Earlier this summer, I paddled out at South Fistral when it was what can only be described as perfect – 3ft, light offshore winds, and a beautiful sunny day.
I didn’t catch a single wave.
It was all men in the line up, and I have to admit, I was intimidated. I sat on the shoulder and tried (unconvincingly) to get on any waves that swung wide. I went in disappointed at my lack of surfing confidence, and annoyed that I couldn’t capitalise on being in the right place at the right time.
A few weeks later, determined to sort out my confidence issues, I went to Wales for the Surf Sistas three day improver course. Taking place in the Gower, it’s designed to take your surfing to the next level. Our course was run by former Welsh and British Champ turned coach, Gwen Spurlock, along with surf instructors Mallie and Millie.
It’s amazing how much easier it is to improve with someone else telling you what you’re doing wrong.
Day one was well within my comfort zone – small little choppy waves that were fun if you could get on them. The first day was about having fun in the water and identifying where we could improve our surfing.
It’s amazing how much easier it is to improve with someone else telling you what you’re doing wrong. As well as things I already knew were an issue for me (looking down, confidence) I also found out that I’m not turning my shoulders enough when I turn, and I’m trying turn too quickly.
The next day it was very different – despite being July, the winds were howling onshore, there was torrential rain and the temperature was unseasonably low. The sea – dark, junky and wild – couldn’t have looked less inviting. When I went to check the surf it was so windy I nearly lost my hat.
Had I not been in the encouraging presence of the enthusiastic Surf Sistas coaches, I wouldn’t have even contemplated going to the beach, let alone going in.
After being coaxed out my warm car into the sea, it took yet more encouragement from coaches Gwen, Mallie and Millie (seriously, the enthusiasm these guys have is amazing) to get me to paddle out into the dark and menacing looking waves and go for a wave. Once I did, I realised there were actually some fun waves to be had, and I needed to get back out if I was going to get on any of them. After a few more waves, and some extra tips from Gwen and Mallie, incredibly I got what felt like the best wave of my life. Not in perfect surf, not on a tropical beach somewhere, but in wet and windy Wales on a day where I wouldn’t have normally set foot on the beach.
I got what felt like the best wave of my life. Not in perfect surf, not on a tropical beach somewhere, but in wet and windy Wales on a day where I wouldn’t have normally set foot on the beach.
By the end of the session I felt like I could tackle similar conditions again, and as Gwen said – now I’m comfortable in these less-than-ideal conditions, next time the stars align with perfect surf, I’ll be better placed to make the most of it.
The waves didn’t co-operate on day three but I was still buzzing after the confidence-boosting surf from the day before. Coaching definitely helped my surfing – I made more progress in those two days than I had done in years previously.
I also learnt a whole lot of new coping strategies to help make those slightly scary situations less daunting in future. Next time I’m nervous about paddling out when it’s a bit bigger, I will be trying Gwen’s tip to accurately time sets on your watch, so you can be sure you will make it out back in a lull.
Improve your surfing and meet other surf girls
Living in Somerset, I don’t know many other girls who surf, so the trip was also a great opportunity to meet other girls who loved surfing. Everyone was like-minded and being in a supportive, non-macho environment was so refreshing. I can’t wait for the next one!
Oh, and you get a goody bag. Who doesn’t love a goody bag?! Especially when it contains beautiful treats like this…