Could there be a better beach for the first surf of your life than Woolacombe? I don’t think so.
Why it’s on my list
The fact that I’ve lived in North Devon for pretty much all of my life and never tried surfing has surprised some local people I know (and still like, even if “you’re crazy” frequently accompanies that statement). I can see their point; when you’re a short drive away from world-class beaches such as Woolacombe, Croyde and Saunton, what reason could you have not to?
Lately I’ve improved my fitness and grown more confident with swimming, so there were no reasons left for me. I decided now was the time to see what’s so special about surfing in North Devon.
Location: Barton Road, Woolacombe
Age range: 8 and above
Price: 1 Session – £30, 2 Sessions (Full Day) – £58
To book: call 01271 871533 to book
We had great surf on the day that we had our lessons. The waves were evenly spaced out and a good height, which meant they were great for getting some good speed and distance, and it was easy to get your board turned around and yourself into position in plenty of time.
The two guys who tutored us at Woolacombe Surf Centre were brilliant. Mick and Rich were both really positive about our progress and gave plenty of tips throughout the day that gradually helped us improve our technique. They both had their own teaching styles, so it was good that we had different tutors throughout the one day and could get some real variety. Gary also offered us some tasty Cadbury’s Rich Tea biscuits, nice!
They also made a real effort to get some good photos of the day on a GoPro, and these get uploaded to Facebook pretty quickly. Nice added touch that means you can focus on getting in some good surf and leave the moment-capturing to them.
The tutoring was excellent, and so was the beach. We had a cloudy morning followed by a sunny afternoon and it was so beautiful and relaxing, and yet it was still a fairly busy day. Woolacombe beach is one of those great places where it can be absolutely packed and yet you can still feel peaceful and like everything is right with the world.
So overall, an amazing day. Great surf in a great place, and we met some really great people too.
I booked a full day (2x 2-hour sessions) of surf lessons for my husband and I. Woolacombe was my beach of choice because a) it is my husband’s favourite beach and the lessons were a surprise birthday present for him, and b) it is also my favourite beach in North Devon. Facilities are great, surf is pretty good for beginners, and the surroundings are nothing short of beautiful.
During the first session Mick taught us the basics: safety briefing, how to catch a wave, how to stand up, and how to keep going once you’ve stood up. Pretty soon we were in the water- they don’t hang about! The first few attempts were pretty poor, as was to be expected, but we both learned quickly and had managed to stand up and make it to the shore at least once before lunch.
After an hour or so for lunch, during which a seagull stole my sandwich (watch out for them, they’re vicious), we were back at it again with Rich. He made sure we had lots of time in the water and plenty of attempts at standing up and surfing to the shore. By the end of the second session we were both exhausted, but we had managed to catch a wave and make it to shore a few times each. Whilst I was still employing the technique of ‘the board goes where it goes’ at this point, my husband got to the stage where he was thinking about direction.
The feeling of standing-up mastery is amazing. Once you have managed to stand up, feel sure of yourself in your balancing and travel metres to the shore and not fall in, the feeling is simply amazing. As a beginner, an absolute achievement to be proud of. Proud to say I achieved this a few times!
Not the best
We passed up the opportunity to put some sun cream on before going back into the sea in the afternoon. Once we’d got home from the day and had a shower, our faces and hands were bright red from sunburn. It took two days for the redness in my face to die down!
Because the saltwater reflects the sunlight onto your hands and face, the effects of the sun are amplified. A lot of your body is covered by the wetsuit, so it’s only these exposed bits of skin that feel the full force of the sun. Not taking up that offer of sun cream was a big mistake. Despite all the other learning we did, the lesson of the day was to wear sun cream.
When you’re ready to pop up, focus your eyes on something in the distance. It will really help you find your centre and keep your balance. This was the best tip passed on to us by Rich, and one that resulted in me getting all the way to the shore for the first time!