Prior to all those Olympic shenanigans, I’d thought of myself as quite a fearful person, and it’s quite easy to become someone who you think you already are (profound, right?). However, in the midst of all that throwing myself off high beams, BMX racing and showjumping, I realised I must actually be doubly hard, given the risk of face-breaking involved in all of these pursuits. I can also do a boy’s push up now, so I’m essentially Ripley from Alien (still can’t do a chin up).
The problem is, when you stop throwing yourself at things, face-first (metaphorically as well as actually, physically throwing yourself face-first at things) you kind of regress a bit and I’d realised that, post-Olympic challenge, not only had I lost my sense of purpose, but I’d lost my balls (metaphorically, not actually physically – I have never had balls) a bit, too. So on a weekend trip to Cornwall with Inspire a Jen LEGENDS, Harriet & Jade, I wasn’t massively up for surfing.
Jade is a keen surfer, and Harriet’s had a crack at surfing before so they were all over it. But I’d watched a really terrible film about surfing once at university (with Harriet, incidentally), where this woman falls off her surfboard and smacks her head on a rock then she gets scared of surfing (but ultimately gets over it and finds time to have a complicated love life in the interim period). Also, I grew up on the Essex coast where exposure to the sad seemingly once-a-generation sea-related death can make you a little more wary of the elements. But remembering that I had once been doubly hard, I was keen to get back on the proverbial horse, also Teen Wolf was partial to a bit of surfing, and who wouldn’t want to be as cool as Teen Wolf?
My nervousness was not alleviated in any way by the 20 minute health and safety chat at the start of our lesson with Aaron, at Shoresurf on the very very beautiful Godrevy beach. There’s a lot to be nervous about, apparently: rip tides, smacking your head on a rock or indeed just on the sand, amorous seals etc. In these situations, I just want someone to mention in passing that I might die then throw me in the sea. I do not enjoy the fact that society is now so obsessed with litigation that we have to scare anyone out of doing anything remotely risk-based.
After telling me I might die for what felt like eternity, I mean, I actually started to wonder if I had already died, we get on with the bidnis at hand: learning to surf. Aaron talks us through the basics, which are pretty basic – hoist yourself onto your board at the appropriate time, wave-wise, and paddle. Easy right? Now let’s try that in the water. Aaron helps out by pushing us off on the waves to begin, and predictably I stack it spectacularly with immediate effect. The liberating thing about this is, I don’t break my face on a rock and shuffle soggily off this mortal coil. I’m a bit snotty, but worse things happen at sea, right?
Next on the agenda is the bidnis of standing on the board: less easy. Aaron teaches us two methods. One where you spring from laying down onto both feet, via a push-up, into a perfect weight distribution and happily sail over the wave. I’m not at all convinced I’ll be able to do this on dry land, but I’m happy to say, I’m not bad at it. This is probably because I’m Ripley from Alien, these days.
The next method is where you kneel, then get onto one knee, then stand, obviously a lot quicker than you might if you were just knocking around at home, er, standing up. This looks a lot easier, but I just can’t move quickly enough. When I attempt this in the water, I’m so happy to have made it onto one knee that I actually forget that I have yet to fulfil the rest of the process and attempt to stand up. Harriet, on the other hand, is doing really well, and is standing up quite a bit, though she does still tend to fall off fairly soon after she has risen to both feet, and does so with an involuntary hold of her nose, squeezing her eyes tightly shut, which is quite an endearing move, it must be said.
I’m falling off quite a lot and the snot situation is not improving, which is becoming awkward because our instructor, Aaron, has quite a nice bum and I’m not at all sure this look is becoming of me. Worse still, repeatedly being rubbish at surfing is starting to wear a bit thin and by the time we head back to the cliff top, I’m ready for it. Super-surfer Jade, however, later tells me over a wine-addled barbeque, that my balance was actually pretty good for a first-timer, and I’ll take that.
The next day my arms are killing me. It hadn’t occurred to me that as well as being a fun new method of throwing myself face-first at something, it might actually also have some kind of fitness benefits. No wonder Teen Wolf was so good at basketball.
A two and a half hour private coaching session with Shore Surf costs £50 for two people