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Surf’s Up

My eyes were stinging, the salty water streaming from my nose and my hair flopped wildly in my face – but, somehow, I was up. It can’t have been a pretty sight, with legs wobbling and arms waving, but emerging triumphant that after a shaky twenty minutes I was on my feet and feeling like a surfer. That is, until I ploughed headlong into Scott, my instructor, and went flying into the English Channel.

By then it was too late. I was hooked. The training had begun early that morning. We had three days in which to turn ourselves into masters of the waves with the expert help of Wight Water, a long established family Surf and Adventure Sport business. A 10am start saw us collecting our bulky foam boards and hotfoot down to the water’s edge shepherded by Scott. On the warm sand, we were shown how to ‘pop up’ on our boards. Frenzied paddling to catch the wave, you propel yourself from a face down position to a semi – upright squat in one fluid movement. It seemed straightforward enough. We were itching to go.

Bravado on the beach quickly gave way to embarrassment on the sea. Battling to paddle out while avoiding other beginners is energy draining, being slapped in the face by wave after wave is also a test of will. That’s why you learn on softboards: They are more bouyant and don’t cause any long – term harm when colliding with fellow surfers or bathers out for a peaceful morning swim.

An hour later my teeth were chattering, arms ached and feet were numb with the cold. As one of Britain’s estimated 200, 000 devotees, I found surfing the most demanding  physical challenge I have ever experienced. Muscles I didn’t know existed are still raw and I ached for days afterwards. But the sheer exhilaration of catching your first wave, bouncing up and rolling into the shallows drives you to do it again and again.

Style is important, both on and off the water, and surfers exude a certain kind of cool. Our instructor divulged that surfers can be recognised instantly by their style. I tried to imitate the effortless stance of the pros… and failed miserably. That’s why lessons are a fundamental part of surfing. Without them you pick up bad habits.

The sport has never been more popular and a great way to discover the British coastline. A novice can easily master the island’s waves.

Wight Water is a ten minute walk from the Aqua Hotel in Shanklin, where would – be surfers can stay the weekend and receive as much tuition as they can handle. There are a variety of good pubs and restaurants dotted along this pretty esplanade. The beauty of surfing in the UK is that the weather can’t spoil it. It’s the swell that matters. Our best day’s surfing was under heavy skies, not noticing the rain until we unzipped our wetsuits.

Who needs to chase the waves and sunsets in California?

Wight Water Surf and Adventure Sport Centre  TEL: 01983 404987/866269
5 hours of tuition including boards and wetsuits £80

Aqua Hotel, Shanklin, IOW   TEL: 01983 863024
Public bar, seafront patios and decks, open all day for coffees, snacks, lunches, dinner, clotted cream teas. Stunning location.
Prices from £32 per person, bed and breakfast with private facilities.
Prices from £42 per person, bed, breakfast and evening meal with private facilities.

Wightlink Ferries  TEL: 0870 5827744
Fastcat from Portsmouth to Ryde.
Car Ferry from Portsmouth to Fishbourne.

Isle of Wight Tourism  TEL: 01983 813818

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