I have to admit, the first few weeks of this challenge I have been spoiled by Brisbane’s sunny climate. Even although its technically Winter, most days there’s not a cloud in the sky and it’s been a comfortable average temperature of 21 degrees (last weeks torrential rain during our walk being an extreme outlier). That’s taps aff weather in Glasgow!
So I have been making the most of it – getting lost in a good book in the park (I’ve just finished ‘Everything I know about love’ by Dolly Alderton, if you haven’t read it, you should!), sunbathing with some Halo ice cream in the privacy of the apartment garden (no need for bikini body worries when no one can see you), painting outside and taking long walks or runs around areas of the city I hadn’t yet explored. In a few weeks’ time, I’ll be back in Scotland and surely be swapping the bikini and sunglasses for a puffer jacket and umbrella but in the meantime, I’m soaking up all the vitamin D I can get.
Being our last full weekend in Australia there was only one thing for it – surf, SUP and BBQ on the Sunny coast. Can you believe we’ve been in Australia for 7 months and this would be our first surf?! Better late than never as they say.
We got up early on Saturday morning, picked up our Car Next Door and set off up the coast from Brisbane to Noosa heads. The winter sun beamed on the dashboard, the Sunshine Coast living up to its name. In incredible contrast to the long stretches of golden sand on the right, was amazing views of the green and lush Glasshouse Mountains to the left as we drove along to our favourite 90s throwback playlist.
Noosa is a cute little coastal hub where you could be fooled into thinking you are in a popular European resort with its sea-facing restaurants, villas and swish shops. The parking situation is less exotic. Cars slowly prowl the streets and surrounding carparks like birds in a flock of seagulls circling a busy boardwalk on a warm Scottish day, waiting for their moment to divebomb an unsuspecting tourist who has taken their eyes off their last chip.
We’d booked our surf lessons with Merrick’s Learn to Surf Noosa and joined a two-hour beginners lesson in a group of around 10. We’d both done a beginner’s lesson before but quite a while ago and were in no rush to focus on any more advanced skills than standing up for more than a few seconds.
The first part of the lesson was spent on the beach learning about the conditions and the basics of catching a wave. We were in the safe hands of two well-seasoned surfers with bronzed and tattooed skin and bleached hair, who would look obscenely out of place anywhere other than on the beach with a board in hand. They put us at ease with their surfing knowledge and wore us in with the predictable comradery that you find in all popular backpacker stops, that starts with “Where are you from?” followed by light, nationality stereotyping “Oh ja ze Germans!”.
A few practice pop-ups on the stable sand made it all seem relatively easy. All you have to do is keep your head up, back straight, place your feet right and bend your knees. Too far forward, you’re snorkelling, too far back, you’re scuba diving. Filled with beginner’s confidence it was time to hit the waves.
We waded out in mass into the waist deep water, jumped on our boards then lined up like arrows in a floating quiver; the instructors acting as archers, taking us 1 by 1 and waiting for the precise moment to propel us into the target wave. “Press up, and stand UP, UP!”, followed by a “YEOOOW”, signalling success and a “UH OH”, signalling a face plant. The closer it got to my turn, the more nervous I became watching everyone else getting the hang of it remarkably well. I’ve never quite outgrown the primary school performance fear. You know when you were in school and it would be your turn to perform the gymnastics tuck over the pommel horse or read a poem in assembly. When you’re so terrified of making an arse of yourself you panic and forget all you know and inevitably your fear comes true anyway.
My turn came. Round 1 was a disaster. Everything I had learned on the beach went overboard. Round 2 I managed to kneel. Sensible if you ask me, the more points of contact the better. Round 3 (I have been assured) I stood up and let my arms free for a nanosecond before nose-diving off the front of my board.
Callum got on much better in the standing up department but less so in catching the waves, giving a literal performance of missing the boat – does it count if you stand up once the wave has passed? “Is that how they surf in Scotland? Hey everyone! Let’s all surf like the Scots!”, the instructor bellowed over the crests with a smirk.
All in all, the lesson was a lot of fun and after the initial dread, I let go of the fear and really enjoyed it. So much so I didn’t want it to end!
The weekend was topped off by an early Sunday morning paddleboard (we used the Go Pro for the first time and as you can see from the pictures below, we have some photo taking skills to learn!) and a visit to some lovely family members (my gran’s cousins) for a wine-fuelled BBQ.
Life lessons from surfing
You can prepare and plan and plan and plan for something but when it comes to it, you sometimes just have to go with it. Pop-ups on a surfboard on the beach are not the same as pop-ups on a surfboard in the ocean. Yes, the beach can give you a rough idea of how to do it and a sense of being prepared, but the best thing you can do is get wet, paddle out to the deep and try, try and try again. Putting theory into practice is where we really learn.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. Comparing yourself to the people who stand up the first time, or who make it all the way to the shore without faltering won’t help you ride the wave. You have to learn your own way, make your own mistakes and carve your own line.