So we’d done boogie boarding, what could we do next? Well short answer is we did nothing else – at least not immediately. Living where we did near Edinburgh, it didn’t occur to us that surfing or boogie boarding would be available close to home and the simple fact is that we never looked for it either. We just enjoyed the memories and photos of our day on Santa Monica beach and that might have been that, until we had our family holiday in 2012, this time in Cornwall…
We had booked a holiday cottage in Falmouth, which is a lovely town on the southern side of Cornwall. It’s a bright, friendly and prosperous place with plenty of bars, restaurants and lots of independent shops rather than all the standard cookie-cutter high street stores which are the mark of Anytown, UK.
In the run up to the holiday we talked about the sorts of things we’d do while we were away and when I suggested we have a go at surfing everyone was up for it. Excellent. Organising it was simplicity itself, as a quick search on Google revealed a decent number of companies and people offering tuition and from these I chose the Cornwall Surfing Academy (tagline “We’ll get you up in 45 mins), based at Holywell Bay and after a quick phone call had us booked in for Day of our holiday.
As our appointment with destiny got closer, the excitement built up and we had a lot of fun (and gulped a lot) watching surf videos on YouTube including one showing a guy riding a 40ft monster in Portugal, after which Harriet asked me rather plaintively “we won’t be doing that, will we Daddy”. Having reassured that we wouldn’t and that it would probably be difficult, but lots of fun, she brightened up and asked to see the one where the posing man fell off again.
We arrived at the surf school on an overcast day to be met by the team who having checked us in, measured us up for wetsuits and told us to go get changed and come back in 20 mins or so to get boards and head for the beach. Then commenced the standard rookie wetsuit rigmarole – putting on backwards, heads into arm holes and much stretching, leaping, tugging and general loss of dignity. Eventually attired, we were given our boards and so we headed to the beach. The lesson was good – starting with the “Goofy test”, which revealed two of us being Goofy-foot and two not. (Goofy-foot being you stand on the board with your right foot leading).
We did the standard, boards on the floor in a semi-circle around the instructor, lying on the board, arms paddling the sand and then practising the pop-up via the 3 stages (push body up from board, get up onto knees, stand up). After 10/15 mins of practice, it was time to hit the water.
We trooped out to roughly chest/waist-deep level, lay flat on our boards, waited for our instructor to say “Good wave coming. Ok. Paddle! Paddle! Paddle!” We in turn Paddled! Paddled! Paddled! And all fell off, drank some Atlantic and laughed at each other. A lot. Undettered, we went back out, got set up and Paddled! Paddled! Paddled! again and pretty much repeated the same. This went on for a good 10/15 mins or so before things started to change. Evie and I got to our knees before we fell off, Alex and Harriet both managed to get upright, albeit briefly before falling off. But the important thing was that we were catching waves. How cool was that?
A further 20 mins or so and we were all to a lesser or greater extent getting up and riding, all accompanied by much whooping, fist bumping and cheering. By the end of the two hour session we were all catching most of the waves we went for and getting fully stood up. Riding all the way to the beach was granted a special level of Woop! Harriet capitalising on this the most, being the smallest and lightest she was able to catch the surf in about a foot of water and pretty much every time grounded on the beach.
Walking back to the Academy, we relived our triumphs and disasters – competing for who’d had the longest ride, caught the most waves, had the best wipe-out and swallowed the most seawater etc – and we all agreed that that was the most fun we’d ever had in the sea.
Not wanting to let the fun end we had to try it again, so we went twice more in the week, both times we went to Perranporth, where we hired boards and wetsuits from the Ticket to Ride surf shop right by the beach and we just picked up from where we left off – naturally there was a lot of falling off and missing waves, but that just made us more determined to get back on and back out. The final time we even had a disposable camera with us as we wanted to show friends and family back home our newfound talents. Alex had so much fun he was confident enough to paddle that bit further out, assume the pose of sitting on the middle of the board, legs dangling in the water and shooting the breeze with some of “dudes”. Fair play to him.
Having headed in for the final time and handed back the wetsuits and boards at the surf shop, the owner – who’d earlier been giving a lesson to some other newbies and clearly seen us –looked at us all and said “You guys. Wow, I’m impressed. You really it got it going out there”.
And that was all we needed to hear, it was official, we’d become surfers.
Could we have been happier?
I don’t think so.