Surfing 101: the what, where and how
Learning to surf is on many people’s bucket list. Perhaps not very close to the top if you find yourself living inland in a place like Johannesburg or in the Free State. ‘When and where would you actually do it? Valley of the Waves?’
If you are, however, fortunate enough to live in, or eventually make the move to, a coastal town like Cape Town, learning to surf should naturally jump up a few notches on your bucket list. This is mainly because you won’t want to feel like a loser living so close to the beach.
Surfing offers many people a place where they can escape the daily grind and connect with nature, a place where they can switch off completely and get a thrill all at the same time.
Where would you start?
Well, Muizenberg is one of the top beginner surfing spots in Cape Town. The sleepy seaside suburb’s surfing history dates back to 1919 when Heather Price was the first person in South Africa to ride a wave standing up (snaps for the ladies!). She was apparently taught by two U.S. Marines whose ship had stopped over in Cape Town en route to America after WWI.
Another great spot to learn, when the conditions are favourable, is Big Bay. Located close to Blouberg on the West Coast, it often offers some fabulous beginner waves for those looking to gain some confidence in the water.
Learning to surf may either look super easy or impossible. Either way, it is advisable to spend a couple of bucks and get a proper surfing lesson or two from a professional instructor instead of simply renting a board and missioning out into the water. Not only will you most likely look like a fool, but you might just hurt someone (apart from yourself) in the process. Believe us, we’ve seen it happen time and time again.
What to bring and what to wear
All you technically need to surf is a bather, sunscreen and a surfboard. Cape Town’s water is extremely cold, however. Let’s be real. So you’ll probably need a wetsuit as well.
If you don’t own a wetsuit or a surfboard, don’t stress. If you learn to surf through a mobile surf school such as Surf Life they will have wetsuits and surfboards available for rent. And at both Muizenberg and Big Bay, there are surf shops like Lifestyle Surf Shop and Roxy where you can rent a wetsuit and a board for just a couple of hours, or for the whole day – depending on your preference.
Always wear a bather underneath your wetsuit (duh!) and if you want to make the undressing process just a tad easier, wear a second skin as well – it helps the wetsuit to slip off easier when wet.
How to survive
It’s important to do a warm-up before you hit the water. After a warm-up, your instructor will (hopefully) ask you to lie down on your board on the sand and explain where you need to position yourself on the board. Lie too far back, and you won’t catch any speed but rather be slowly swallowed in behind the wave. Too far forward, and you’ll simply lose your balance and nose dive. Ouch.
They will then also let you do a couple of push-ups and practice rounds so that you can get a feel for your standing up and getting your stance just right. You’ll be so glad you practised most of it on land, eliminating multiple occasions of potential drowning!
As you’re about to head into the water, don’t forget to strap your leash around your ankle! When, not if, you fall and go underwater, always use your one arm to grab around the back of your neck (to protect your neck) and the other arm to grab the back of your head – your arm covering your nose and forehead. You never know what might hit you in the face or on your neck as you come up from under the water. Rather be safe than sorry.
The cold water and the sound of crashing waves automatically shoot adrenaline into your veins and you’ll feel your heart starting to pound thanks to the combination of stress and excitement as you start gliding along that first wave.
Remember, few people get it right the first time. Don’t give up! As cliché as it may sound, practice makes perfect…
You can do it too
- Surf Life Surf School: a mobile surf school which mainly operates in Muizenberg and Big Bay. They offer various packages from private to group and kids’ lessons. http://surflife.co.za
- Gary’s Surf School: located on Muizenberg’s beach front. www.garysurf.com
- Lifestyle Surf Shop: located on Muizenberg’s beach front. www.lifestylesurfshop.co.za
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