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Laura Phillips - Why I love surfing

Updated: Jul 6, 2020

Why I love surfing.....

When I was younger I would always look at surfers that you see while on holiday and think they are really cool people......that was as close to becoming a surfer as I ever got...just a cool thought.

I have always loved the beach and the sea even as a kid, when we would head off on our family holidays, sometimes abroad but mainly camping in the UK which was epic and still is, I think. We would go to the beach, but I was never exposed to ocean life as I know it now, certainly not surfing. The beach was always a place to build sandcastles and then have my brother knock them down or for us to dig holes that we would jump into.

Swimming in the sea was never an issue as we were taught to swim with the school at a young age, back in the day where you went every week as part of a school lesson and to learn your life saving badge you had to wear your pyjamas and jump in and save a brick.....I always carry my pjs with me now just in case I need to save anyone!!

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago where a friend of ours introduced myself and my now husband to surfing, Gwythian beach in Cornwall will always hold a special place in my heart now as this was the first place I learnt to surf....I say learnt, I was pushed into the waves and literally rode my 9ft foam longboard to the beach but for me I was surfing. From that first wave I was hooked, I was Jonny Utah in Point Break!

Myself and hubby would head down to Devon, Saunton sands to be exact as it was recommended to us to learn there, nice easy waves for the beginners and some harder ones for the more experienced.....little did I know that this would become my happy place.

We would try and get there as many times as we could just to practice, we hired the wetsuits and boards and just got into the water. No matter how much I tried I couldn’t get up on the board, I look around and hubby’s up and riding the waves.......

As a group of friends we all decided that we would have an annual surf weekend in Devon, again I still couldn’t stand up on the board but it was said to me that the best surfer out there is the one who is having the most fun....I’m definitely the best surfer out there without a doubt.

For my birthday I asked for a surfboard and I have to say that was probably the best birthday present ever!!! A 9ft foam board that I absolutely love and cherish. I just needed a wetsuit now.

Now, if you have never ever tried a wetsuit on then nothing will prepare you for it. We all see pictures of the slim, athletic looking people wearing their suits and they look super cool and rock the look.......I am neither slim nor athletic, I’ve got curves and curves on top of those curves, I’m a bit gifted in the chest area as well so finding clothes to fit is hard enough let alone a wetsuit. Hiring a wetsuit is great but you kinda expect that many people and shapes have been in it and I always went for a men’s XL so that it would fit me on the top but the issue I had was the legs and arms were then too long however the day came to buy my very own........oh my days!!!! What a minefield of Lycra and stretchiness, neoprene and thickness and texture.......thankfully we have a friend who gave great advice as did the lovely lady in the shop. Tikki in Braunton, big shout to those guys who know their stuff.

I ended up going for a 4:3 wetsuit which will last from April to November, what do the numbers mean I hear you ask, the 4mm is the thickness on the body and the 3mm is the arms.....don’t worry I had no idea either.

Winter wetsuits are obviously thicker.

Again, getting into a wetsuit is hard enough but when you are trying them on to get the right fit it certainly builds up a sweat and I’m positive I burnt a few more calories than normal that day......thankfully I found the one that was for me. This wasn’t without some embarrassing moments I tell you. I was trying on a front zip wetsuit (zips across your chest rather that up your back) I got one arm in ok but couldn’t get the other in, it got caught so there is me, husband and friend all trying to get my stuck arm out and into the arm hole and I’m sweating......I’m literally wearing half a wetsuit and bra....good job this friend is one of our best mates. I finally managed to get the thing on and this was the one that I bought, tbh in my head I was thinking you’re going to have to buy it as I don’t think you’ll get it off....alas I did.

That was it I had my own wetsuit and board; I was a real surfer!!!

Also managed to get some gloves, boots, and a hat for the colder months but they are a lot easier to try on I tell you.

In December 2018 we went on an adventure of a lifetime, for 5 weeks we lived in a camper van and headed down the east coast of Australia.....we basically were beach bums for 5 weeks and then got married, it was the best 5 weeks ever!!! We took some surf lessons while there and I’m glad we did; the waves are very different than what we were used to.

When we came home, we were certainly a lot more confident in the water with the boards.

A very Aussie cool guy named Braydon took us for a private lesson at surfers paradise and as we were walking to the beach which was literally less than 100 meters from the road he turns and asks us, “are you guys ok with sharks” now from what we saw there were shark nets everywhere and we looked into doing a great white dive but you can only do that on the south coast as the water is too warm on the east coast so my response to that was “yeah no worries”.

2 hours of ‘surfing’ for me which was basically body boarding and actually stand up surfing for husband and the lesson was over....so much fun and I got stung by a bluebottle jellyfish, was totally worth it. On the very small walk back to the surf school Brandon turns and says that he was out surfing a few days ago and a great white went past his board.......now I stop dead in my tracks and am like come again!!!! When I said that I was ok with sharks that was before I knew that the shark net didn’t stop them all and that yes great whites have to pass the east coast to get to the cooler waters of the south. Some sharks make it through the nets.......He simply said to me would you have gone in if you knew they were there....my answer is honestly no I wouldn’t have at all, I would have missed out on learning something that I love due to a fear of something that actually never happened. So, on this instance ignorance was bliss. I do feel that sharks get a bad rap as there are less shark attacks than people being hit by cars. Don’t get me wrong coming face to face with one is different I’m sure than just knowing that they are out there and there are some sharks that will just attack for no reason like the bull shark but on the whole they are majestic creatures and deserve our protection and respect.

Anyway, I digress........back to surfing.

So, after a 3 years of me bodyboarding my surf board I couldn’t understand why I just couldn’t stand up. The whole pop movement that you see the surfers do, lying flat and the pop to their feet....yeah I can’t do that so I get to my knees and then the plan is to just stand up and yet I couldn’t. It was like my feet and legs were concrete and I literally could not move. Everyone shouts at you to stand but when you literally cannot move it’s not that simple.

I read a story from a lady in a forum who was having the same issues as me and the more I read her story the more I though Christ that’s me.....the advice she got was epic. It’s a complete mind game, your body does what the brain tells it so half your brain gets you to your feet and then tells you to stand while then other half says na hang on, what if you fall, that’s where the concrete feet come in. The advice was when you get to your knees just tip over and fall in, once you pop back up and your brain realises that you're actually ok then the freeze should go and you can stand, this was great advice which I tried. Guess what last September I stood for the first time and rode the wave in. And again, and again, I couldn’t stop smiling afterwards and still smile now at the feeling of surfing my first wave.

I’m not out the back waiting for the big waves with the big guns, I’m in the waist high water just waiting for my wave that I can paddle and catch........the only thoughts for me when I’m on my board is do I get this one or do I wait.

You’re never too old to learn something new, especially when you find something and learn something that is your passion.

I’m 37 years old, I’m not skinny nor athletic and I don’t look good in a wetsuit BUT I love surfing.



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