Ever since I moved to Cornwall, I’ve wanted to join a weekly surf club. Primarily to progress my surfing, but also to meet some more likeminded ladies. I hadn’t found anything suitable and I’d pretty much given up on the idea…
Thankfully, Polzeath Ladies Surf Club came along at just the right time.
I’d lost a lot of love for surfing. And I mean a lot. I’d taken it all way too seriously, lost my tolerance for Winter surfing and just really wasn’t feeling it. I’d been given advice on how to get my stoke back and although I felt some stirrings, it wasn’t enough to really hook my attention.
Friends tried to entice me into the water and although I went along and feigned enthusiasm, it was all a front. I needed a new perspective and I needed it fast.
I’d been added to the Polzeath Ladies Surf Club Facebook group last year after having a session with George’s Surf School. So when George announced he was starting the surf club, I signed up straight away and booked a 5-week block.
I love Polzeath. It’s my favourite place to surf in the whole of Cornwall because the waves are so mellow. It’s also got this really lovely, welcoming community vibe. So for me, although I live 5 minutes from my nearest surfable beach, it’s so worth the 35 minute drive up the coast.
I was nervous but knew I was in good hands with George. I liked his holistic approach when we met last year – his attention to detail, focus on technique, friendly, encouraging and relaxed vibe. Coupled with his passion for surfing, it was exactly what I needed.
I had an inkling what we’d be working on in week 1, and it was something that I’d firmly pushed to the back of my mind…
You see, I’ve gone via my knees since the word go (about 4 years). Although I’ve had people show me how to pop-up correctly, I’ve never practised consistently enough to nail it. I’ve also had some conflicting advice – some people saying it doesn’t matter if you go to your knees, as long as you get up.
I know I can do it because I’ve done it in the past. I just didn’t want to commit to weeks or months of whitewater to get it right. I’d also told myself that I couldn’t do it, and didn’t care that I couldn’t do it. But deep down I really did. I knew it was hindering me. I want to drop in on unbroken waves and ride the open face, not fumble to my knees and ride the leftover whitewash.
Surf club to me represented a new start. A do-over for my surfing. A more balanced approach. No more beating myself up for not getting in when the waves are good, forcing myself to go in x times a week, and absolutely no more putting pressure on myself. I wanted to do it right this time. Get out of bad habits, find balance and stop comparing myself to what everyone else is doing in the water.
Getting back on a huge foamie in waist high water was a very humbling but necessary experience. And you know what? I massively enjoyed it! I started to relax and I became so focussed on what I was doing and trying to sort my pop-up out that I didn’t look at what everyone else was doing.
We all had such an incredible time and what a lovely, friendly and encouraging group of ladies! We learnt so much in that first session – stance, pop-up and the essential elements of good surfing. It’s a bit like a fire triangle, but with ‘fitness’, ‘technique’ and ‘correct equipment’ as the ingredients.
And, we have it on good authority that Kelly Slater still has coaching on his pop-up which proves that no-one is ‘too good’ for a back to basics approach.
So, did I pop-up without my knees in the sea? Well, not during week 1. But as George said, it takes 100 times to make a habit, 1,000 times to break one. I may not have seen any improvement myself after week 1, but as soon as I got home and started doing my homework of 12 pop-ups every single day, I quickly noticed a difference.
In the past, even on the floor at home, my pop-up felt like a sack of spuds – laboured, hard going and feet in the wrong place. But after just a day, my feet were landing in the right spot. It felt quicker, more effortless, and more fluid. I also started doing lots of hip openers and stretches and I swear that’s helped a lot!
My homework obviously paid off because George noticed a big difference during week 2 on the beach. His theory goes if I can do it on the beach, I can do it in the surf. Fired up and full of stoke, even on a very grey, rainy day when the waves looked less than enticing, I was all set to go.
I tried again, and again, and again but that back knee kept getting in the way. I was getting pretty frustrated and had to give myself a talking to. Until, right at the end of the session, I turned and went for a wave. I still don’t know how I did it but I popped straight up, without going to my knee. The whole beach must have heard me yell, ‘Oh my god I did it!!!!!!!’ Finally – the breakthrough I’d been waiting for!
So I went out in between weeks 2 and 3 and had a go on my 9ft longboard and Ste’s 7’ 10. I got on better with the longboard so I’ll be sticking with that for the time being.
As for week 3, I was a lot more consistent. George noticed that I have a tendency to look a bit rigid. That’s when I start overthinking things. So we talked about relaxing and it made a big difference! It feels like less of an effort and George commented that when I do relax my pop up is very natural! I was pretty blown away by a comment like that and I was buzzing for the rest of the day.
Restoring my stoke
Next week is half term so there’s no surf club. I’m going to really miss it but the great thing is having such a lovely group of ladies who all want to get in anyway. So we’ve arranged a little surf meet!
I can’t thank George enough for setting up Polzeath Ladies Surf Club. For creating a fun and encouraging yet educational surf environment, regular cost effective coaching and a platform for meeting female surfers in the local area. But above all, for restoring faith in my own ability and especially my surf stoke.
I’m happy to say, it’s back with a vengeance!
Picture credit: With kind permission from George Stoy