We’ve just come back from a long weekend in Newquay and I’m still buzzing.
The trip only came about due to the charity gig Sunset Sons were playing at the Watering Hole in Perranporth on Saturday night – a gig which (in total) raised over £10,000 for the Wave Project. It was absolutely brilliant, with fantastic support acts including Emma Chamberlain (check her out on Sound Cloud) and Andy Jordan.
The tickets were only £15 each and, as supporters of the Wave Project, we thought it was a great excuse to plan a mini break. A mini-break with surfing.
I’ll be honest here. As a beginner, I’m always a bit nervous before surfing. It had been an entire year since I last surfed, back in Lanzarote, so I decided I’d probably need a refresher. I booked a place on a lesson at Escape Surf School in Newquay for the day after we arrived.
On the first day though, I decided to hire a board and join my boyfriend for a surf at Fistral beach. The wind was onshore, the waves were messy… it was hard work and after just over an hour, I came out of the sea absolutely exhausted. I didn’t make it to the line-up, and if I’m honest, I didn’t really feel like I’d enjoyed myself either.
So as we headed to Escape for my lesson the next day, I felt a bit apprehensive. I was going it alone – taking part in a group lesson while my boyfriend paddled over to catch waves at a neighbouring beach.
I explained to the instructor, Reubin, that I’d surfed before but, in my head at least, I was still a complete beginner. So when we ran through drills on the beach, and they asked if anyone who had surfed before wanted to go out back, I didn’t feel like I could.
Strangely though, as I entered the sea next to a girl who had never surfed before, I realised that I wasn’t even nervous. The sea at Towan Beach looked calmer than the sea at Fistral the day before, and the apprehension I usually felt as I walked into the water, was noticeably absent.
A few waves in, one of the other instructors came over and told me he wanted me to head out back. I’d already caught a couple of waves on my own and after watching me catch one more, he thought this was too easy and I was ready to move up.
For me, the biggest obstacle in surfing has always been my mind. I overthink things and I worry. But my confidence must have been given a boost because I didn’t even think twice – I just nodded and agreed.
Thankfully, paddling out was easier than I thought thanks to the forgiving conditions. I joined two others in the water, and paddled over to the instructor – ex-pro and Head Coach for the British Junior Surf Team, Mike Young.
And you know what?
I caught my first green wave.
But that didn’t matter. In that day, I’d ticked off two things I wanted to do – reach the line-up and catch a green wave.
And the best thing? I loved every minute of it.
I was so impressed with the surf school that both my boyfriend and I decided to book a 2 on 1 lesson with Mike. He spoke to us about surf theory– bombarding us (in a good way) with information about surfboards, standing positions, turns, and the importance of using your arms. When we got in the water, we went straight out the back and were focusing on turning by gripping the rail.
Again, I’d never done this.
Previously, the thought of attempting to grip the rail probably would have made me nervous. I did wonder if I’d be able to actually do it, but after two wipe-outs, I was determined.
Escape Surf School are pretty honest in their teaching style – they won’t congratulate you just for standing up; they’ll critique you and offer feedback even when you think you caught a good wave. But I loved that – it made me work harder and progress faster.
So when I finally turned the board?What an AMAZING feeling.
I paddled back to the line-up to see my boyfriend grinning at me, and Mike cheered before giving me a high-five. He even said that two ‘crazy dudes’ who had paddled past us earlier on and were just lying on their boards closer to shore, had watched me ride the wave all the way in and looked pretty impressed.
And although my arms were dying at the end of the session, I really didn’t want to get out.
So as tempting as it was to just hire a board and go it alone all weekend, I’m so glad we booked lessons. Having tried out three different schools now, I firmly believe that anyone keen to learn and improve their surfing should book a lesson on at least one day during a surf trip. Here’s why:
- A surf school will teach you the basics of surfing – without those you can’t progress. Even if you think you know the basics, you may have picked up bad habits – these can slow your progress down, so sort them out sooner rather than later. Tiny things like whether your fingers are apart or together when you paddle, could make all the difference to your stroke.
- A good surf instructor won’t just cheer every time you manage to stand up – and that’s good. Every instructor at Escape watched the way you surfed – if I caught a good wave, they’d say so. But they’d also tell me if I could have done it better, or if my feet weren’t right. If someone watches you with a critical eye, you improve quicker – you know what to focus on and what needs work. Plus, when you do get a good wave, you’ll know about it!! The praise is genuine!
- It helps loads with confidence. If, like me, you need to build your confidence in and on the water, being with a surf school is like having a security blanket. We had about 3 groups in the water on the first day, but about 4 instructors – each of them trained as a lifeguard. Although my worry has always been more that I couldn’t do it, rather than that I might drown trying, it’s reassuring to know they are there if you need them. And when I left Newquay, I felt a lot more confident in my own skill than when I first arrived.
- They push you to improve. I arrived in Newquay calling myself a beginner, but I left being described as an intermediate, or an improver. On my own, in those conditions, I might have pushed myself to get out to the line-up. But would I have stayed there? Who knows.
After Fistral, I felt like I just couldn’t surf. When I told the guys at Escape about my experience the day before, and how hard I had found it, they weren’t surprised. Different beaches, different days, different conditions. The waves were messy in Fistral while in Towan beach where we had our lessons, the waves were cleaner and better for learners. My boyfriend said the same thing to me but, y’know, if a professional tells you, you’re slightly more likely to believe them (sorry babe).
- You have so much fun. Managing to do something well is always a buzz, but when you’re with like-minded people who want to see you improve and enjoy yourself, it’s pretty likely that you’re going to. Both days were too short in my opinion and I’m itching to go back.
On our way to Newquay, I was reading an article in Surf Girl magazine intended to boost the morale of beginner surfers. They suggested making a mental list of the things that hold you back in surfing, or the things you want to improve or learn. The main ones for me, I ticked off during just two days in Newquay. And I seriously believe that the surf school are the reason for that.