5 Things I Really Wish People Knew About Surfing
Every year, Women’s Health tasks its staffers with a winter fitness challenge. The task is simple: we set ourselves a goal and give ourselves 12 weeks to achieve it. In my first year, I took up boxing. The next year, it was gymnastics. Last year, I tackled triathlon training. By now, you may be sensing a pattern: I’m pretty out-there. So I was unsurprised when people shook their heads at me announcing that this year, I’d taken up surfing.
Everyone on the team has a kind of fitness personality. There’s Amy, the endurance junkie, Wanita, our callisthenics queen, and Dan, the yogi. I’ve always been a bit left-field with my pick of the workouts. Last year, I did lifeguard training for the summer and became a qualified lifeguard. And while I can understand that being in the water is not everyone’s bag, I wish people would see surfing as something more accessible and doable, because it totally is.
It’s Not Expensive
Caveat: it’s as expensive as you want it to be. When I first took up surfing, I would walk into and book a board and a wetsuit and head into the water to slosh around. It’s relatively cheap: at Surf Emporium in Muizenberg, Cape Town, where I’ve been going for weekly lessons, hiring a board and a wetsuit is R120 for an hour and a half. Since surfing is pretty strenuous, this is more than enough time to really get into it. If you have energy for another hour, that’s only around R30 extra. If you want to buy a board, it’s not ridiculously priced, either. Secondhand boards are all over Gumtree and you can pick one well within your budget.
A Shark Won’t Bite You
The chances are just really slim. First off, there are shark spotters at most beaches, where people look out for sharks that are really far from the shore. If they spot a shark, the alarm goes off (impossible to miss) and everyone hauls ass to the beach. You’re more likely to be in a car accident than to have your leg chomped off by Bruce.
The Water Won’t Swallow You Whole
If you’ve never surfed before and don’t consider yourself a strong swimmer, you should book your first surf trip as a lesson, either with a hot someone you’ve been wanting to hang out with or with an actual instructor. You’ll get tips on how to make it through big waves. Mark Howes, my Surf Emporium instructor, gave me some really great tips on making it through the fiery foamies and into the backline. First off, push yourself up on your board and over waves. If there’s a particularly grisly wave, just grab your board on either side and… roll over. It’s called a tunnel roll and it is magic: the wave washes over your board, which is now lying on top of you, creating a smooth passage so you can keep paddling out.
It’s A Winter Sport
In summer, especially in Cape Town, the wind really picks up, making for wild, chaotic waves. But in winter, it dies down. “There tend to be more consistent ground swells during winter so you get more waves in a day,” says Surf Emporium owner and nine times South African Surfing Champion Roxy Davis. Something similar happens in other parts of the country, like Durban, making for really great waves. Plus, the water really isn’t that cold at all, especially since you’re working so hard to catch waves.
It’s A Really Great Workout
“You can expect to burn an average of 500kJ per 1.5-hour session (the average length of a session),” says Davis. It varies from person to person, but if you’ve got a waterproof tracker, it should be able to tell you how hard you’re working. One way to know for sure? How sore your body is the next day. The next morning, my biceps and triceps are often burning, as well as my core. That’s because most of a session involves paddling through the breaks and into the glassy backline, where you can catch clean waves.