Surfing in England – Lessons from a Pro
There’s nothing like paddling out in the salty seawater, knowing that you can leave all your daily stress behind. Your mind is focused on one thing only: riding down the perfect wave.
All the fear, exhaustion and tiredness that you have felt suddenly turns into energy, strength and motivation, welcoming you to life – the life.
Summer is over and so is surfing… you might think. But surf conditions are just starting to become good, in fact even very good: September, October and November are actually the best months to go surfing – the sea is still warm from the summer months and waves are becoming bigger and bigger . Hard to believe, but my favorite surfspot is not in sunny Spain, Portugal or France – no, I love going surfing in England. And yes it did rain when I went last weekend – but getting wet is hardly a problem when you’re out surfing.
The best place for surfing is Newquay, the surf capitol of England, situated in the heart of Cornwall. The smallish town attracts thousands of surf addicts every year- ensuring that the city’s 22,000 habitants can easily add up to a whopping 100,000 during summer season.
Tom Earl, a young up-and-coming surfer pro, loves toride his waves in the little town: “Newquay is the perfect place to surf as the waves are consistent and the water temperature is bearable all year round“. This consistency can be linked back to the fact that there are two major beaches, Towan Beach and Fistral Beach, both of which offer very different surf conditions.
Fistral Beach, facing north-west, has a high exposure to swells, ensuring consistent and often big waves all year round, hence being the perfect place for more advanced surfers. Towan Beach on the other hand is sheltered through the mainland and Newquay’s harbor, where the swell gets pushed against the harbor wall, producing some rideable waves that are smaller and more predictable than those at Fistral Beach – a great opportunity for beginners to work on their technique and get used to the power of the waves.
I went to Newquay twice already and thought I should give it a third go, as I absolutely fell in love with the city and surfing and felt like I had to escape the metropolitan London life for a weekend. A (horrendous) 8-hour-night busride later, I found myself back in Newquay, ready to ride some waves. Luckily Escape surf school and St Christopher’s Inn hostel offer a really reasonable surf-packagae: £60 for two nights and two surf sessions (find out more about this here). The hostel itself is located just in front of the beach with a stunning front view across the Atlantic Ocean.
Lunch at St.Chistopher’s Inn with a fantastic view on the Atlantic Ocean
The morning view of my bed, not too bad, is it?
Surfing in Newquay
There are several surfschools in Newquay and it won’t take you long to spot one, while you are making your way to the beach. Due to the surf&stay offer, I ended up taking surf lessons with Escape Surfschool, a surfschool that opens 12 months a year and 7 days a week (other surf schools are mainly open during summer).
Not a bad choice - all teachers had professional qualifications, such as team member Matt Rodwell, who gets sponsored by Reef. A surf-lesson normally lasts 2 1/2 hours and includes stretching (very important!), theoretical and practical guidance.
Before diving right in, I had a stroll along the beach, watching surfers doing their warm-up.
Caroline Perret (1st Place at Roxy’s North East Women’s Open in 2008) is showing how to get balance and teaches the A-Z from paddling to standing up on the surfboard.
Michael Young, originally from South Africa, is the head coach of the Escape Surf School and shares his 30-years-surf-experience with everyone in his group – he has been South African Senior Surf Champ, was rated among the ‘UK top 10 Pro surfers’ and, on top of all that, has taught the British junior surf team for three years. I took my surf lessons with Mike and believe me, he is a ‘wise man’ as he shares a lot of useful tips and tricks with everyone and will make sure that no one will end a surf session without standing up.
Mike Young, professional surfer
All his surf lessons start with an elaborate demonstration about wind, swell and other things that we should take care of.
Due to the hurricane in New York, the last weekends’ waves had been massive, as the wind traveled across the Atlantic Ocean, creating a huge swell with waves up to 16ft (oh yes, I was a ‘bit’ scared). Even Mike decided that we shouldn’t paddle out very far and instead taught us the basics of how to turn, which we practiced close to the beach.
Here is a little round-up of some useful advice by Mike Young
1. When standing up, it is very important to place the hands on top of your surfboard, like in the picture… many try to hold it on the side, which will cause the board to wobble
2. Using your arms is of supreme importance when surfing
3. Make sure that your feet are parallel to guarantee a good balance, with one foot located at the back and the other in the middle of your board
Next step is to put all the theory into practice, often not as easy as it seems. But with some help everyone managed to stand up …
I really enjoyed my time at Escape surf school; appreciated all the individual advice that teachers shared with me and left Newquay after three wonderful days with lots of new skills and knowledge that I will put into practice soon (I am going to Spain next week and will find secret surf spots for you!)
But even if you are not the biggest surf fan, you might consider to pay a short visit to Newquay, which also offers lots of other sport possibilities (such as kayaking, hiking, horse riding, golfing etc.) as well as a fresh breeze of salty seawater mixed with some white sandy beaches for families and those who just want to have some relaxing days. Even the Beatles filmed part of their Magical Mystery Tour in Newquay and the famous castle (now a hotel), which is situated at Fistral Beach, was used for several movies/soaps such as ‘Witches’ and ‘Wild Things’.
The former ‘Witches-Castle’
Family time at the beach
Getting prepared to kayak in the wild sea
The city itself is quite small and can easily be explored within one day. Not to forget: Try some Cornish pastries and get some great bargains at the end-of-summer-sale.
Got a spare weekend? What are you waiting for?