“I love it here,” Danielle Murphy says. “The waves, the wilderness all around. I have no plans to leave.” The zoologist and surf instructor is extolling her love of Bundoran, the small village in south Donegal which has become a mecca for surfers over the last two decades.
In high summer, the seafront here is awash with visitors — beginners mostly — looking to catch their first wave. In winter, the tourists drift away and, in their place, international pros and riders come to stay.
They are in pursuit of big swells like the one Ciaran O’Reilly caught the previous day in Mullaghmore. “Right now, we have surfers from Hawaii and Kiwis visiting,” he explains. “They come into the shop looking for hardware — leashes and fins, the kind of equipment they need to head out there this time of year.”
Ciaran is a surfer and musician who works in Bundoran Surf Co, a shop and lodge that offers instructors a bed while training or teaching. It’s here that he and Danielle, along with local coffee shop owner Gerald Arbuckle, met.
A stone’s throw from Surf Co, Gerald’s cafe Foam serves up hearty fare for hungry sea-goers. The coffee enthusiast imports his own custom roast beans from Nicaragua, but any spare time is spent chasing the next wave. “I love this time of year when it quietens down,” Gerald says. “I have more time to escape to the sea.”
For the three friends, this is their shared obsession — the proximity of the ocean and the endless opportunities to catch the next break along the wild Atlantic coastline. They’re fresh off a road trip, and their excitement is still palpable.
“We headed to Rossnowlagh Beach, about 16 kilometres from Bundoran village,” Gerald says. The beach stretches from the cliffs at Coolmore to the rocky outcrop at Carrickfad and is renowned as one of Ireland’s main surfing beaches.
It was the first destination for the gang in the Kia Niro, a fully electric crossover. “Three surfers, three surfboards,” Danielle laughs. “We loaded up and headed off. That was the first big thumbs-up from me — we had plenty of room in the Kia for all of our gear.”
“It was my first time driving an electric,” Ciaran adds,” and I’ll admit, I was a sceptic. I’ve always been a bit of a petrolhead. Immediately I was blown away. The power, the comfort, and its responsiveness — I’m fully converted.”
The Kia Niro EV is built for adventurers like Ciaran, Danielle and Gerald. Spacious and comfortable, with safety features including collision avoidance and lane assistance, it’s a vehicle that makes the journey to a surf point a savoured part of the adventure.
For the surfers, the Niro’s additional features can significantly elevate their experience. LED headlamps and power-folding mirrors mean it’s equipped for reaching off-road coves before sunrise, while the dual-zone climate control and heated seats are the little comforts that make all the difference. “Being able to heat up after a swim is a big plus,” Ciaran laughs.
At home on a cold winter’s morning you can also warm up the cabin of the car by activating the preconditioning function remotely via the Kia app. It takes about 20 minutes — the time to brew your morning cup of coffee.
As the trio’s driver, Ciaran appreciates the additional space in this vehicle. “Surf vehicles tend to get battered,” he admits. “All three shortboards fit in the back or on a roof rack, and the boot is automatic, which is so handy when you have an armful of wetsuits and boards to load up at the end of a long day. I even drove the Niro home to Cavan to my parents’ house, did their shopping, gave it a quick charge in the town, and then drove back. I’m really impressed with the range.”
The Kia Niro EV boasts a 460km range on a full charge, with Danielle and Gerald agreeing neither felt anxiety about recharging while on the road. “Donegal can be remote,” Gerald says. However, the car has a function that allows you to find the nearest charging point, which takes any worry out of the journey.
For Danielle, the EV has a dual advantage. “Fuel is expensive, so I love the idea of being able to skip filling up the tank. As a zoologist and surfer, I’m invested in the environment. You either get into surfing because you love nature, or you begin surfing, which makes you fall in love with the natural world,” she says. “Either way, you can’t help but always think about your environmental footprint and every mark you leave on a shore. For me, EVs are the future. It just makes sense.”
“We ended up having a big discussion about the interior, too,” Danielle says. “It’s cool that the finishes feature recycled materials. It’s a thoughtful touch. I appreciate that attention to detail.”
As the sun sets on Bundoran strand, the crew is already planning where to catch their next wave. “You are part of a surf community here,” Danielle says. “I only moved to Bundoran at the start of the summer, but immediately I felt at home. People here feel like family. We all want to follow this passion wherever it takes us.”
For more on the Kia Niro and to book a test drive visit kia.com/ie/