(Words by Louise)
I took up surfing pretty late. Having spent my childhood summers in Cornwall, I had dabbled in body boarding but always looked at ‘stand-up’ surfing as something totally out of my reach; something for the young, athletically fit and gorgeous (see here for our article on stereotypes in surfing).
Learning to Surf, especially late in life, is like taking up anything new - it requires some significant practice. Getting in and out of the cold English sea, paddling out (WAY more tiring than I had anticipated) and being thrown off the board numerous times is absolutely exhausting. After one particular session in January I actually cried because my hands were so cold (tip to any other newbies - don’t put your freezing hands under a hot tap!).
Nothing has made me realise my age as much as surfing. I am generally fit and healthy but surfing has made me fully aware of the stiffness in my body. It’s only now that I realise my right hip is significantly less mobile than my left and stretching is a must. Regular Yoga practise is something I know I must get into if I want to keep this up. Having said that, it’s also made me feel young again and, as we keep saying, surfing doesn’t judge you - you’re not young, old, pretty, fat, thin - you’re just a surfer.
See our expert tips from Matt Roberts training here in the takk journal.
I was pretty sceptical of how much ‘fun’ I would find it. On paper, to a new surfer, it’s not hugely appealing and I felt I might be happier watching from the beach. However, I surprised myself at how much I really love it. Even if I only got 1 wave in 10, the feeling of catching one and riding it is amazing and something that makes you keep getting into the water to try and re-experience. The Sunsets and Sunrises I have seen while sitting in an empty line-up have been some of the most magical moments of my life.
The Sunsets and Sunrises I have seen while sitting in an empty line-up have been some of the most magical moments of my life
I have broken my toe twice surfing, received several ‘surfers tattoos’ (reef scratches) and been washed under in big swell (quite scary when you think you have no breath left but are still being held under by the wave). I have also been swept under and caught my leash on the reef which is quite full on as a beginner when you realised you are tied to the sea bed and cant get up to the surface for air (tip for any other beginners - there is usually a tab on your leash that allows for quick release in these situations). However, it is all well worth it and, at the time, I was enjoying myself so much, and on such an adrenaline high, that I didn’t even realise I’d hurt myself till I got out of the water.
I’ve had wonderful trips where the sun has shone, the water has been calm and, after 3 days, I have felt that I really ‘got it’. However, this golden trip was followed by two terrible outings when I had to call it a day after 20 minutes because it was too hard to paddle out. Sometimes the current is so strong that I have no energy to get up on the board once I’ve spent 15 minutes battling it back from the shore. Berating myself for not doing more upper body strength exercises, I finally get a wave only to forget all my technique because I am so exhausted. These are the honest highs and lows of a beginner and every time I go out I
Someone said to me ‘I come every year and, every year, it’s like starting from scratch again’. To combat this, I my goal is to find 3 weeks next year when I can surf every day in order to get over that beginners hump.