Gower Surfers Guide Quick links

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why half an hour in the Ocean surfing is better for you than two hours in the gym by Marianne Curphey

Sunset surfer just one more wave
Picture above: Marianne Curphey, just one more wave
My life changed for ever on a beach in south west Sri Lanka. In between sipping coconut water and working on my tan, I watched a group of surfers ride perfect A-frame peaks with a combination of raw physical power and athletic grace. They would watch the wave, turn around, and with a few deft strokes be up on their feet and riding. It looked like fun.

A couple of months later I was standing on a beach in Wales with an enormous yellow soft surfboard and a hired wetsuit. Those guys had made it all look too easy. My instructor tried his best to conceal his shock at my appalling lack of fitness, but several years of living the lifestyle of a London hack had left me in pathetic shape. The morning after my first surf lesson I could barely drag myself out of bed. Muscles I never knew existed in my body were screaming in protest. Everything ached. And I had to get my wetsuit on and try all over again.

I’d like to say I stood up on my first wave, but it was months before I got the hang of scrambling to my feet on the board. But that weekend in Wales altered everything. I returned to London determined to get fit, learn to surf properly, and start swimming again. The incredible buzz of being in the sea, feeling the adrenalin rush of riding my board to shore, and the sensation of being totally exhausted but happy at the same time was new and exciting. In the years that followed I travelled the world, surfed beach-breaks alone in New Zealand, dodged the crowds in Indonesia, was shouted off waves in the Canary Islands, and explored the coastlines of Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal.

So this is why I surf:
  1. Fitness: surfing is an incredible total body work-out. It targets your abdominal muscles, tones your back, shoulders and legs, sharpens your reactions, and improves your balance. You’re having so much fun, though, that it doesn’t really feel like traditional exercise. It can also be meditative - a mental break from the pressures of life, just you and the sea. Your feet, which you have rudely shoved into work shoes all week, suddenly have a taste of freedom – your toes spread, you can feel the soles stretching and softening, and you have the sweet sensation of bare feet on wet sand.
  2. Camaraderie: there is no better way to spend an afternoon than hooting a bunch of your best mates into great waves, and then watching them paddle back out with a big smile on their faces. Except, perhaps, bagging the best wave of the day yourself.
  3. Travel: surfers travel to find the best waves around the globe. As a result you will meet amazing people, discover some breathtakingly beautiful beaches, surf fantastic waves, stay in some dodgy guesthouses, maybe share buses with chickens and pigs, and blag your way out of trouble. I’d swap a five-star spa for a surf beach anytime. All you need is your board and a taste for adventure.
  4. Adrenalin: surfers call it “stoke” and it’s the buzz you get from paddling into a wave, jumping to your feet and then responding instinctively as the wave moves and unfolds down the line. Sometimes it’s a mellow session in gentle waves; sometimes you’re paddling out with a dry mouth and a pounding heart, repeating your favourite confidence-boosting mantra to yourself under your breath. Surfing challenges you mentally as well as physically. But nothing really compares to that feeling when you catch a wave. Nothing.
  5. Freedom: if you get up early enough in midsummer you can paddle out into a sea the colour and consistency of quicksilver and sit alone beneath a lightening sky. When it is calm and glassy the waves seem to undulate, rather than break. Just for a while, before everyone else wakes up, it feels like the world belongs to you, and you alone. Everyone should experience that at least once in their life.

Marianne Curphey is a freelance journalist and former staff travel writer for The Times. Her weekly blog is atwww.wageslavesescape.com/blog/

No comments:

Post a Comment