After many years of thinking about taking up surfing, a few weeks ago, I finally decided to take my very first surf class.
You see, I’m from Mexico. And yeah, I do know that Mexico is a great surfing destination. So why have I never surfed before? To start, I live way too far from the sea (at least 7 hrs by car) and my chances of frequenting the beach weren’t all that many.
I have tried bodyboarding in the past (catching waves while laying on belly on the board, not that difficult and very fun), but every time I visited a great place to learn to surf for the first time, such as Puerto Escondido or something similar, I would be a bit scared. Long story short, I finally took action and surfed for the first time in Newquay, UK. It was an interesting experience, to say the least.
Many funny thoughts rushed through my mind during my first surfing lesson. And this is why, here, I would like to share with you my goofy moments and learnings or, as I like to call them, my reflections as a beginner surfer.
Surfing in cold water is way different than the warm Caribbean waves
Photo credit: Aracely Martinez
I’m a girl that is used to warm weather. Due to personal circumstances, I moved to the UK and, despite the many activities that I thought I would be doing there, I ended up choosing surfing. And wow, for those of us that live in warm countries, that can be quite a shock. I knew that I was going to wear a wetsuit that would keep me warm in the cold sea, but there was one tiny detail that I never thought of until I actually entered the water. The wetsuit does not cover your feet!
I swear the first 10 minutes in the water were awful; I thought that I would lose any of my feet right there. I’m really sensitive to the cold, so you can imagine how I felt. The good news is that after a while you forget how cold you are and start to focus more on not falling off the board and on being able to stand up during your first surfing session.
Wetsuits can be a drag to put on
I wish I had done a little research to at least find out what the different types are or how to properly fit one before joining the surf lesson. For all experienced surfers out there, this may seem like a simple and silly detail. But for me, putting on a wetsuit for the first time will forever remain a funny memory.
The instructor simply handed us the wetsuits. I guess that when you are an expert on this, you can easily forget to mention the very basics to really novice (and distracted) surfers. So, I came out from the dressing room with my zipper in the front (which apparently is less common in the surfing world). So, after 15 minutes of struggling to put it on, I had to go back in again, laughing and feeling a bit embarrassed about making a fool of myself in front of my handsome instructor.
Beginner surfboards are not easy to handle
Photo credit: Aracely Martinez
I’m a small person, and the size of the surfboard was another thing that I never took into consideration. Beginner boards tend to be long and thick (at least those that I was offered). For me, it was a challenge to handle it while I was in the water (and even out of it). If you are a short person like myself, take this into consideration and be prepared to get used to the board during your first surfing session. On the bright side, though, you will feel really powerful after nailing it!
Wait, there’s much more to giggle about…
Developing my first surfing moves
I’m ambidextrous, which means that there are things that I do with my left hand instead of the right one and vice versa. The same goes for my feet. When you learn to surf, you need to figure out your stance, whether you’re goofy or natural footed. This means choosing the side you feel more comfortable with when leaning on the board.
For me, this was a bit tricky since I did not feel any difference between my right and left foot when practicing both on the sand and in the sea. Therefore, I simply chose to stand with my right foot behind and the left one in front. I managed to stand up four glorious times and I was really proud of it! However, each time I made a mistake I noticed that it was because I was struggling to pull my left foot to the front in order to be able to stand, which made me change sides. So, always think about the side you will choose in case you are ambidextrous like me.
Struggling to stand up
This one I did know about but never thought it would be that hard for me to reach the center of the board (again, short people struggle). Before standing up, the instructors tell you to pull your feet back to the edge of the board while on your knees. Then, you have to get up and make sure you do it in the middle of the board.
Well, my feet would always reach as far as right behind the middle line of the board, which made me fall. I believe that looking at some online videos before actually heading out might have helped me to get a better picture of how to stand on the board. Therefore, I recommend doing so before your first surfing experience.
It’s all about timing
Like for many things in life, timing is a huge deal that can change the final outcome even by a tiny second. In surfing, making sure you paddle at the right distance from the wave and at the right breaking time, that you pull your feet back and stand up at the right time is crucial. The tempo and learning to feel the sea and understand your board is a long process that includes plenty of falls and rolls under the water. But it’s totally worth it!
I was thinking ‘I’m too old for this’
I’m in my late 20’s, really, really close to my 30th birthday. I know I’m not that old, but that thought did cross my mind. I think it was because this was something that I’ve always wanted to try and I wish I had done it way before. Nevertheless, it is never too late!
In my surfing group, there were at least a couple of persons that were over 60 and they were doing amazing! So, I didn’t feel that bad when I was surfing with them, and they even inspired me to try harder to finally achieve my standing up position.
Photo credit: Aracely Martinez
I hope these reflections of a beginner surfer can help you when you first step foot on a surfboard. And, if you are a more experienced surfer, I hope you had fun reading this and, perhaps, remembering those days when you too just started surfing.
Finally, I’m proud to say that my surfing journey won’t end there! I have another surfing session booked soon and I’ve been trying other water sports as well, such as wakeboarding. And yeah, that one is great too and absolutely worth a shot!
What are you waiting for? There’s no better time than now, so book yourself a surf camp for beginners near you!