This month, one intrepid member of our team tried surfing for the first time at The Wave, an inland surfing lake near Bristol. Read on to find out more about Rebecca’s experience.
I love watersports and have tried most of them with varying degrees of proficiency, from sailing, paddleboarding and wakeboarding to being dragged behind a speedboat on an inflatable rubber ring. The latter was attempted over a decade ago, involved a bikini top that is now somewhere at the bottom of the Adriatic Sea and is an experience I try hard to forget. I’ve never been surfing, however, despite spending many childhood holidays in France on the surfing coast of the Atlantic. The surfers looked way too cool and seemed to operate under a secret hierarchical code that was just too intimidating to infiltrate. And I’ve seen Point Break so I know what I’m talking about.
So when the Instagram algorithm started sending me ads for The Wave, I thought I might as well give it a go. Just to give you a clear picture of the set-up, The Wave is a 180m long artificial lake with a huge wave machine at the back, that allows the creation of perfect wave after perfect wave for all surfing levels from true novices like me, to the real pros who compete there on event days. Different levels can share the same waves, with the intermediate surfers at the back of the lake and the beginners surfing the same waves once they’ve lost some steam in the shallower end. It’s all really very clever and quite surreal to be surfing in the middle of the beautiful Bristolian countryside.
There’s quite a walk from the car park to the centre, during which we crossed paths with lots of friendly early morning surfers coming the other way, boards under one arm, weaving past us on their skateboards, their Malibu aesthetic contrasting jarringly with my South-West London bleary-eyed Mum chic.
On arrival, you are given wetsuits and boards and have the opportunity to mainline some coffee in their very nice café before being taken along with the rest of your beginner group to learn the basics on dry land. There were about ten in our group, a mix of men and women, students and people of all different ages. The vibe was super friendly and inclusive and the instructors could not have been friendlier or more encouraging. I can’t lie, finding out beginners had to wear helmets was a blow to my Blue Crush fantasies but the logic is indisputable: the lake is quite shallow and the bottom is concrete.
Then it was time to head in! We were in the water for just under an hour and it was a case of catching a wave, surfing it (or in my case, attempting to surf it), swimming back in and catching another one. The ideal waves keep coming, so each try is another opportunity to correct where you went wrong the last time. The instructors are there to help you, correct your technique and offer general encouragement. There are enforced breaks in the waves to ensure everyone has a bit of a rest and believe me, they are most welcome. It is exhausting. And exhilarating. And frustrating. And thrilling.
I fell off again and again and again and again. My legs were jelly and my arms sometimes refused to obey basic commands. But after many, many falls, I was up! I was actually surfing! My friend and I even managed to surf the same wave side by side which left us grinning from ear to ear for the rest of the session.
At the end of the hour, we all staggered out of the water, tired, endorphin-filled and full of pride for trying something new. There was a sense of solidarity in our little helmeted group of fledgling surfers. After a well-deserved bacon sandwich, we walked back down the long road back to the car park, undeniably with a great deal more swagger than we had before. That night, I had the best sleep I’ve had all year.
Head to www.thewave.com to find out more.
Have you tried inland surfing? Can it really prepare you for the real thing? I'd love to know. I'd welcome any tips for a new enthusiast!
By Rebecca Bormann