The Stages Of Being A Surf Newbie
When you learn to surf at our San Sebastian Surf Camp — incidentally one of the best places in the world for it — chances are beforehand you’ll either be excited or shitting yourself (or maybe those two things aren’t mutually exclusive…). And after seeing glossy media of perfect people doing perfect manoeuvres in front of perfect backdrops, and crazy people risking their lives on mountains of moving water, who could blame you?
I’m here today to tell you that (thank god) it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. You won’t be risking life and limb, only pride — and who needs that anyway? And the reward? Eternal(ish) joy (otherwise known as surf stoke), and a good ol’ fashioned sense of accomplishment. Oh and a bit of wetsuit rash and sunstroke, both of which can be cured with a crisp, fresh juicy watermelon. But more on that later. Get your surfing addiction right here…
Booking the trip.
You’ve seen the videos, read the articles, weighed it up against the yoga retreat, and made the call — you’re going surfing. To hell with downward dogs and kale, it’s time for adrenaline, beer and sangria… Juxtaposed against the thumping nightclubs of San Sebastian (easily accessible, don’t worry), you’ll be waking up in nature, surrounded by rolling green hills, rustling leaves and twittering birds (in our new and improved Surf House).
What to pack? A quick look around the internet might have you reaching for an €80 shark proof leash, an epoxy board with parabolic rails, several deck grips and a brazilian wax job. But we’ve got all that… Just bring swimmers, and a poncho towel is also real convenient (for getting changed) but in no way essential.
Your meals are prepared, your beers are as chill as the people, and your party nights are pre-organised, but you’re still nervous! How to make a good impression? How to get with the lingo? How to seem like you’ve been surfing since the womb? Don’t sweat it, there are always plenty of beginners at our surf camps, and no one is expecting you to be a ready-made surf god/godess. As long as you’re prepared to have a ball with a bunch of other open-minded international travellers from all over the world you’ll be sweet. Although if you really want to give it a go, just chuck in a few “frothin” and “gnarly as bros”…
Your first lesson!
The moment is here that you’ve been waiting for, “All my liiffeeee”, with apologies to Phil Collins, and you are nothing if not
prepared hungover. But that’s ok, as long as you possess a desire to learn, and to keep going after a few botched attempts, you’ll be standing up and waving your arms like a madman in no time. But wait a second, you’re not there yet, you’re still mind-surfing. First you must ‘master’ the…
The paddle out.
You stand on the edge of the water, toes clenching wet sand, with smell of the Michelin starred streets of San Sebastian fresh in your nostrils as the sets roll in. You vaguely remember the instructor saying something about them coming in sets, but are not actually sure what a set is, so decide to paddle out immediately. You jump onto your board and promptly slide off the other side. You get back on and manage a couple of determined paddles before an innocuous looking line of whitewater pushes you right back to where you started.
You give that same instructor you assured that you would be doing it on your own thank you very much a pleading look and he comes to your rescue. Toned abs glistening under his all purpose Stoke Travel t-shirt, you drift into a trance as he pulls you out beyond where the waves are breaking.
You thought that yoga had exclusive rights to all things “zen” didn’t you? Well surfing ain’t all adrenaline and rodeo flips — there’s some peace and quiet in there too. You float up and down, feeling the energy of each line of unbroken swell.
‘Catching’ your first wave.
This would be more aptly called ‘your first wave catches you’, but we want you to feel good about yourself so whatever… This is the point where you desperately recall the lesson on the sand on how to stand up, and come up blank. Just feel it, your instructor says, I’ll correct you if you do something wrong. “Just feel it” – this isn’t incredibly helpful for someone with little to no experience to draw on, you think to yourself, as he lines you up and tells you to paddle. The wave rears up behind you, you paddle as hard as you can, and you “feel” the thing pick you up and throw you towards the beach. You scramble to your feet, for a second ‘one’ with the wave, watching the shimmering blue rush under your feet. You panic — this is faster than you were anticipating — and the correct coping mechanism is to lean back, right? Wrong…
Your first wipeout.
You hit the water with a splash and enter the “washing machine”. You feel yourself pushed up, down, sideways, powerless to the whims of this little two-foot wave. After a total of three seconds you feel like you can’t take it anymore and resign yourself to an impending death. This is it, you decide, I’m drowning. As you thrash around in waist deep water, waiting to see the light, you suddenly touch the sand with your knee. Ah. It’s only waist deep, you realise. Oops. “You right?” says your instructor. “Yeah, yeah, all good…” you reply…
Your first complete ride.
This time you catch the unbroken wave, wait until you are travelling at the same speed as it, then stand up at the perfect time. You learn forward and slide down the face, arms flailing and heart in your mouth. The wave breaks behind you, and you ride it all the way into the beach. Everyone congratulates you and you feel like Kelly Slater. In fact, it’s probably time to start looking for a sponsor…
Your first well earned beer.
You head back to la casa (surf shack) and crack open a beer. Then another. And maybe a few more. Your jaw aches from so much smiling — against all odds you proved yourself in the wild. That calls for sangria, a watermelon, and later a hearty dinner around the campfire, shooting the shit with your new mates.
The realisation that you’re hooked.
You never know when this one might strike. It could be instagram, it could be the smell of salt in the air. But when you head back home you’re going to feel a yearning, and we’ve created a solution for you — a passport, designed with surfers and intrepid travellers in mind. Sound good? Head on over and check it out…
Hit us up in the comments if you think we missed a stage, or if you’d like to share your own journey from kook to pro! See you soon.
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