Boys boys boys. They’re everywhere. At work, on the tube, even at home taking up the sofa. And they can often be found crowding the surf spots of Britain and bragging about the size of their boards. For us girls it can be daunting to join the line up with a bunch of guys, especially when you’re a beginner and liable to fall flat on your face.
Which is why, when I came across the Oakley Girls Surf Weekends, I signed up straight away. Organised by Big Friday, London’s surf break specialists, they provide the opportunity for city girls to head down to the coast and hit the waves, with some yoga, pampering and the odd cocktail thrown in for good measure.
Having zoomed down from Hammersmith to Newquay the previous evening in the Big Friday ‘surf bus’, we woke on Saturday morning in our spa hotel to stunning views of Fistral Beach and some decidedly British summer weather. Undeterred, we limbered up with a morning yoga session to get us in the right frame of mind. Our instructor, Mara has been surfing for years and explained to me why the two disciplines compliment each other so well. “In surfing you need balance, flexibility and co-ordination, everything that yoga can teach you," she says. “It also helps you stay calm, and I find that the more relaxed you are when you enter the water, the more waves you catch."
I was going to need all the help I could get on that score, and the session definitely loosened up my stiff, desk bound muscles. Our next stop was the Quicksilver and Roxy Surf School to get kitted out. Mark Farrell who runs the school, has noticed a sharp rise in the number of women taking up surfing in the past few years. Nearly 70% of his lesson bookings in the last month were made by women, which Mark puts down to the sport’s increasing accessibility: “Surfing is a lot easier to do these days, we’re right on the beach and have got all the facilities here. Gone are the days when you had to trek for miles to find the best beaches."
He certainly had a point, as a mere five minutes later we down on the beach practising that elusive surf move, the perfect pop up. Our instructor Nat had a girl-friendly technique which doesn’t rely so much on upper body strength, and it made all the difference. Soon we were wobbling to our feet out in the white water, and after several spectacular falls, I even managed to stand up and put in a turn. My fellow surfettes cheered me on and despite the rain, we were all absolutely loving it.
After all that effort, it was time to pop back to the hotel for a jacuzzi and sauna to ease our aching muscles. That evening conversation flowed easily over cocktails as we recounted our afternoon’s triumphs and disasters. Despite our group being mostly strangers, there was a great sense of camaraderie which seems to be main reason why girls only surf breaks are becoming so popular. “I think girls are a lot more supportive of each other when they’re surfing" says Kate Czuzman, co-founder of Big Friday. “When they’re in the water there seems to be a lot more interaction, whooping and helping each other along, so I think this a good environment for girls to help them feel less intimidated."
The view from my window the next morning showed clearer skies and a 2ft clean swell, perfect for learners. At least 20 decent surfers, mostly blokes, were in the water by the time we got down to the beach but I didn’t feel daunted. We were all in this together, and I was able to admire the local talent (for their surfing skills obviously) rather than feel intimidated by them. Afterwards there was just time for a slap up lunch overlooking the beach, before we all bundled onto the bus and headed back up to London in time for last trains and buses.
I’ve always felt that having a good mix of guys and girls in a group brings out the best in everyone. Yet the great thing about just being with the girls, means that you don’t have to worry about competing or comparing yourself with guys who’ve been doing it since they were knee high. So if you’re wanting to get away from all that noise and smell (the city obviously, not the blokes) and just have a blast, then a girls surf weekend could be just the ticket.
Big Friday provide great surf weekends for anyone who wants to wave goodbye to the city and make the most of their time off. Their popular Girls Surf Weekends with Oakley are held in Cornwall and Northern Spain and run all summer until November. For more information go to www.bigfriday.com
Words, images and footage by: Juliette Dyke