One of my goals this year is to be able to surf, without Neil having to literally help me lug a a massive board in and out of the water and basically push me into every wave! Not that he doesn't do a fantastic job keeping me calm and encouraging me to actually stay on the board instead of jumping off every time I think a wave is too big, when in actual fact its a tiny baby foamy. I have no shame.
I obviously developed this interest because the boyf surfs and by surfs I mean its a way of life, part of his DNA and it's his biggest passion that he has been doing for pretty much 20 years. I have grown to appreciate the sport and done my own research into it so I can at least stay up to date on conversations and also share in his passion for it because it is pretty damn exciting and cool to be perfectly honest. It got a whole lot better when I started following the Women's ASP World Tour and suddenly realised that female surfing is pretty badass and super progressive! There are a host of female surfers that I follow on social media and they are not just about looking pretty (which they all do) they are all incredible skilled in the surf and very inspiring!
I have been out at Muizenberg a few times with a rented board (or massive door more like) and its always fun, its very shallow and pretty crowed so on a busy day it gets a bit hectic. Because I am naturally a competitive person who needs to get everything right the first time, Neil had to keep reminding me its about having fun and also about building confidence in the ocean. We often head out to Koel Baai and go for swims in the ocean and whenever we are anywhere near the sea I make the effort to swim and build confidence in the sea, I also love the sea so that helps. Neil always says you should never fear the sea, you should only show it respect.
I was really excited to have some private lessons in J-bay, not that Neil isn't a brilliant surf instructor, he is! But he does get all my sob stories and obviously is completely empathetic and understanding to my competitive nature, and he has surfed for so long so often his instructions are "Just go" "Just stand up"! Like sure, it's SO EASY!
So back to the private surf lessons, it's always good to have an outsider or surf school teach you how to surf as they take it right back to the basics. I started out my first lesson with Son Surf School instructor Kelvin who is a legend and couches some of the top SA Billabong female surfers (no pressure Nat's). He obviously took the fact that I had been out a few times with Neil as me being a bit better than I actually am, so before I knew it we were in deep water with actual waves coming in and me basically manoeuvring a massive mini mal around the ocean. Of course we started out with surf basics on the shore at the main beach, but once you are out there away from the foamies it's a little scary and you are not thinking about the perfect standing pose! kelvin did a great job at keeping me calm, chatting to me throughout, offering encouragement and also giving great tips. I will share some of my own tips a little later in this post.
So first day success, after getting endlessly thrashed I eventually got up and actually stayed up long enough to pretty much ride a (tiny) wave. YAY! It was an incredible feeling and a massive confidence boost, best of all Neil witnessed the whole thing from his spot on the beach. That night I felt pretty pumped so we booked a second lesson for the next morning very early. The conditions were a lot different and a lot more shallow with the water pretty much sucking up off the sand. In order to document my success (ego from day before) I agreed to have the photographer join us in the water to get some pics of me getting barrelled LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL.
I now see how in deeper water it actually makes a big difference and it is a whole lot better because when you come off a board in shallow water the ocean floor is not very comfortable and the sand is not so gentle when you land on your butt.... lesson learnt. Although I didn't have as much success on day two and most of the photos are of me falling on my face, I still went out and challenged myself and also gave it my all. I wish I had pictures from day one so I could look more badass but these are the best oft he lot so I will share them with you.
Me on a wave at the back. I promise you it was a lot bigger in my mind
Me taking forever to stand up
Me about to stand up and then soon after falling on my face - in the foamies.
So all in all surfing in J-bay was really fun and uncrowded even thought there are a lot of learners in the water you always feel safe and everyone is very supportive! I want to keep it up for sure and do some more sessions out at Muizenberg - and become really badass on my own LOL.
Here is a list of my findings and tips from Neil, surf instructor, friends and my own experience.
- The waves are never as big and rough as they seem when your lying on a board. It is just water - especially if your in a shallow section.
- Practice "jumping up" on the actual beach, go from lying to standing and keep practicing even at the gym - muscle memory is pretty amazing and will help when you are out there.
- Focus on your core, use your arms to get you up, don't just try stand only using your legs.
- Make sure you lie on the centre of the board, not too far forward or back.
- Practice a "paddle motion" out of the water, again to build muscle memory and strength.
- If you fall or bail, put your hands in front of your face to protect you from having the board fly into you.
- Be aware of the people around you.
- If you are getting tired, rest and the go back out. Like anything you have to build up strength.
- Laugh at yourself, the majority of people who get it right the first time are kids, mainly because they are fearless and they are so tiny they can simply pop up so easily, plus they have no expectations and it's pure enjoyment for them.
- You are always safe when you are with instructors and friends who are experienced, trust them.
- Falling in the sea is a lot less painful and dangerous than falling on your face on land, take comfort in that.
- A 90min lesson is a good amount of time to build confidence and have fun.
- If you are surfing further out and bigger waves try and figure out when you should be duck-diving under or going over the wave (this is my struggle and I end of bailing).
- Have fun and laugh, its suppose to be fun and its also a seriously good work-out (google surfer girls please - abs for days).
- Find what board works for you and it doesn't matter how big it is.
- Go as often as you can and build confidence around it.
- Find a surf buddy who is at the same level as you so you can progress together.
- Stand up - just do it, don't think about it, don't take too long, don't worry about falling, just get up, stand up and do it because you can and when you do it feels absolutely amazing!
Ladies - get your hands on The Surfer Girl Handbook published by SurfGirl Magazine in association with ROXY. Full amazing tips, exercises, health advice, board advice and general stuff you need to know about the ocean, surfing and how to make it a part of your life!
I hope you all get a chance to experience some surf lessons and even if you don't want to make it a regular thing you should at least go once to try it out and have fun! There are loads of amazing Surf Schools in Muizenberg and places to rent boards if your not into having a lesson. Best of all, you get to finish off with a delicious coffee and look out at the beautiful view! And you will sleep like a baby after you surf that I can promise - you also may not be able to lift your arms for a few days….but so worth it :)