Lizzie Outside is an adventure blogger and record breaking stand-up paddle boarder, earlier this year she became the first woman to stand up paddle board solo across the English Channel. Here’s what happened when she swapped her SUP for a surf board on the surf course weekend with the Extreme Academy.
In early September I was invited to join Watergate Bay’s two-day surf school. As someone who is interested in trying everything at least once and, having surfed only twice before (badly I should add), I jumped at the chance. Two full days of surfing under expert tutelage would give me the opportunity to improve my technique and the thought that I might actually learn to ride wave was too tempting to turn down.
The surf school itself was not disappointing. It was intense but I threw myself into all aspects of it and came away from my time exhausted but proud of what I had achieved. Learning a new skill as an adult is incredibly rewarding and although there were some frustrating moments I was genuinely pleased with what I’d accomplished over those two days. My group was small (just the three of us) but that meant we all received a lot of individual attention on the water and formed strong bonds together very quickly – and that also added to the quality of the experience.
After the briefing it was time to hit the water. We had perfect conditions – a light onshore wind and bluebird skies. After a short practice on the beach to familiarise ourselves with the boards and kit we were on out in the ocean.
I spent the afternoon trying to figure out the water – when the right time to start paddling was, when the moment to ‘pop’ up was, which wave was the right one to go after. A lot of surfing, I learnt, was about reading the water and conditions – and although that takes time I could feel my sense for it was marginally improving as the day went on.
Stopping for an afternoon coffee and cake was a welcome break – I was pretty exhausted and the caffeine fix was exactly what I needed before we headed back out for a sunset session.
The next morning was an early start and rather than get straight on the water we hit the yoga studio for an hour of stretching. My shoulders were quite tight from prone paddling all day and this was exactly the medicine to loosing up, ready for day two.
My confidence came in fits and starts on the first day and was often dictated by the quality of the last ride. If I face planted into the water I’d feel downbeat and that would impact how well the next ride went. It was a bit of a catch 22.
Starting off day two was completely different – I had decided to ease the pressure on myself and simply enjoy the process of learning with its highs and lows. I entered into the morning surf feeling confident and positive and my surfing immediately improved. My instructor, Pete, who had guided me through the learning process throughout was on hand to help me refine and perfect the areas that would either keep me on the board for longer or get me up when I failed to catch a wave.
I finished the course full of confidence and excitement about my next surfing experience. I wasn’t a professional by any standard but I was able to catch a wave, ride it and feel that sense of satisfaction that comes from it and makes people get back on the water time and time again.