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Step Outside Your Comfort Zone and Give Surfing and SUP a Try [Interview]

by Octavia Drughi

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For some, adding new items on their to-do list seems pointless. Sure, these modern times we’re living in and our hectic lifestyles do tend to keep us trapped, but this is precisely why we must do our best to escape the rat race. Trying something different and learning new skills can be uncomfortable at first. While some love to experiment, others are stuck in the same old routine and have trouble getting out. 

Expanding our horizons is by no means impossible, and what better way to push yourself out of your comfort zone than by taking up surfing? “As human beings, we have a natural desire to learn and progress. Psychologists call it mastery,says Vanessa King, positive psychology expert. “Learning also fuels our creativity. Ideas can come from making connections between seemingly unrelated things.” Doing something for the first time is not only exciting, it has benefits that go beyond the activity itself. Our focus is so intense that we lose a sense of time and of ourselves. Psychologists call this being ‘in the zone’ or ‘in the flow’, and it is only afterward that we experience a deep sense of satisfaction. This is what being present feels like, and it is this precise feeling that makes surfing so addictive. This and the adrenaline surge of course.




Learning something new keeps our brain cells active. White matter, called myelin, occupies around 50% of our brain and is responsible for mental performance. By training our brain to cope with new challenges and to learn new skills, the myelin becomes denser and the speed and strength of signals sent to the brain increase. Learning new things rewires the brain, is good for our self-esteem and allows us to meet new people with similar interests.



Surfing in Taghazout, Morocco - Photo by kosmoseleevike

It is estimated that there are 23 million surfers in the world and the annual surfing industry revenue is around $7.3 billion. Out of this, annual SUP sales reach $18.5 million. Surfing is the first boardsport in history, and currently one of the most popular in the world. While each of us has their own reasons why they love surfing and why it is so addictive, there are a few common denominators:

  • It is a fun and enriching activity.
  • Surfing teaches patience.
  • There’s always a new challenge. With each wave you ride, you will wish to push yourself further and surf a bigger one or paddle for longer. It can never get boring.
  • The ocean and the beach have a positive impact on our health.
  • It is a great opportunity to connect with and even defy Mother Nature. After all, you are walking on water and are a real-life mermaid in it.
  • Surfing is a good excuse to travel, see places, meet people and immerse yourself in fascinating cultures.
  • It is a great exercise for both the body and mind.
  • It is suitable for all ages.
  • You’re bound to get a nice tan.

At BookSurfCamps.com, we recently had a chat with photographer Claire O’Hara and designer Bob Spikman, who’ve shared their reasons to try surfing and SUP, where and how they started and what it means to them now.


Reasons to try surfing from Bob



Surfing Bondi Beach, Sydney - Photo by Jessica Rabbit's Flickr

When did you start surfing? What made you try it?

Bob: I was studying in Sydney, Australia. Surfing looked awesome so I just wanted to try it out.


Did you take lessons or did you learn by yourself/from friends?

Bob: I learned from friends. Later on, I took classes at a couple of surfing schools in Morocco.



Surfing in Morocco - Photo by Dale Adams

What is it about surfing that you enjoy the most?

Bob: To me, surfing means complete distraction from everything around me. Nature takes over. In addition to this, it helps me stay healthy. After all, surfing makes you move every muscle in your body and exposure to sunlight helps produce vitamin D.


Which surfing holiday did you enjoy the most and what exactly made that particular experience so precious?

Bob: The best surfing holiday is the one with the best waves to practice on. It is when it is very easy to get to the beach and chill the whole night.


Do you have any funny stories about surfing that you’d like to share with us?

Bob: In Australia, a Mexican guy couldn’t handle his board so he crushed into mine. The fin of his board went through mine, smashing it completely.




Did you ever get barreled? If so, where and how did it feel (if you can put it into words)?

Bob: Yes, multiple times. To put it briefly, it often takes a bit too long before you can grasp for air. That can make it rather terrifying. Also, you lose your sense of direction while being under water, which can also make it pretty frightening.


Can you recommend a couple of surfing spots for beginners?

Bob: I would personally recommend the north of Spain, on the coast of the Basque Country. The second spot would be Lacanau in the Gironde department in southwestern France.


How often do you go surfing these days and where?

Bob: I go surfing once every two months in the Netherlands, where I ride a 6.8 fishtail surfboard. I also take one surfing holiday a year (1-2 weeks).



Surfing in Morocco - Photo by Eelke

Do you practice any other sports?

Bob: I practice bouldering (rock climbing), running and basketball.


What would you recommend someone who is planning to take up surfing?

Bob: Join a surf camp in Morocco!



Reasons to try SUP from Claire




When did you start standup paddle boarding (SUP)? What made you want to try it in the first place?

Claire: It was in the summer of 2016 when I was holidaying in Portland, Dorset. I hired a stand-up paddleboard to give it a try.


Did you take lessons or did you learn by yourself/from friends?

Claire: I did not take any lessons. In fact, I bought my first paddleboard soon after my trial. I bought an inflatable from Red Paddle Co, a 10.6, and learned a few techniques from Youtube. I chose an inflatable over a standard board because of the portability.


What is it about SUP that you enjoy the most?

Claire: I really enjoy the freedom and the quiet of river. I use my SUP when I want an alternative to the gym.



Stand-up paddling in the Boracay Island, Philippines - Photo by Hairi

How often do you go SUP these days and where?

Claire: I go stand-up paddleboarding about once a week. I do not have any particular favorite spots; I like to explore new areas.



Claire paddling on the River Yare in Norfolk, England

What does the typical day spent on the SUP look like?

Claire: A typical SUP session usually looks like this: me finding a new location and paddling further than I previously had. I would really like to get into long distance stand-up paddleboarding and racing when I have more experience. I am also really interested in surfing on my SUP as I progress. I am currently planning a 34-mile (55-kilometer) all-day river trip. This will be my longest to date.


Do you practice any other sports?

Claire: I also practice horse riding, CrossFit, swimming, climbing, sailing and I consider myself an adventure traveler.



Stand-up paddling - Photo by Michael Dawes

What would you recommend someone who is planning to take up SUP?

Claire: Just do it! You’ll be surprised to find that it is so much easier than you might have thought. There are SUP clubs nationwide (UK) as well as in many stand-up paddling hotspots throughout the world. It is a very accessible sport. 


If surfing is not already on your bucket list, then you should seriously consider adding it. Go to BookSurfCamps.com and choose your very first surf camp. If you’re already a seasoned surfer and wish to brush up on your skills, then there are plenty of surf holidays to pick from.   

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