When I first learnt to surf back in 2013, I was in Australia working as a first time Nanny, wondering how I was going to make friends, or what I was going to do in my free time. After spending my first few weekends exploring the area, I quickly came to realize that everyone seemed to surf. I was in one of the most beautiful locations in Australia, sandy beaches and consistent waves surrounded me. After watching hundreds of surfers, catching waves every day and coming out of the water with a huge smile on their face, I knew it had to be good. I decided it was something I want to try, it would give myself something to do, and what better place to learn to surf than on the famous Northern beaches of Sydney.
I didn’t know a thing about surfing and being a beginner paddling out on my own, I knew I had to be cautious. I didn’t want to jump straight into buying a surfboard until I was ready to get in the water, I knew I needed to learn about the surf ethics, don’t paddle inside, don’t drop in, don’t snake, don’t ditch your surfboard, and so on. I needed to know what the flags meant, where the rips and currents were and the simplest things like, how I would even transport my board to the beach and back. I had thought about having surf lessons, but I knew they were expensive and if I’d have wanted to go out surfing, I would have had to hire a board; another cost and I’d be restricted to time limits. Anyway, teaching myself would be fun, exciting and something I could stay busy with.
I use to sit for hours on the headland in Avalon or in the car facing the water watching surfers arrive, put wetsuits on, stretch, carry their board down the steps and into the sea. I would watch how they would time getting in after each set, so they didn’t get pushed back to shore as the waves rolled in. I would ask Surfers that pulled up in the car park about the tides and currents at that beach so I knew how to stay safe. I watched how people would tie their surfboard to the roof of their car so it was secure, and I asked someone to show me how to wax a board properly. I learnt what the flags meant and when the best times to surf were, considering wind direction. While I sit here and write, it seems there was so much to learn about surfing, but really once your past the nitty and gritty, know your limits, where is safe, and how to be safe, in the end, it is all fun!
I was excited to purchase my first surfboard, I knew I didn’t want a foamy (foam board), because I wanted to learn on a board I could grow with, as I got better. Plus, I liked the idea of having a pretty patterned fiberglass board. I purchased my first surfboard from the Rip Curl store at Manly beach, after getting advice from the guy that clearly knew what he was talking about, when it’s comes to beginner surfers. It was a mini mal 7ft 2 OceanTech surfboard, with different shades of blue lines going diagonally across the board. Thinking back now, I couldn’t have got a better board, my favorite colour and came with its own storage bag, which was amazing, because it meant I could travel.
I was so excited as I carried my board out of the store and straight across to the beach. The waves looked quite small from a distance and I was keen to get in for my first ride, so I waxed up my board, put my bikini on and started paddling out.
tHe first time I experienced a ‘wipe out’… It was like being in a washing machine !
Was I prepared? Absolutely not! The waves were much bigger closer up and little me bobbing up and down the water, who had never controlled a surfboard before, was a recipe for disaster. Somehow, I got out the back after my tireless efforts of being smashed a thousand times as waves broke before me, I got my breath back and sat with all the other surfers looking out on the horizon waiting for that perfect wave. When a wave did come, it was huge. I paddled my hardest towards shore and as the wave picked me up I tried to stand, but of course not having learnt to balance on the board yet, I fell. That’s when I experienced my first ‘wipe out’. I was under the water with what felt like forever, I was panicking, I was being twisted, turned, stretched and bashed as the power of the wave continued to head towards shore above me, not to mention my bikini top had been ripped off. It was like being in a washing machine! I must have been deep because I couldn’t seem to reach the surface, I was kicking so hard and I had almost run out of air when I came to the surface and took an almighty breath, I was tired, frightened, and wanted someone to just grab me and take me back to the beach. I grabbed my board and another wave came crashing over the top of me again, I knew they would just keep coming so I used whatever energy I had left to kept paddling until I got close enough to shore that I could stand up.
I got out the water and just lay on the sand looking up at the sky. I was alive! That’s when I realized how powerful the Ocean really is and if I wanted to continue surfing, I needed to get ‘surf fit’. I needed to practice holding my breath underwater for longer periods, practice paddling, do full body workouts to get stronger and learn how to duck dive and turtle roll to prevent exhaustion.
I watched the film ‘Chasing Mavericks’, one of my favorite films. It taught me a lot on the power of the waves and how much fitter I needed to be, if I wanted to surf and survive. I was extremely determined; I started watching tutorials on YouTube, practiced duck dives and holding my breath in my Nanny family’s swimming pool and paddled for hours on calm days to build strength. I would also only take my board out into the white water and practice standing and getting my balance. I was desperate to be strong enough, to be able to paddle out the back and sit with all the intermediate/advanced surfers in the lineup.
That was the day, I caught my first ‘green wave’ and became hooked!
I had my first surf trip a few weeks later and was heading to Wollongong, a beautiful place off the coast of New South Wales. I went and stayed with family and they all surfed, so I was thrilled to get some tips off them and go out surfing with others.
My first wave was caught on camera, here I am… smile on my face, feeling on top of the world. As you can see my leg rope is on my front foot, that’s typical of a beginner surfer, it should have been on my back foot, but nevertheless after I came off that board, I got straight back on and paddled towards the line up again, I wanted to catch another. That was the day, I caught my first ‘green wave’ and became hooked!
My passion for surfing just grew after that, I learnt new things every day, even when I was tired, or didn’t have enough time to surf before the sun went down, I’d race to the beach to see the surfers catch the final waves of the day. During my second year in Australia I taught my best friend and was surfing every day, sometimes twice, before and after work. I’d meet Mona down at the beach and we’d surf until sunset. Some weekends we’d be in the water for 6 hours and skipped lunch, we loved it! There is something special about sharing a hobby with someone, who is just as passionate about it, as you are. Between Nannying, we would travel all over Australia with our surfboards, finding untouched hidden beaches, jungle showers and surf breaks. It really became the highlight, of my first two years abroad.
Learning to surf has been amazing, it’s taken me all over the world since then, encouraged me to reach goals, given me confidence in myself and taught me to step out of my comfort zone. Over the last 5 years I’ve now surfed in UK, Australia, USA and Mexico and am looking forward to surfing many more breaks, and will continue it into the future. I’ve had my fair share of injuries, but I know that in surfing, you will wipe out for years, but that’s how you grow and become stronger.
If you fancy learning to surf and are wanting more tips and advice, email me for more info and I’d love to help you.