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Learning to Surf in my 30’s

Just call me Surf-brina from now on 😉

One of my best performing blogposts here on C&C was my honest account of learning to ski at the age of 30. Learning an ‘extreme’ sport at a later age in life is scientifically proven to be tougher than those attempts made as a child or during adolescence, though we may grow wiser with age we are also far more cautious than our care-free younger selves and when it comes to extreme sports a large part of learning is learning not to be afraid!

Aside from Skiing, a recreational activity I have always wanted to master is surfing. I learned to ski so that I can enjoy the full scope of what the sport offers; the picturesque winter destinations, the cosy snow-burried cabins and the buzz of apres ski, I learned the sport in order to enjoy a totally new style of holiday.

With surfing however, the sport already fits into my life so effortlessly. I spend so much of my time in destinations that are famed for having ‘amazing surf’ but I’ve never been in a position to take full advantage of that opportunity.

This year with so many travel restrictions forcing me to reschedule existing trips I decided that having some time on my hands would not be a wasted opportunity.

Rather than randomly hopping on a board somewhere as having a few lessons I knew that an intensive course was what I wanted and needed in order to feel some sense of achievement afterwards, I wanted to be all in! So somewhat spontaneously I asked friends for recommendations of good surf camps and to my delight Portugal came up trumps when offered advice, a relativley ‘post-covid friendly’ country for us Brits 😉 With one eye on the weather and one eye on flight prices I started my camp search for the following week.

I ended up booking with Surf Cascais as they were one of the few companies (the only one I came accross online) that offered 2 lessons a day and a 4 night stay option when it came to booking a surf & stay package.

I flew into Lisbon and explored the city for a few days before hopping in a 20 euro uber to Cascais, a small fishing village around a 30 minute drive from the capital. I arrived on a weekend so my ‘check-in’ was really laid back, a sweet French woman showed me the Villa and amenities briefly before showing me to my pre-booked private room. Our encounter was so informal it felt as though I was staying at a friend of a friend’s house and after I was shown the labeled food rules I knew this would be a stay like no other 😉

The Surf Cascais Villa was huge and beautifully kept, it was a hostel style environment with larger dorm bedrooms for those sharing and then lots of open spaces for shared living. I opted for a private room which came at a higher accommodation fee but as I am someone who really struggles with instant and constant social interaction I knew it would be worth having my own sacred space……… privacy also came with a fabulous pool view;)

Staying in a surf camp was great as it offered a sense of community from like-minded people it also offered such a great mix of skill level which I wasn’t expecting but loved, hearing all of the intermediates surfing stories was both inspiring and helpful.

In terms of holidaying ‘surfcamp style’ my days were pretty much planned out for me by the Surf Cascais team who were in turn, managed by the ocean.

Every week an activities board is drawn up assigning villa members to their lesson times. The majority of surfers chose to take one 2 hour lesson a day but as I previously stated, I signed up for a double daily dose 😉 The evening before you would just check the board to see what time you were headed but it was mostly an early morning session followed by a midday ride.

My Typical Day

6.00am Wake up – have a coffee and eat some toast (A breakfast of bread and cereals was included in the room stay)

6.30am Get ready – Collect my wetsuit from my instructor and head to the surf van to drive 10 minutes to Guincho beach for my first lesson.

7am – Lesson One – Each lesson was in a group (unless you request and pay for a private session) they consist of a beach warm up, a few board maneuvers to ‘practice makes perfect’ when it comes to standing up and then it’s into the water to put it all into action! The instructor is always in the water without a board so they help you move into the right waves and give you step by step commands during your attempts followed by critique and advice when waiting for your next attempt.

9am – Lesson complete, return to the Villa

10am – Enjoy a second breakfast 😉

11.30am – Get ready for Lesson two!

12pm – Lesson Two

The rest of the afternoon was at our leisure

I was only in town for a few days so I made sure to explore somewhere every day. One day I walked to a cute restaurant hub called Casa da Guia and drank some delicious portuguese wine whilst watching the sun go down, the next evening I went back to the beach we usually learned at to watch the sunset and WOW it was one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen!!!! The final afternoon I wandered around the local town of Sintra.

By this point you are all probably wondering how I did? Well, asides from some pretty painful board burn (note to self, buy a pair of booties next time!) I think my efforts were pretty galant! After fully standing and riding out 80% of my waves to shore I was told I ‘make the sport look easy’ 😉 

It was everything I had dreamed it to be and I freaking loved every moment in the ocean. My goodness was it a sport though! There is no doubt that the 4 hours I spent in the ocean each day were some of the most gruelling hours of ‘working out’ I’ve ever done. The surfing part is actually relaxing in comparison. When you become more comfortable you move out to the green waves, to reach them you have to pass all of the thrashing white foamy waves to get to the larger ones and when you learn to surf you use a softer board that is impossibe to duck so you literally take beating after beating until you reach a part of the ocean to surf. Then once you’ve ridden that wave, you’re back to being attacked by the water 😉

I wasn’t at all put off by this, in fact quite the opposite – the exhaustion spured me on, 3 days in the water was by no means long enough!!

Surfing like many sports is a skill that must be nurtured and developed so there’s definitley a downside to learning later on in life but at the same time being challenged as an adult has a mental power that we take for granted when we are younger.

It’s an esepcially perfect sport to attempt if you are some who has to be the best at everything because no matter how well you ‘master’ the board, no matter how well you pick up the skills and steps you are always under the control of the ocean herself. As a child if you fall off the board you brush it off and get straight back on, as an adult you care far too much about where you went wrong.

I guess that’s a metaphor for life – if you fall off the board as an adult get straight back on it the same way you did when you were a child!

What surfing taught me is that sometimes we can try new things without the expectations of excelling, I was surfing just to surf, not to be a pro.

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