Let it rip
Claire Sawers comes over all Cameron Diaz as she braves the chilly waters of Scotland for a surfing lesson
Even when the surf’s up in Scotland, chances are the temperatures won’t be. But with advancements in wetsuits over the past few years, it’s now possible to surf the Scottish coastline year-round. Fuelled I suspect by seeing one too many photos of Cameron Diaz bounding along the sand in Hawaii with a board under her muscular arm, I get roped in for a beginner’s lesson by an adrenaline junkie friend. Our two-hour crash course takes place at Belhaven Beach in Dunbar, about a 20-minute train ride from the shoppers on Princes Street.
Our instructor, Sam Christopherson, has been surfing for 16 years, and teaches kids as young as seven how to pull Keanu Reeves moves on the east coast waters. After rolling on our suits and trudging over marshland to the beach, Sam leads us through the safety basics while we commando crawl over the sand on our tummies. Just like skateboarding or snowboarding, it’s important to establish whether you ride regular, goofy or switch, which Sam works out by giving us a shove from behind and seeing which foot we steady ourselves with. After a quick – and invigorating, but surprisingly non heart-stopping – dip into the North Sea with our boards, we get used to bobbing on the waves and spreading our weight so we don’t finish belly up. Sam reckons it makes more sense to learn how to time and catch the waves before you work on your bum-out, arms-spread crouching pose. ‘Stretch your arms like Supergirl!’ he shouts as we eat icy salt water through too much laughing and not enough concentration. Once we’ve mastered our floating not drowning technique, it’s back to the beach for more theory. Next up are steps four to two, in reverse order. Step four is standing, but two and three are the trickiest, where you hop up from lying flat onto your knees then jump upright. This is the part that requires practise (and abs like slabs of granite) but after 20 minutes we are out of puff, and ready to take our wobbly ‘popping-up’ routine into the water.
Luckily Sam is on hand to grab the board as it skids out from under me vertically, sideways and at one point straight back into my spray-slapped face, but after an hour I am surfing, or more accurately kneeling, like a pro. With an imaginary soundtrack of The Beach Boys ringing in my ears, and a combination of sleet and sunshine pounding down on my eyes, I’m starting to see what makes hardcore surfers like Sam take to the water when most people are taking de-icers to their cars. I won’t claim it’s easy, and I spend a good part of the session wiping out like Malibu Barbie in a washing machine, but the sensation of being swept towards the shore with the wind whistling through my salt-straggled hair is exhilarating enough to make me forget any aching muscles or goose-bumps on my face.
What you need Swimming costume, towel, waterproof shoes.
Calories burned 200 per hour.
Muscles used Core muscles in the back and stomach, plus arms, legs and bums. It also improves balance and is an excellent fat burner.
Who should do it Fresh air freaks and adventure seekers.
Who should avoid it Those who can’t swim well.
Origins Polynesian fishermen were using wooden boards to bring their catch back to shore as early as the 15th century, and it later caught on as a fun way to pass the time in Hawaii, America and Australia. Later this month (12-30 April), Scotland will host the O’Neill Highland Open in Thurso, a world class pro surfing event with a top prize of $135,000.
Details Two-hour beginners classes at Coast to Coast Surf School cost £35.
For more info visit www.c2csurfschool.com or call 01368 869734 or 07971 990361.