My name is Jessi and I’ve lived in Cornwall for most of life. I realised that I hadn’t properly tried surfing and I wanted to change that. I’d done plenty of bodyboarding throughout my life, but never had the courage to take to a surfboard. Until last summer when I joined the Women’s Surf Club Newquay and decided to take to the water, this time standing up! And I thought I would share with you some of the things that I learnt:
Find a teacher
Find yourself a group, surf club, experienced friend or teacher to show you the ropes and look after you. The advantages of being part of a surf club was that they had wetsuits, boards, showers and changing rooms, so I didn’t have to worry about buying all the kit, plus I had somewhere to shower and change afterwards. I also had people that I could go surfing with outside of sessions.
Use a big board
The bigger the board the more buoyant you will be on the water and you will need that whilst you are learning. Around 7’0 is a good size for beginners and if you eventually want to buy your own definitely go for a soft top mini mal. You are bound to fall off the thing multiple times, so the softer the better.
Get yourself a wetsuit and a towel robe
Even though the surf club had wetsuits, as they’re not your own you can find that they don’t quite fit quite right. I’d recommend going to a surf store and trying some on, and getting your own. You need to make sure it’s not baggy, that it doesn’t’ have any gaps water could get into, but most importantly that you can move and breathe. I’d also highly recommend getting a towel robe. Trust me it’s a lifesaver as you won’t be struggling with simultaneously holding a towel around you and wrestling with soggy neoprene!
Practice your pop-ups
One of the best pieces of advice I got about surfing was that you shouldn’t stop once you leave the water. Practice makes perfect, so practice your pop-ups whenever and wherever you can. Get out a yoga mat or a towel – this is your surfboard – and practice several pop-ups in a row. If you get used to the action out of the water, you’ll have more chance of standing when in the water.
Images by Jessi and the Women’s Surf Club Newquay.
Get to know the sea and weather conditions
It’s really important to learn about the sea and weather conditions when learning to surf, so that when you go out on your own you can keep yourself safe. Things to take note of are how big the waves are (you’ll want to start small and keep to the white water), which way the wind is blowing (towards the beach is good as the waves will break to form white water) and what the tide times are (you don’t want to get stranded or be surfing amongst the cliffs). Magic Seaweed is the go-to website for surfers to find out what is happening out in the sea and is a great resource.
Paddle for your life
You will get used to people shouting “Paddle! Paddle! Paddle!” very quickly, just know that they are trying to help. Paddling is so key to surfing, it’s how you get the momentum to push your board and you up onto your board. You will need to paddle early and paddle fast. I start doing more swimming whilst I was surfing, which really helped because I could practice my paddling and gain better upper body strength.
Take care of yourself
If you get too cold, have an injury or start to feel run down, you can always stop. Make sure you take good care of yourself and others whilst you are out in the surf. It’s important to keep an eye out for everyone sharing the sea with you, as well as yourself. Thankfully I didn’t sustain any injuries and I only had one session where I was too cold to carry on. Surfing is really fun, but there are also risks.
I loved every minute of surfing from catching my first wave, to nosediving off my board. If you are not enjoying the highs and lows of surfing, I give you permission to stop. If you don’t like it it’s not worth ploughing on. Surfing isn’t a cheap hobby and you have to be committed. Make sure you enjoy yourself out there and that you make the most of all the amazing beaches and facilities we are blessed with in Cornwall.