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August, 2013

Shapes of things…

By August 18, 2013 Surf more
For months now, and ever since surfing really took off for me, I have contemplated getting my own board and now, having stood up consistently on a foamie, I reckoned I deserved it.

There are hundreds of surfboards out there to choose from in all shapes and sizes and for a beginner looking to make the progression to a non-foam board, the options can be pretty confusing and from my experience, there is no one-size fits all if you are looking to buy from a surf shop.

Take me for example. I am 5ft 3 inches tall and weigh 8st. I struggle to carry and lug big boards around. I sought advice from a number of shops who all told me different things  – some said to go for the maximum length possible, others advised that I could get away with something shorter so who was I supposed to believe?

Beginners are best to learn on a minimal, which is basically a shorter version of a longboard. Minimals are generally anything in the range of 7ft-8ft and give the stability needed to catch waves more easily. They are also generally quite wide (anything from about 21 inches to about 23) which lends itself to stability, and around 2-3 inches thick.

Over the past few months, I have tried several mini-mal options out, including 7ft 2, 7ft 6 and 7ft 10, and it was the best way I found to get an idea of what felt right in the water. I couldn’t stand up on any of them so maybe it wasn’t an exact science, but I learnt a lot more about boards that way than just talking to people in the shops.

Here’s what I learnt:

  • Shorter on the length meant generally a compromise on the width – this meant the board felt ‘tippy’ and I couldn’t get my balance
  • 7ft 10 felt really stable….but I struggled to carry and manoeuvre it
  • Volume is important but this can be achieved through width and thickness and not necessarily length
  • Less rocker, ie. the amount of curve on the bottom of the board from nose to tail, is best for beginners.  Boards with less rocker keep more surface area on top of the water and allow for more speed when paddling and surfing. Minimals are designed to catch waves with ease and so the low rocker makes them more suitable for catching slow waves as opposed to steep hollow ones.
  •  I wasn’t  going to get exactly what I wanted from buying something off the shelf


A couple of people had suggested getting a custom board. That way, I could get the exact dimensions that I wanted for the types of waves that I would be surfing. With the added bonus of being able to have the exact design that I wanted, it seemed like the all-round best thing to do – a surfboard which was totally unique to me.

A couple of names had been passed onto me, one of which I had an initial chat with the week before our lesson. An ex-champion surfer who, wouldn’t you know it, was only a 15 minute drive from where we were staying in Mawgan Porth. Seemed like the perfect way to conclude our successful surf trip.

So, the day after our lesson, I went to see a man about a surfboard….

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By August 5, 2013 Escape, Surf more
Stoked! Getting ready for our surf lesson with Pete from KingSurf

Stoked! Getting ready for our surf lesson with Pete from KingSurf

I have had in my mind for weeks now what I wanted to write in this blog post and so here it is…in all its glorious Technicolor truth….

I DID IT!!!!!! I stood up….not once, not twice, but about 12 times in total – I wasn’t counting in the end, but my other half was. And to top it all off, I was actually riding waves!!! I even managed to turn a couple of times, although purely accidentally!

Last week, me and the other half headed to Mawgan Porth where my surf journey began 3 years ago. The place where I had my first surfing lesson and now, after hard work and determination at the gym, I was treated to a private couple’s class with Pete the head coach at the brilliant Kingsurf.
Feeling tired after the journey from the Midlands, I summoned strength, determination and a resolve of ‘it didn’t matter if I stood or not’ and headed to the beach. Pete ran through the 3 techniques for standing up (straight pop-up, knees and army crawl) and having being told that going onto my knees didn’t matter, I decided to stick to that method for now.

After the first few attempts of trying to stand too quickly and raising my hands up in the air (instead of staying low and keeping the arms low), Pete pushed me onto a wave, I caught it and slowly but surely, stayed low and rode the wave in for about 20-30 metres. I was totally stoked and felt absolutely exhilarated. I was standing and recapturing that magical feeling that I had 3 years previously!!! I turned back to look at Pete and Ste (still standing) and shrieked with joy waving my arms in the air. I had done it!!

When it happened a second time, I thought, cool – wonder if I can beat my record of 3 times from the previous lesson? Imagine my amazement when it happened 4, 5 times, 6 times 7 times….!!! I started to believe that I could actually become a surfer. I cried with happiness and relief because I had done it.

So, what did I learn from the lesson? An incredible amount and I also realised that a lot of the things that I do when landlocked have made a tremendous difference. Here are my surfing mantras (well, they work for me

  • Make sure you have the leash on the right foot (I had it on the wrong foot – doh!). Why I thought I was a goofy foot I will never know – Im a regular foot (left foot forward on the board) which makes sense as my left leg was always my strongest when I was dancing
  • Stay low and don’t rush to stand up
  •  Once kneeling (if that’s your preferred method), use your fingertips to almost push up (and keep those arms low!!)
  •  Enjoy it!!! Even if you wipeout and swallow a gallon of sea water
  • Be patient and don’t put pressure on yourself to stand up
  • If you are going to surf regularly, get surf fit! I can’t emphasise this enough. The gym has made a huge difference to my stamina and I wasn’t even tired after the 2 hour lesson. 6 months ago, it was a different story
  •  If your balance isn’t great, use a bosu or indo ball, or, go skateboarding!
  • Practise your pop-up on dry land – ok, so this is not technically my mantra, but it has helped my other half loads and he was standing from pop up lots during the lesson. Tip – use a yoga mat and put a piece of masking tape down the centre to mimic the centre line on a surfboard (if you don’t have your own board). It’s something I will be trying once I have built up my upper body strength a bit more
  • Have a surf lesson, especially if, like me, you have been having limited or no success at standing up. The instructors can get you back on the right track and it can give you a massive confidence boost when you stand up! The guys at Kingsurf are amazing and I would recommend them every time!


So, I did it, I stood up. And if you read my blog regularly, you will know that I promised myself the amber nectar if I managed to stand up……my own surfboard!!

Find out more about that in my next blog post J

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