The Extreme Academy surf school at the stunning Watergate Bay in Cornwall, England taught me two things. Firstly that surfing is awesome. And secondly that I have no balance.
My Wii Fit had previously warned me of this, saying I lacked ‘core strength’ – like a rotten apple. I didn’t care but now I do. Because surfing is the best adrenaline rush ever. And balance is pretty much essential; the sea wobbles.
Becoming a surfer isn’t easy though. First challenge, getting into a wet-suit. Not a task for the uncoordinated. And not flattering if you’ve had too much of the local delicacy, Cornish clotted cream. Better to struggle with it in the warm changing rooms at Extreme Academy rather than out in the car park, which is how some surf schools do it.
After a quick safety briefing, it was down to the beach to learn the basics and do some quick warm-up exercises on the sand before heading into the water. First we learnt to body-board. This means you get used to doing the relatively easy bit, catching a wave while lying down on your board, before you have to learn how to stand up.
Even body-boarding had me grinning wildly. But the next stage was harder. To stand up you need to catch your wave then do a kind of push-up and leap in one, ending up in a Zorro-style heroic pose.
It’s lucky that falling off is half the fun. I didn’t really master it but that didn’t matter. All my fellow beginners were having so much fun that the instructors almost had to drag us out of the sea when we went over our two-hour session.
If you want to stay at Watergate Bay, a spectacular golden-sandy beach overlooked by dramatic rugged cliffs, try the Waves Apartments. Booked through www.beachretreats.co.uk, it’s all set up for surfers.
Outside each front door is a little key safe so you can lock up and not worry about losing your keys in the sand. Inside we had a big bathroom and bedroom, a kitchen with a cooker, microwave, fridge, dishwasher and iron and a TV and DVD player in the lounge, with a little selection of films to choose from.
If you don’t want to self-cater, the Beach Hut offers great Cornish fish, seafood and other delicacies and is good for a main meal, snack or coffee break. Alternatively, if you book far enough in advance, you can get a table at celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver’s Cornish 15 restaurant (www.fifteencornwall.co.uk), which is just above the Beach Hut.
Although you can fly into Newquay Airport, a car is pretty much essential for any visit to Cornwall. We used www.essentialtravel.co.uk for car hire which gives you maximum flexibility with pick-up depots and can help you save cash too. Each of the Waves apartments comes with its own parking space.
And for more information on Watergate Bay, including the Extreme Academy, The Beach Hut and the Watergate Hotel (for a luxurious stay) visit www.watergatebay.co.uk.