the Mid-West Simon Community, raising a whopping €100,000.
Outdoor Champion of the Year: Roz Purcell, The Hike Life
Tipperary woman Roz Purcell has achieved a lot of success in her life so far. One recent venture she’s really proud of is creating The Hike Life (THL) community. THL has grown massively in the last few years. Roz built her brand organically from her desire to grow a free hiking community. She offers hiking inspiration and information, documenting and posting about her hikes all over the country.
Youth Award: Julia and Filip Piorek, Mountain Bikers
Brother and sister duo, Julia and Filip Piorek are just 9 and 14 years old. Originally from Poland, Filip, a diabetic got into mountain biking thanks to his dad’s love of the sport. His biggest obstacle to reaching the level he’s at has always been his diabetes. He’s had to work hard on his body to keep his energy up during training. But this doesn’t stop him. 2022 was the first full season in which he raced in such competitions as Grassroots Gravity Enduro. He finished in the top five in the downhill competition. He also won first place overall in the under-17 category from all rounds in the Gravity Series.
Most Devoted Individual to the Outdoor Scene Award: John Shiels, Adventure Photographer
John Shiels can be found in a bog, up the side of a mountain or wading in the water as he commits to getting the perfect shot at events all around the country. Not in it for the money, John is responsible for gifting competitors with that all-important photo of their challenge.
John has also been an active member of the Dublin & Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team in 2011. He got involved after being in a number of hill runners’ rescues at various races. For the last 10 years he has shot the team’s fundraising events—Run the Line, Walk the Line and the Art O’Neill race—as well as being involved in callouts.
Breakthrough Achievement: Dan Clohessy, Paddler
Dan Clohessy (16) has proven himself to be a formidable outdoorsman, not only competing at a high level in his own sport of freestyle kayaking but also finding the time to mentor and support his peers and volunteer adults in skills training and activity management.
This year, Dan competed as an Irish athlete at the Freestyle Kayaking World Championships and was exceptional. Alongside this, Dan has been a key player and a role model supporting water activities at Malahide Sea Scouts. As deputy boat master, Dan plays an influential role with his peers in developing skills and activities on the water.
Eco-Hero Award: Flossie Donnelly
At the tender age of 15, Flossie Donnelly has already achieved a lot. A TY pupil of St. Andrews school in Booterstown, Dublin, she started a beach cleaning club when she was nine and in 2018 she did two fundraisers to get the first two sea bins installed in Ireland. The same year, she organised a march for the oceans which 500 people attended and also gave a Ted Talk in Dun Laoghaire. She then started climate striking weekly in Ireland. The following year Flossie spoke in front of 12,000 people at the global climate strike and, together with her mum Harriet, started Flossie and the Beach Cleaners as a charity.
Eco-Hero Group Award: Croagh Patrick Ambassador Programme
The aim of this programme is to increase public awareness of the importance of care and respect for our natural heritage. It wants to empower positive behavioural change and develop skills around outdoor recreation so that locals and visitors can continue to enjoy and protect Croagh Patrick and its surroundings. In addition to this the group has committed to trail development on Croagh Patrick. They have braved all weather conditions to create an incredible outdoor amenity in Co Mayo.
Best Outdoor Adventure Event: Swim in Pink
Swim in Pink is a fundraising initiative that the National Breast Cancer Research Institute developed in association with Galway-based business, Blackrock Swimwear. October is breast cancer awareness month and to help highlight the need for research and help fund the charity the public are encouraged to take a swim, dip or splash for breast cancer research on the last weekend of the month to mark the end of breast cancer awareness month.
The event started in Galway at Ladies Beach in Blackrock, Salthill and has now grown to become a fun event for swim groups and individuals nationwide. This year was the second year of the fundraiser and raised €44,000 for the charity.
Best Outdoor Escape: Clifden Eco Camping
Clifden Eco Beach Camping is a multi-award-winning ecological park and Ireland’s first eco-certified carbon-neutral premises. Nestled among the sand dunes on the shores of Connemara’s Wild Atlantic Way, this stunning campsite boasts breath-taking panoramic sea views from its secluded private sandy beach.
Operated on a sustainable, environmental and ethical basis, with a zero-carbon footprint, the campsite is a gold-certified member of Sustainable Travel Ireland and carbon-neutral certified by South Pole Global.