Sadly the person in the photo of this blog post is not me. It is my photo however; It turns out standing on the sand pretending to take photos of my friend is the best way to avoid eager Australian surfing instructors, ‘Why are you not in the water mate?’ questions.
I have always really wanted to try surfing so a surf class was something I knew I had to do while I was in Australia on my working holiday. I thought that surfing looked like a great way to keep fit, plus you can do it all over the world and quite frankly, I wanted to do it because surfing is cool, and I’m not ashamed to admit I wanted to be part of the club.
I’ve always pictured myself wandering along the beach in the early morning, surfboard under my arms, nodding hi to my fellow surfers, catching a few waves with ease and then going to grab a juice in the sun. Anyone who’s ever watched a surfing movie will know, those guys make it look so easy ( I’m still convinced their feet are superglued to their boards).
The problem was I was actually really scared to surf; Being tossed under the waves and not being able to find the surface, getting hit on the head with my board, being eaten by a shark- Sadly the laid back Aussie surfer mentality was not quite there yet, but I had to give it a go either way.
We decided to take the Greyhound bus to Agnes Water, or 1770, a small beachside town that all the backpackers go to for one reason, Australia’s cheapest surf lessons. At just $25 for four hours, you can see why.
On the day of the surf, we turned up at the surf school just before 10am, joining around 20 other travellers- all new to the sport. We started signing our name on all these forms, you know the ones that say, ‘we acknowledge that surfing is dangerous’ and ‘our families wont sue the school if we die’. I’m starting to feel a little nervous.
The surf instructors are the coolest guys ever: Three middle-aged Aussie guys who do nothing but surf and hang out all day and who interspace every third word with ‘guys’.
‘Ok guys, you’ll love surfing guys, everyone will be surfing by the end of this morning guys.’
We head to the beachfront and start by learning the technique, practising paddling and then jumping up into a warrior pose on our boards while we’re still safe on the sand.
Then before I know it, it’s time to put theory into practice. Our group splits into three lines and we get in the sea and start paddling towards our guides.
In theory surfing is easy, but even lying on flat on a board and paddling against the waves to get out to the sea was a challenge. As I desperately try to manoeuvre myself with my hands so that my board is facing back to shore, the reality that I’m actually doing this hits me.
No time to think, the person in front of me has just gone so it’s my time to swim up to the guide. ‘
‘Ok England, the wave is coming’.’ He gives me a slight push into the wave.
‘One, two, three,’ he shouts, ‘paddle, paddle, paddle aaaand jump!’
I’m doing it, but before I even have the chance to half stand up, I’m knocked backwards off my board and I’m inhaling half the ocean. In surfers lingo, that’s ‘wiped out’.
I feel like a drowned rat but as soon as I’m back on shore it’s time to paddle out again. Round two, I’m knocked off again, round three, four, the same. Then wave five and for just a couple of seconds I’m up: I can’t believe it and the feeling is amazing!
Now I just need to do this for longer. My next wave is coming, the instructor pushes me again:
‘This is your moment mate’.
It wasn’t: I was under the water before iI could even say, ‘see’.
Everyone was buzzing after the lesson but I just felt very very wet. So, it turns out surfing might not be my special talent after all but you know what, for $25 I am glad that I tried it and even more so, I am proud of myself for doing something that actually really scared me.
Surfing is easy if you can do it, but repeatedly getting back on your board after being knocked over time and time again, is a lot harder.
I’ve promised myself that I’ll give surfing one more go while I’m in Australia. In the meantime, I’ve been sticking to drier hobbies. So, I haven’t got my standing up on the surf board photo yet but for one day I did get to live my surfing dream; Walking along the beach after the lesson, surfboard under my arm, muscles aching and my hair wet from the sea. To everyone else on that beach, I was a surfer. So what if it was a facade?
* Surfing lessons, Reef 2 Beach Surf School, Agnes Water, 1770. $25 AUD for four hours. Including lesson, board and rash suit. Pre booking not needed.