As my fellow blogger Aishwarya mentioned last week, summer is the perfect time to take up a new hobby or learn something new. The extra time that is usually spent cramming for exams and revising papers is now free for things such as reading new books, learning an instrument, or in my case—learning how to surf!
I’ve always thought learning how to surf would be enjoyable, but it’s never been at the top of my bucket list. The combination of a childhood spent in rural, land-locked Pennsylvania and a complete lack of confidence when it comes to swimming resulted in the idea of learning how to surf seeming like an unrealistic dream. However, I made that dream a reality at the end of my time in Spain.
I stayed in Europe for about three weeks after I finished my finals, and for ten of those days, I was on the Atlantic coast of Portugal at Surfivor Surf Camp in a little town called Esmoriz. I cannot say enough good things about Surfivor and the people that run it. Everyone who spent time around the camp, from the instructors to the woman who worked reception, were welcoming and kind. There were only six campers that week, which was extremely beneficial for me and the three others who had never surfed before. With three separate instructors coming to the beach with us everyday, we had significantly more one-on-one time than I expected going into it. By the end of the first day, all four of the beginner surfers were standing up, and some of us, including myself, were even beginning to work on turning with the direction of the wave.
The experience was physically and mentally challenging. Surfing, especially paddling out, caused me to use all sorts of muscles I’ve never used before. We surfed for five to six hours a day for six days straight. It had been years since I had done that much physical activity and I was exhausted because of it.
The mental challenges I faced while learning how to surf were even more difficult to overcome. On the third morning of camp, I can truly say I wanted to quit more than I’ve ever wanted to quit anything in my life. We went to a different beach that day, where the waves were larger and more powerful. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get to the outside—the area past where the waves break. Some days, depending on the tides and currents, it is essential for surfers to “get outside” in order to catch decent waves. I quickly learned that getting out past the break is one of the most difficult aspects of surfing. My sore arms couldn’t paddle with anywhere near enough power to make it out, and as each wave came crashing down, I was continuously pushed off my board, tumbling under the water over and over again. It was exhausting and frustrating. However, I’m so grateful that I willingly got back in the water later in the day because I ended up having an almost perfect afternoon on the board.
I had such a great experience when I was learning to surf that I am strongly considering purchasing a used surfboard to practice on at the Jersey Shore. I’ve also followed a few surfers on social media to pick up some tips from some of the pros. I hope I am able to enjoy surfing for the rest of my life.
Summer is the perfect time to challenge yourself and try something new, and it definitely doesn’t have to be as extreme as learning how to surf!
(Thanks so much to everyone at the Surfivor Camp!! I can’t imagine a more supportive and friendly group of people to spend the week with!)