The joys of learning to surf (and they’re not what you think…)

My personal surfing “journey” began at the ripe age of 21 on the shores of Hawaii, the home of surfing, specifically Waikiki Beach. My best friend and I travelled to the honorary US state after I won the trip through a “25 words or less” competition. We thought it was a brilliant idea to grab a board each and head to the waves. What the lei were we thinking? Luckily a couple of (cute) locals paddled out to give us a helping hand. They dragged our weak bodies out to the waves and pushed us on. I scored a couple of quick stand ups and my bestie a board to the head, swiftly ending our first endeavour.

My next foray was much better planned. After an extended holiday (aka voluntary redundancy), I booked in for a week-long surf and yoga retreat in Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia. I’d seen Surf Haven in a magazine article and had loved the idea for a while. It wasn’t until I was 27 and well set in my ways and avoiding of things I’m not good at, that I thought now was the time to reset, completely out of my comfort zone. I secretly thought I was going to be a natural gun at surfing. I wasn’t. We had daily lessons and I let my lack of confidence get the better of me, barely progressing from standing up and a push in the green waves.

But the seed was well and truly planted. I was hooked. I returned to Australia in winter and had to wait a while to finally hit the Sunshine Coast with my brother, a keen surfer kid. My dad donated me his mini-mal and off we went to Kawana. I don’t remember much but it was far from perfect. It didn’t matter. I’m lucky to not have a massive fear of waves. I know I’ll get to the surface eventually.

So here I am now, finishing up two months of sporadic surfing in Taghazout, Morocco. Far from the gun I wanted to be, I still love it, can catch a green wave, stand up quick enough, turn a bit and most importantly (to me) stay up. Most people know why they love surfing. There’s the obvious rush you get when you catch that wave, or when you have a stellar day of ride after ride. To some it’s getting barrelled, um yeah, I’ll get back to you on that one. But I’ve also discovered a few other little gems that come with the game…

A lack of personal hygiene is A-OK. Generally, I love a good shower. I am a clean person. I shower and wash my hair regularly at home. Here is a slightly different story. I go days without showering and a week without washing my hair. But it is okay. You are in the surf every day. You don’t smell (that you can tell) and your hair is so surf goddessy (straw-like) you embrace it.

Men in wetsuits. I have discovered a new favourite moment, the wetsuit half strip. You’ll know it, when you see it. It works.

The washing machine. The moment where you get smashed by a wave. Your board is yanked away from you. You think your knee socket is shot. Your leash gives you ‘gnarly’ bruises as it wraps around your arm. You instinctively cover your head with your arms because you’re a good pupil. And you roll. And you roll. And you roll. But you make it up with enough air to gasp, swallow some water and duck back down to do it all over again on the impending next wave. I (not so) secretly love it.

It can be the best kind of meditation slash zen slash peace there is. Sitting out the back on your board, either by yourself, or surrounded by others hyped to catch their next best wave is my favourite of favourites. I’ve loved this part since Bali. We would do twice-daily yoga, yet no mediation compares to the happiness and peacefulness I feel sitting or lying on my board floating over the waves before they break. “Hol, this wave is yours.” Yeah, I’ll get the next one. And then I do, and there’s nothing quite like it.

P.S. Surf options with my Stoke Travel friends are pretty extensive and I can’t wait to try them all. There’s Morocco (tick), Spain & France Van Surfari, and San Sebastian (next on my list), Surf Camp. Use my code SHARKWEEK for free unlimited beer, wine and sangria during your entire stay. Each wave deserves a celebration, and nothing cures a hangover like the surf.



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