Learning to surf: it’s practically a right of passage when travelling in Australia.
After all, who doesn’t dream of riding crystal clear blue waves before drying off on the beach with a beer and spying on the hottie surf instructors?
However, as you’ve probably guessed, surfing isn’t as easy as it looks. In fact, it’s really, really hard. Particularly when – as a Brit – you haven’t been brought up riding waves since you were a toddler.
Here are some of the pitfalls every British traveller comes across when learning to surf abroad…
1. “You mean you don’t have to wear a wetsuit?!”
Yes, we’re from the cold windy British isles where you’re more likely to wear head-to-toe in neoprene for three quarters of the year than be caught dipping a toe in the sea without a wetsuit.
So, you can imagine our reaction when faced with the words: No. Wetsuit. Required.
It’s enough to send any British surfer into a state of pure, unadulterated ecstasy, an awkward sight for any local well-accustomed to surfing in boardies.
2. Living up to our reputation as pasty Brits
Let’s be honest, human beings look way hotter tanned. Which puts us Brits in the awkward milk bottle white dweeb category when it comes to surfing abroad.
While the bronzed Aussies are lathering up their ripped abs with Hawaiian Tropics oil, we’re usually found cowering under a palm tree applying SPF factor 50 like there’s a world shortage.
Out in the line up, you’ll look more like Mr Bean than Kelly Slater.
3. One word: Sunburn
This brings us neatly on to the dreaded sunburn.
Remember that rumour that the whole of Australia was frying to a crisp because the ozone layer between us and the sun was errr… super thin? Well, it’s basically true.
The Aussies are used to it. Well, kind of. We however are not genetically built to deal with blazing temperatures. The real sign of being a Brit surfer is rocking the lobster red look on day two. Not cool.
4. You might be able to surf, but don’t try impressing anybody
When you’re abroad, obviously you’re going to want to impress someone with your surf skills, be it the opposite sex or just some douchebag that thinks he’s better than you.
How many times have you had to deal with confused looks when you say you’re a surfer from the UK? “You guys have surf over there?” they say smugly.
Although we have to admit, when it comes to skills most Aussie surfers will trump a Brit for surf ability any day. They’ve been surfing Bells Beach since they were five for pete’s sake!
So, there’s no point in getting into a ‘my cutback is better than yours’ comp when you’re not on home turf.
5. The fear of sharks
Remember that shiver that runs down your spine when a shadow passes through the water below you?
Even if it was just a rock or a piece of seaweed, you will constantly be reminded that Australia is home to the deadliest creatures on the planet. Including a hefty proportion of the world’s shark population.
So, when you run from the water screaming, only to find the shadow you thought was a shark was in fact a floating plastic bag, you have no one to blame but yourself.
6. Borrowing a board and being totally unable surf it
Surfboards are expensive to travel with. Like really expensive, particularly if you’re crossing continents. Sometimes there’s the temptation to save on dosh and borrow the board your mate says is “a totally sweet 6’3″”.
It’ll turn out to be a total wreck of a board from the 1970s that sinks every time you sit on it. Perfect waves will be rolling through and you won’t be able to catch a single one. Then you’ll be kicking yourself.
7. Just because you’re in Australia, doesn’t mean your GoPro footage will be any better
I know what you’re thinking. Blue skies, warm water, surfing in boardies. My GoPro footage is going to be immeasurably better than it is at home?
Oh. Hell. No. Your filming skills will be equally as shit…. because going abroad doesn’t naturally increase your filming ability, you muppet.
You’ll end up capturing far more of your feet than you intended, miss about 30 waves – and then you’ll check the footage on the computer… and it’ll be totally steamed up. Give yourself a pat on the back.