I spent this past weekend up at Crescent Head, located on the coast about six hours north of Sydney. Surfing is really popular in Australia, so I definitely wanted to give it a try. You can take lessons at some of the beaches in Sydney, but this was a much more relaxed introduction to the sport. We were with a company called Mojosurf, and their camp was located right next to a gorgeous mile-long stretch of beach which was virtually deserted - no locals or tourists. It was the perfect environment to learn how to surf, where you had a lot of space to spread out in and you didn't feel like you were making a fool out of yourself in front of the experienced surfers that frequent a place like Bondi Beach.
After arriving at the camp at 12:30 on Friday night, we were awoken at 7am the next morning for our first surf lesson. After going over the basics of the waves and ocean safety, we grabbed wetsuits and trudged down to the (relatively calm) part of the beach we would be surfing at. We spent about 10 minutes on the beach practicing the motion of getting up on the board once we had caught a wave, and then we were unleashed into the water.
Luckily, our lesson didn't end at that point. We were all loosely paired with instructors to give us a push as a wave was coming and critique us as we tried, and inevitably failed, to catch our first waves. I was paired with Benny, a 15 year old kid who lived in the area. After talking to him, I learned that he had been surfing since he was four, and after seeing him on the board, I didn't doubt it. You could tell that he felt really comfortable out there, riding straight into the waves as they came at him. He was also a really good teacher, giving me helpful tips that made standing up much easier. As you can see in the picture above, he loved to catch rides on our boards as well.
Our first surfing period lasted somewhere between 2 and 3 hours, and then it was back to camp for lunch and an afternoon siesta while the sun was high in the sky. Feeling refreshed, we headed back to the ocean to do it all over again. This time we surfed on a different part of the beach, where the waves were higher and came at you faster. There was also a nice rip current on the side that would pull you out to sea so that you didn't have to struggle against the waves to get out past the breaking point. The bigger waves were definitely more difficult; I nosedived much more often, and the people that had taken smaller boards because they were confident after the morning session found themselves frustrated.
Our last session was on Sunday morning, and most people didn't last the whole time. It was nice when they got out to sunbathe, because then there was more room for me to catch waves. I spent every minute possible in the ocean, willing myself to keep on trucking no matter how many waves knocked me off my feet - after all, I didn't pay to sit on the beach. Each time I stood up and rode a wave, it was worth the hours of falling down, getting submerged and tossed around by oncoming waves, and getting hit on all parts of my body by the surfboard. Skimming along the top of the ocean on a surfboard was one of the coolest, most gratifying feelings I've ever experienced.
Everyone slept on the ride home - we were all exhausted. Fighting waves for 7 or 8 hours over two days really does a job on your body. Surfing is definitely a workout. I was so sore on Monday that I could barely put on a backpack, and I had chafed on my hands and chin from the rough surface of the surfboard. It felt good though, as it was a reminder of all that I had accomplished this weekend.