Oh my god it’s such a cliché. Lets go to Australia! Lets buy some surfboards! Lets learn how to surf! Well apparently I am that cliché. Although I have to defend myself a wee bit. I didn’t arrive in Australia and suddenly decide I’d take up surfing. It’s actually something I’ve wanted to do for years.
Back home in Northern Ireland there’s some pretty great surf beaches. And growing up, I’d usually take an annual trip up to the North Coast with a couple of mates to mess around in the ocean. We’d rent boards and maybe even get a lesson. But the problem is, you don’t learn how to surf in a day! So I’ve never really progressed.
I’ve been saying for years I want to be able to surf. And by that I don’t mean clumsily climbing to my feet on a broken wave. I want to be able to do it properly, at least to an intermediate level. I suppose I’ve just never really had the time. I was at school, then uni, and then doing ski seasons in New Zealand. But now here I am, in Australia, travelling, unemployed, thousands of beaches ahead of me, not a care in the world.
It didn’t take much to convince Chris that learning to surf was a good idea, when I brought up the idea he seemed just as excited as me. And so after a weekend seeing Sydney, we went to Manly to buy some boards.
After doing a bit of research online, we decided to go to the Aloha Surf Shop. People said they had a massive range of boards, both new and second hand, so there was a good chance of finding the right board.
I’d already decided I didn’t want your typical ‘beginner’ board. When it comes to learning how to surf, the longer the better pretty much, and most beginners are advised to buy 8 or 9ft long boards, depending on their height. I was worried that if we bought boards this big, we’d soon progress beyond them and have to worry about selling them for an upgrade. Also carting around huge boards wasn’t appealing in our campervan living situation.
At the same time I knew that buying the kind of short board a pro uses would be stupid. You always hear about people who go for the coolest and latest board, only to never catch a wave or get to their feet. They soon become posers rather than surfers.
But the guys in the shop had the perfect solution. They pulled out 2 hybrid fish boards, a 6’8” for me and a 7’4” Chris. They explained that although the boards were shorter than longboards, they were wide and thick, giving extra volume and stability, good for learning. But at the same time they were incredibly responsive, great for turning, and even an advanced surfer could have fun on one.
This seemed pretty perfect. I was still unsure about whether I wanted a new board or not, but then again at least I knew it shouldn’t have any hidden problems and the shop assistants said it wouldn’t lose too much value in a year, as long as it wasn’t too damaged…
So we just went for it. And the guys threw in discounted board bags, free wax, fins, leashes, and a discounted wetsuit for me. We ended up saving over $200.
I walked out of the shop carrying my new board feeling very nervous but extremely excited. Doubtful thoughts kept running through my head, ‘what if I struggled to learn on a shorter board, what if I pick up bad habits.’ But then these thoughts were over run by the realisation that I was finally doing it. I was going to learn how to surf.