This Is Me: Handplane Aficionado Jill Stott

Words by Sofie Jenkinson

I find it hard to remember a single day when I was young where I wasn’t in a swimming pool or in the sea. My family moved to the Middle East when I was six. I swam competitively for my school and I water skied almost every weekend. I loved it!

Landlocked and uninspired. The romance ended though when I returned to the UK in my teens. It stayed this way for a very long time. I moved to Cornwall and was instantly reunited with the water but in a very different way – there were waves!

My story began when I joined my local surf lifesaving club. I met some very cool people and – handplaning, sea swimming, rescue boards and bellyboards came into my life. Handplaning is just so simple. A pair of fins on your feet and a bit of plastic or wood to hold on to and there you are – you are handplaning. Easy! Swim out back, kick onto a wave, arm out in front holding your hand plane (or flip flop – they work too) and off you go.

You can feel the surface of the wave underneath you. It feels fast, it feels great.
Handplaning brings something completely different to the table. It’s not to be compared to the incredible skill and technique of surfing but it opens up the fun of the waves to more and more people.

If you can swim you can handplane. The gutsier you are the bigger the waves you can go after and there is something to be said for the grace and style with which some people plane. And because of handplaning I can say I have been barrelled!
When the surf is way too big, a bellyboard is your best friend. No need to swim out of your depth. Just stand in the white water and launch yourself into a wave – if you can get a wave that is doubling up with another wave then you are in for a proper ride all the way to shore. And that’s the aim of the game. I don’t think I have ever caught a wave on a bellyboard without screaming or laughing. It is pure hilarity!

I’m not a professional. I’m not an expert. I’m not even that skilled, but I love being in the water. It’s hard not to meet good people when you are bobbing up and down in the sea, waiting for waves.

Don’t let the silly things hold you back. For me, there have been times when the thought of getting into my wetsuit has kept me away from the ocean. The winter just gone was very stagnant for me and it wasn’t until late spring that I checked myself and got back into the water.

A year and a half ago I met Sam and Hannah Lamiroy. Their picture of beach life was something I could really relate to and wanted to be a part of. Sam is a professional surfer with an incredible list of surfing achievements against his name. With them, I made some major changes in my life, helping them to set up the Lamiroy Surf Academy. The Academy is something new and different within the world of surf coaching and I am definitely going to keep enjoying the journey that building a great business takes me on.

I read the Dr Seuss book Oh, the Places You’ll Go at least once a year. I remember my dad reading it to me as a little girl. I still have that copy. If you are ever in a pickle or feeling a bit crappy then buy this. The best words of wisdom out there. Ever.

Who knows, I may even have a proper go at this surfing thing everyone raves about. I am definitely starting to get a bit envious of those that can do it and I need a new challenge. 36 is a great age to start and I think I might know an incredible coach that I could ask for some pointers.


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