Surf’s Up

4 Mar

Surfing is great to watch; seeing the guys (and girls) paddling out, wait for their wave and then elegantly spring up on to their board and seemingly effortlessly ride the wave; enjoying the feeling of weightlessness as the force carries them towards the shore. People describe the freedom of flying though the water, carried purely by the power of nature, no machinery, just you, a wafer of foam and a sliver of board. When a friend asked if I fancied joining her and another girl for a surf lesson, I knew I had no reason to decline. It was time to face the fear and give it a go. Eighteen months in Australia and I had not yet stepped foot on a surfboard – it was time to correct this.

The day in question, I am waiting at Bondi Beach for my pick up. It is one of those beaches where, come rain or shine, the ocean is always filled with boards; small black dots in the mid-distance, bobbing about in a huddle, all waiting their turn for the right wave. That is, everyday but this day, when the sky is purple and pregnant with rain and the wind is blowing palm trees sideways. Ten minutes later, a four-wheel drive with trailer and surfboards arrives to collect me and Rob, the instructor, his two dogs and I, head off to meet the others who are joining for this lesson.

Tellingly, one girl is wearing a fleecy tracksuit and has brought cuppa soups to keep warm. The rest of us stare out at the impending storm. Then we have to sign the waiver, the sheet of paper that informs us: Surfing is an extreme and dangerous sport, which can result in injury or even death.

An hour later via a toilet, food and fuel stop (for there are no amenities where we are going), we drive down on to the beach, only accessible by four-wheel drive and not a soul to be seen. We stand shivering, sheltering from the wind behind the car, as the high tide laps at the wheels and Rob decides to drive on a little further so we aren’t digging a jeep out of the sand later that afternoon.

Wet suits on and surfboards laid out on the sand, seven of us start following the instructions about paddling and the steps to stand up on the board. Then we are apparently ready to go and head out into the white foam that is the churned up ocean before us.

With the first rain drops being felt and the wind blowing at around 40kmh, we walk into the surf, struggling to keep our lightweight training boards from spinning around on the leash and into someone’s face. Luckily we are only going to be practising in the small waves, nothing beyond the white water, which is lucky, because anything beyond the white water is now barely visible due to the bank of low cloud and stinging rain.

This people, is not my idea of the Australian surfing dream. Where is my sunshine, glassy water and clean waves? Instead we are faced with a leaden sea covered in white caps – and haven’t I heard that sharks are more likely on an overcast day?

482828_10151551258194276_919679223_n

 

At waist height, Rob tells us we should lie on our boards and he will help us catch our first waves. At this point what does rain matter when we are wet anyway (?) and on the positive side, the sea is quite nice and warm. I look back at the large breakers and wait for the white water to roll in towards me. Rob gives me a gentle push and I am off, speeding on top of the wave and I hear, “stand up now,” and I do, and I am, and first go, I am stood, albeit slightly wobbly, on a surf board and ‘riding a wave.’

Beginner’s luck? Yes, definitely. After that I am tipping off, rolling off, nose-diving off, however you can possibly fall, I am (along with everyone else I hasten to add.) After an hour I have probably swallowed more sea water than I have surfed it but I am making some progress. I begin to instinctively know when to start paddling as I feel myself being sucked back slightly then pushed on by the wave and as long as I get into a standing position fast enough, I can actually stand. Even if it is just for a few seconds, I do experience that sensation of gliding on top of the water.

After lunch, sat huddled in the van munching on chicken salad and orange slices, two of the girls decide not to go back out. Looking at our collection of bruises, the grey cloud and choppy waves, I am almost inclined to stay with them, but as long as other people are going back out there, I am too. The second half of the day, the waves are more powerful and my friend and I decided to stick closer to the shore. We are aching from dragging the boards in the wind and this time, I cannot stop my teeth chattering. The only solution is to get moving again in the water. After a quick recap on the moves to get up on the board, I have a few more successful surfs. Just as enjoyable is catching the wave and kneeling, when in the seconds I have to stand up, I lose confidence and  back out.

I am not sure I can say I have ‘surfed’, not in the real sense of the word. I have stood on a surfboard though and I understand to a point, what they mean about the freedom of flying on the water.  There is that heart-skipping moment when you realise you are stood up and it is just you and a wave. I cannot imagine what it must be like to experience that in the heavy surf breaks. To be honest, I am not sure I want to. As enjoyable as the day was and as proud of ourselves as we all were to get standing occasionally, I think I’ll stick to the more enjoyable beach past time of surf watching – at least now knowing a little of the challenge and sensations they are experiencing.

Unfortunately there is no photographic evidence of me stood – I’m afraid you will just have to take my word for it.

557941_10151551262809276_684760394_n

 

Advertisements

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: