First Time Surfing… A Love Story.

What can you expect the first time you go surfing?

Everyone will have their own experience; their own reason for first dipping their toes in the ocean, surfboard clutched nervously under one arm. I will share with you my experience, perhaps it may sound familiar to those of you who recently took up surfing, or hopefully dispel any concerns someone might have should they want to give it a try; it may even remind seasoned surf instructors what it is like for your average Joe / Jo taking their first lesson so they may perhaps be a bit more forgiving of our ineptitude….

For a start, I admit to being very nervous the first time I went surfing.

I recently confessed this to a surf instructor friend of mine who laughed and thought I was joking. “How could anyone be nervous of trying to surf?”

But, speaking to my friends and family, I don’t think I’m the only one who would have a minor panic attack at the thought of surfing. Many people are just afraid of water or the sea.

I wasn’t afraid so much as completely inexperienced: apart from the odd paddle in ankle high water at the beach, I hadn’t really immersed myself in the sea since I was a child. I remembered I could vaguely swim…. Not really the best credentials, let’s be honest.

I started to learn in spring, a time in Ireland when the Atlantic is still icy from winter. There are snow and hail and storms, bringing with them the last throes of decent swell before autumn returns. A nice time for surfers but not a great time for a complete beginner.

My first two lessons were cancelled due to gales and I just chickened out of the third, making up some random excuse. However, in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to do this, so after several false starts I eventually took my first surf lesson.

To my discomfort I discovered that surfing consisted of cold, damp frustration, – confusion,  – contusion,  – coercion,  – exertion, – contortion,  – exhaustion….

and that was just getting on the wet suit.

I don’t know if guys feel as self-conscious as women trying on a wet suit for the first time but there is a general feeling of ridiculousness. (It is a fact: surf instructors look good in their wet suits; beginner surfers generally look like a herd of bewildered sea lions in brightly coloured vests). However, the other ladies and I laughed and persevered, bonding over our shared inability to tell which way to put on a wet suit.

I remember very little about the actual lesson, except that I was mesmerized by the waves and managed to stand up once…. also that transporting the 9ft foam surfboard was like trying to single-handedly carry a flat-pack wardrobe under my arm.

But, do you know what?


I loved the anticipation, the nervous buzz in the changing rooms, the yoga on the beach, the beauty of the landscape; the wind whipping my board like a sail and the sound of the sea calling to me. I loved the feel of the water enveloping me like an amniotic fluid; the rhythm of the waves and the salt air in my lungs. I loved the sense of achievement: that I had actually DONE IT! And even though I couldn’t surf, I knew that this was where I wanted to be.

And so, like Venus rising from the waters, a love of surfing was born….

So now all I had to do was learn to flipping surf!


Does any of this sound familiar to you? I would love to hear your experiences…