When we were setting out our plans for our #GoProAdventures there was one activity which Boy demanded, begged and pleaded for. Surfing. We tried it in Wales earlier this year, and he was utterly bitten by the surf bug, aching and aching to go and do it again.
Sadly, our #GoProAdventures week coincided with a week totally lacking any kind of swell – standing up on a surf board wouldn’t have been any kind of a challenge, but finding a wave to actually surf was pretty much impossible. I have never seen such a soft, mercury-like flat sea.
But all was not lost – Sorted Surf School are covered for all eventualities, and instead opted to take them out Stand Up Paddle Boarding (or SUP ).
In case you’ve not seen them (I hadn’t), SUPs look like larger, wider, thinner surf boards. You stand on them (obviously), and use the one paddle on alternate sides.
Sorted’s website claims that ‘anyone can learn to SUP‘; I was dubious, but as I had to work from the beach (God Bless Wifi) they weren’t having to get me up on my feet – so I was happy to take them at their word.
Finding the Sorted Surf Shop on Boscombe Beach was simple, once we ignored the satnav and followed a map instead. Note – do NOT listen if your satnav tells you to drive along the sea front from Bournemouth. You can’t. End of.
Once we’d checked in for their lesson, the children were all issued with wetsuits and directed a few feet away to handily placed changing rooms.
The usual wriggling, sniggering, grimacing and groaning ensued as I tried to shoe-horn them into unwilling and impossibly narrow suits. But in fairly short order I had four seals where my children used to be.
Esteban, their instructor for the morning, issued the four with a board each, and helped 7yr old Bear carry her seemingly-impossibly big one down to the beach.
But they didn’t start straight in with a SUP lesson. Oh no.
They left the boards and headed into the sea on foot, where they immediately dunked themselves. Then Esteban headed off up the beach at a run, The Four pounding along behind him. Looping back to the boards, nicely warmed up, they did some yoga stretches as Esteban talked to them about being on the water, how it’s not just about learning to surf with your body, that it is a holistic experience for your mind and soul. You surf with your heart.
I know, it sounds a little ethereal and fey, but I was as transfixed as they were.
Next there was some simple practical instruction on the sand on how to hold and use the paddle – and then they were off.
The three boys headed straight out, but Bear hit the water, paddled frantically… and turned in a neat circle, much to her growling frustration.
Estaban soon caught her up and helped out, though, and she headed out to sea with her brothers.
Although a strong swimmer, 11yr old Jolly is not happy or confident when out of his depth; as they headed further out to sea he apparently lagged behind his brothers. Seeing them moving away from him he had a sudden fit of the panics, and started to find the experience less relaxing and more terrifying as he realised how much of the sea was between him and the safety of the shore.
But Esteban was quickly at his shoulder, calming and encouraging him, steadying his nerves and helping him to catch up so that he was among the little group once again. Bear was obviously not as fast as her bothers were, but a little tactical assistance from Estaban kept her in place and loving every second.
As I sat on the sand (contemplating the effort of getting up and leaving my spot vs. the lure of a fresh coffee from the cafe just behind me) I watched my quartet of adventurers fading into tiny black spots in the distance. I hadn’t really realised they would travel so far, presuming a first lesson would see them pottering about close to the shore. But apparently the conditions were so good, and after Jolly’s initial wobble they were loving it so much that they all just kept on going – right around the end of Boscombe pier, and slowly looping back under the arches to head back in to me an hour later.
I’ll admit they were initially all a little disappointed at the lack of waves which meant they couldn’t surf as they wanted. But SUP turned out to be a great second-best. In fact, they’ve all agreed it wasn’t really ‘second best’ at all, and they would be hard pushed to choose between the two.
As they jumped off their boards and waded the last few feet into shore they all wore the exact same buzzing smile, chattering noisily to each other and to me. They stood proudly, grinning at their own achievement, telling me I really should have gone out with them. Looking at them, basking in their healthy happiness, I couldn’t help but feel that yes, I really should have.
A 2hr basic SUP lesson with Sorted Surf School is £30, and includes all the equipment. If you’re looking for the best experience in Stand Up Paddle (SUP) we think we found it with Sorted Surf & learn. During the lesson you’ll learn to SUP (and yes, they’re right, it’s definitely easier than surfing!) from people who are actively training and competing in stand up paddle and paddle boarding events.
A big thank you to the school in general, and to Esteban in particular. His kindness, patience and sheer infectious enthusiasm gave The Four a morning they properly loved.