Surfing was one of the things we were really excited about doing during our time in Australia. Specifically, surfing in Byron Bay; the chilled out backpacker haven on Australia’s Gold Coast is famed for its sandy beaches and surfer dudes. I have been surfing before on many a trip down to Newquay in Cornwall, so I know HOW to surf (at least I thought I did). That’s not to say I necessarily CAN surf, as I’m sure some of my friends would attest.
We decided that our surfing in Byron Bay would happen via a surf lesson! We were both really excited as surfing is a lot of fun and it would be another of our bucket list items to tick off.
surfing in byron bay?
We arrived early, signed our lives away on the standard waiver and waited for it to begin. We’d had a quick glimpse of the main beach at Byron Bay and were a bit worried at the lack of waves. Sure enough when the instructors arrived, complete with bus and Surfboard filled trailer, they announced that it was too flat. Therefore we would not be surfing in Byron Bay, but we were heading 20 minutes down the coast to Lennox Head instead.
So we jumped on the bus and set off for our surfing adventure. After a couple of stops to pick up other people, including some rowdy children, we arrived in Lennox Head. A quick walk to the beach to check out the conditions before squeezing into the bright blue branded rash vests and our trunks. In pairs we carried the foam surf boards down the beach ready for the lesson to begin.
The lesson began with all of us, about 20 in all, standing in a semi-circle around the main instructor. Like any other athletic sport, stretching beforehand is important. So we did lots of stretching and some yoga-like positions to limber ourselves up. I think I may have come away stiffer than when I started – my downward dog’s not up to much. We split off into three groups: 1. The Kiddiewinkles 2. Those who had done a lesson the previous day and 3. us, the newbies. I kept quiet about my existing surfing prowess (*cough cough*) to make sure C and I stayed together.
So like I said, I’ve been surfing before and thought I knew what I was supposed to be doing. I’d never had a lesson, just picked it up from a friend the first time I went and bingo! Instant surfer dude – well not quite; I could stand up around 50%-60% of the time I caught a wave, but it wasn’t pretty.
The basics to surfing, are as follows:-
- Lie on the board face-down, ensuring that your feet do not hang off the end (see pic)
- Plant your palms down on top the board, either side of your body, exactly half way up the board.
- As you feel the wave take you, complete the four step process:-
- 1 – With your hands and hips still flat on the board, get into a cobra position (yoga terminology sorry! Basically, lift your chest off the floor so you are looking forward, whilst your lower body is still flat on the board).
- 2 – Push yourself into a press up position.
- 3 – Move what will be your back standing foot underneath your body and plant it, facing horizontally.
- 4 – Bring your front forward so it is also facing out horizontal. Ensure it is exactly parallel to your back foot in the centre of the board.
The end standing position should look like the photo above. Your back foot, pointing horizontally, positioned exactly half way down the board. The front foot about a shoulder width apart, also pointing horizontal. Right arm crooked for balance, left arm pointing in the direction you want to go. Think driving a car 1-handed, with the other arm resting on an open window.
The four step process needs to be combined into one smooth movement. Once you’ve got that down then standing up on a wave should be easy and you’ll look like this (I did!):-
The lesson itself was in three parts. First came the theory as above following which we practised getting the four steps into one motion on the beach. The second part involved wading out into the pummelling waves, lying on our board and one at a time being pushed by the instructor as a wave approached. This was putting the theory in to practice. We did this for about half an hour or so. Without meaning to blow my own trumpet, I was rather successful at this. So much so that the instructor asked me to swap boards with someone else who was struggling because “I seemed to have mastered it”. The final part involved picking our own waves to catch and adding getting onto the board and pushing off into the process. With my new board I was slightly less successful, shall we say.
Once the surfing was over it was nearly time to head home. There was just time left to go for a swim in the neighbouring Ainsworth Lake (or Tea Tree lake. as it’s known). This natural fresh water lake is surrounded by tea trees. The tannins from the trees leak into the water, turning it a rather disturbing brown/red colour. However it was a great way to wash all the sand and salt water off and apparently the water is really good for your skin!
We booked the lesson with Soul Surf School and a four hour lesson costs AUD$60 per person. However, this amounts to only about one and a half hours in the water. The rest of the time is taken up with the journey, changing, and theory on the beach. The lesson is open to adults and children alike, but the groups are kept small. (Luckily they separate the little ones). It can also be used as part of a multi-day lesson so you can go from rookie to surfer dude in a few days!
So if you’re planning a trip to Australia and you fancy doing some surfing in Byron Bay, you’re now prepared to wow your instructor. Or if you opt to just grab a board and hit the surf, you can impress the onlookers sat on the beach as you ‘surf dude’ it up and catch those waves!
Have you ever been been surfing? Did you go surfing in Byron Bay? Any tips you think worth sharing for us surfing novices? We’d love to hear about your surfing experiences and if you’ve had lessons – get in touch in the comments below.