Faking It As A Surfer
It wasn’t until a few years on from my first time in the surf that I got up close and personal with a surfboard.
The final week of every year at my secondary school was called activities week. The school would pin up a selection of activities, from geography treks half way across Europe to Warhammer clubs in the dusty maths rooms. You had three choices and it was dog eat dog. Hundreds of kids scrambled for their favourite options, weighing off cool factor against the likelihood of their parents signing off. It was a sort of divide and conquer to see the last week out.
“Abseiling, kayaking, coasteering, surfing” were the four words I had the time to read before legging it home to my parents.
I’d spent years of my youth since bodyboarding as a kid “acting the surfer” in the various provincial landlocked towns we lived in. I sported Hawaiian shirts and a snazzy metal surfboard on a cord around my neck and covered my walls in posters of Bobby Martinez. For someone who loved the idea of surfing, but never actually did it, this was a chance to be who I dreamt of being, who I’d pretended to be every day.
After my place was confirmed the feverish excitement lasted for weeks, peaking the day we finally arrived at TYF adventure camp, Pembrokeshire. The bus pulled in to a grass clearing after hours of driving and we met a small bunch of young adults beyond cool (to my 11 year old eyes). Dreadlocks and ripped jeans, board-shorts and flip flops even in the most bitter evenings; I was in awe and I hung on every word.
They sat us down on the beach, drew a few surfboard diagrams in the sand and explained the technique for a “pop”. Being so small they told us to hop to our knee first so that we could get up easier. Loaded up with our big old fun boards we made our way out into the water, me wearing my favourite board shorts on the outside of my wetsuit. After half a dozen attempts I was on my feet, balancing awkwardly, but standing. Surfing!
Over the next few weeks my wardrobe filled up with even more Hawaiian shirts and I completely covered my bedroom wall with pro’s hucking massive airs.
And there I was. Over 100 miles from any beach, with no equipment, and as much social pressure as any school-kid is used too. Over time the dream slipped away. Surfing took a back seat for football, computer games, and skating.
At the back of my mind there was something missing, and the smell of Neoprene still made me double-take. One day there would be a chance.