I think it’s fair to say that I have reached my comfort zone when it comes to surfing. I can catch waves, get to my feet (although not by the correct method) and ride the white water til the cows come home. I have fun, which is what it’s all about but I want to take my surfing to the next level and to do that I need some help.
I also want a different perspective. I think it’s great to mix things up a bit and you can learn so much from different people. I was keen to get the input from a female surfer who understands the issues that women surfers have especially with confidence.
For me there was no better person to do this than British pro surfer Corinne Evans.
Since meeting and interviewing Corinne earlier this year, I was drawn to her friendly, enthusiastic and down to earth approach. I also felt a common connection – not only do we both love surfing but we are both from the same landlocked city. Luckily Corinne’s family moved when she was younger and she hasn’t looked back since.
Hatching a plan
During several e-mail exchanges, we planned two sessions – one to focus on my pop-up and hopefully get me out of the habit of going to my knees which I have slipped back into. Surf coaches all seem to have different methods of teaching the pop up so I was keen to find one that works for me.
The aim of the second session was to work on my confidence and get me out back and onto some green waves. I avoid going out back like the plague. It’s my scary place and no matter how many times I have been reassured that I won’t drown or drift out to sea, I still get freaked out especially when I see a wave looming up which to me looks the size of a Mavericks monster (even though its probably only 1-2ft).
Day one – the pop-up
I met Corinne at South Fistral early in the morning. It was a beautiful sunny day and the beach was empty. The waves were relatively clean and about 2ft on a dropping tide. I’m a bit nervous as I don’t want to look like a total kook in front of this amazing surfer but Corinne quickly puts me at ease.
After a beach warm up, Corinne suggests a ‘froth session’ – 15 minutes of catching as many waves as I can and I’m surprised at the results. Usually I hesitate and let a lot of chances pass me by but the incentive of doing this against the clock and for someone else makes a big difference!
The froth session is a useful marker for Corinne to see exactly where I’m at with my surfing. She gives me some really useful pointers on my stance – my arm and foot position, dropping my back knee down and how I need to be more upright, all of which will help me to manoeuvre the board more easily. Looking back at the photos from the session, and comparing footage of the previous surfs during the holiday I can totally see how this impacts on my surfing. Simple things that I would never have picked up on myself.
I then practise some pop-ups on the beach using a new method that Corinne shows me which I have never tried before. It involves a slight roll onto my one hip before pushing off the ground and bringing my legs through. I’m surprised at how effective it is as immediately, that back knee drops into place. It really seems to work for me. Time to put it into practise in the sea!
Trying to do it in white water on a moving object is a different kettle of fish, but as I keep trying to get up without going to my knees, I get quicker and quicker until eventually I do it! I get a hug from Corinne and she tells me she is proud of me – I’m stoked! We then work on angled take-offs and I successfully demonstrate my backhand which I usually struggle with on what Corinne deems my best wave of the day. We end on a high note with lots to work on for the next day. I’m buzzing and can’t wait!
Day two – confidence building
Gloomy skies and choppy waves greet us on the second day. It seems apt that the conditions are a bit more challenging for what will be a more difficult session when it comes to conquering my fears of heading out back. I’m nervous and look tense which Corinne picks up on straight away. She reminds me to have fun and enjoy it and we begin by catching some white water waves to ease away the nerves.
As we head out back, we chat about why I’m so wary – that feeling of not being able to touch the bottom, not being an overly strong swimmer, lack of confidence in my ability to get me out of difficulty if needed and wearing sets on my head. She reassures me that I won’t drift out to sea, that my paddling technique is strong and that my arms won’t fail me if I need to get out of trouble. From out of nowhere a wave knocks me off my board and it unsettles me so we head back to the beach to regroup.
I catch a few white water waves to resettle but white water waves are not what this session is about. I don’t want to be defeated so we head out back. I feel stronger this time and more confident as Corinne and I paddle together to get into position. I love the feeling of paddling up and over the waves and it reminds me of how beautiful and serene it can be to just sit out back scanning the horizon waiting for a wave.
A set approaches and Corinne tells me to start paddling. I go like the clappers and at the last minute, I don’t trust myself to pop-up quickly enough not to wipe out so I pull back. I watch the wave pass underneath me and kick myself that I hesitated. I get back into position and the same thing happens again, I hold back and curse myself for being a wuss. The third time it happens I go all out and paddle like crazy – I really want this wave! I feel the board fall away from me as I fly down the face. I don’t get to my feet until the wave has broken but I’m up and riding. I may not have managed the perfect pop-up but as Corinne reminds me when I we get back to the beach, I have paddled out back and conquered my fears and that is truly awesome!
Corinne gave me huge amounts to work with and I learned more from her in two sessions than all of my previous surf lessons put together. She is patient, encouraging and gave me lots of positive feedback about my surfing making me realise that I don’t give myself enough credit for what I can do. She told me that my paddling is stronger than I think, I get a lot of momentum, my wave selection is good and I can angle my take-offs and turn.
We talked a lot about the balance between pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and being comfortable. Corinne’s approach is that it’s a balance and I totally agree with her. I have had male instructors push me out back when I wasn’t ready and it led to a panic attack that could have put me off surfing for life. It’s about being comfortable and advancing yourself at a gradual pace when you are ready.
I can’t wait for my next surf to put everything I learned into practice. Thank you Corinne! You have given me the confidence and encouragement that I really needed.
Thanks also to the amazing Sarah Clarke at Checkered Photography for these amazing pictures!