Faith Bleasdale overcomes her fear of sharks to try surfing lessons with a female champion and reports ‘I almost managed to stand up…’
Growing up in North Devon I was very used to the surfing culture, although I have to admit to being more of a surfing groupie than an actual surfer in my younger days. But now I am older and wiser; I really see the benefits of taking a surfing holiday in the beautiful costal North Devon.
Not only offering beautiful countryside, North Devon also has a wonderful coastline and some of the most beautiful beaches in the UK. And some of the said beaches offer up lovely surf.
I believe that if you want a break in this country, you could do far worse. If you have a week, or even just a weekend with friends, this is a great idea to do something different and absolutely fun. In order to prove this, I took surfing lessons myself.
My surfing beach of choice was Saunton Sands, near the village of Braunton where I currently reside. Saunton is a beautiful, long sandy beach, with waves to suit beginners and advanced surfers.
I took my lessons with the Walking on Waves surf School, which is run by Sarah Whitley who is a former UK and European champion surfer and one of this country’s best female surfers. To say I was apprehensive is a huge understatement. I was terrified. I love swimming but I also love keeping my head as far out of the water as my neck will allow. I don’t even like being splashed. I arrived for my lesson and Sarah was very reassuring. Apparently it was unlikely that I would drown/get eaten by a shark/drown. She put me into a wetsuit, (not the most flattering item of clothing ever but never mind), and we headed down the beach with our boards. I already felt like a surfer before going near the water. Sarah provides both the wetsuits and boards by the way.
Once on the beach she showed me how I was supposed to go from lying to kneeling to standing and it actually seemed possible after a while. Then, after some practise we headed to the waves. As soon as I was in the water I forgot about my nerves. Just being in the water was amazing and invigorating, and I didn’t mind the fact that I spent quite a lot of time under water. It was the most fun I had had in ages, and I loved it.
We paddled into the waves, I got onto my knees and rode in. I fell off every time of course, not having mastered how to stop and I have to say that I perhaps looked a tad bedraggled as well.
I almost managed to stand up, but was knocked off my board by a youngster with a body board, but there was no harm done and I got back up again until I was too tired to go any more. I have to say that I caught the bug though and I couldn’t wait to go back again.
After your lesson you can then relax on the beach, with some civilised sunbathing, then head to the nearby Sands Cafe for lunch or dinner. This bistro-style cafe overlooks the beach and serves pretty good food and ice-cold wine. Just what you need to relax after all that hard work.
Sarah offers group lessons as well as individual classes, and prices vary accordingly. But for a group of girls, or couples it’s such a fun break, and you will feel rejuvenated. Honestly, I have gone from being terrified to not being able to recommend it enough. Although my tip is to invest in some really good waterproof mascara because there will be lots of cute surfers to check out from your board.
The area is a popular holiday destination, and there is plenty of accommodation available:
Luxury Budget: Stay in the Saunton Sands Hotel, which overlooks the beach and is just a short walk down the path to it. It’s a deco-style hotel, which isn’t cheap, but it has has a gorgeous outdoor pool and nice.
Budget: Try the Lobb Fields Campsite. A clean and friendly campsite which might just give you more of the full ‘surfer’ experience.
Middle Range: There are lots of B&B stays in the area. Check out those at Braunton, Saunton and Croyde.
Walking on Waves Surf School: www.walkingonwaves.co.uk; T: 07772 240894; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Saunton Sands Hotel: www.brend-hotels.co.uk T: 01271 890212
Lobb Fields: www.lobbfields.com T: 01271 812090