While some may disregard the South Wales coastline as a great place to surf, from Cardiff through to Pembrokeshire, there are a number of fantastic beaches, coves and inlets where the surf is plentiful for both beginner and intermediate surfers.
Within just a short drive from Cardiff, you’ll find yourself at the beautiful Southerndown Beach just outside Bridgend. With access to clifftop walks and great views out to sea, the beach is an incredibly popular spot during the summer, and when the wind is up and the surf is breaking, Southerndown is also very popular with surfers. As the home of Southerndown Surf School, the beach is a great place to learn, and with little experience of either wetsuits or surfing, I was aware that I’d need some fairly robust tuition if I was going to find myself cruising the surf within the two-hour lesson.
For Daryl Davies, the owner of Southerdown Surf School, the appeal of a dip in the brisk Bristol Channel remains as fervent as when he first picked up a board and learnt to surf as a child…
Despite having experienced sun and surf around the world, Southerndown still holds its charm, and since setting up his business upon the numerous requests received for surfing lessons, Southerndown Surf School has grown from strength to strength as more and more people have found pleasure and exercise in surfing.
Kitted out with all the required wetsuits and boards, my very first surf lesson began with the rudiments of surfing. Daryl ran us through the parts of the board we needed to be aware of, as well as all the relevant safety instructions and surfing etiquette. With knowledge of the board, the necessary body position to start gliding with the waves, and a think winter wetsuit behind us, getting out into the water was an enlivening prospect.
The first few waves of the lesson consisted of attempts at mounting the board and riding with the waves into the shore; pressing on either edge to steer and control the board as we went. Reminiscent of body boarding on the beach as a child, the first step felt comfortable enough, although a little more grown up with plentiful waves thrusting us at speed toward the shoreline. After several waves and plenty of time underwater, I felt comfortable catching the waves, digging in the arms and paddling furiously to get in the right position.
As one of two beginners in the group it wasn’t long before I was put to shame by the younger members of the group, who were already jumping and attempting to stand on their boards. They then continued to put us to shame as we returned to the beach for the next step of our tuition. Daryl and his young tutees made progressing from a lying down to a standing position look easy enough, and with a bit of body strength and a modicum of balance, jumping up into position seemed simple while safely on the beach without the unpredictability of the sea. Of course, as we returned to the waves, my lack of balance was soon highlighted with several attempts at standing on the board met with the cold wash of the sea.
The challenge of making it to our feet and staying there was an addictive challenge, and although not easy, once up the feeling was great. The lesson flew by from here and the cold sea was barely felt through the wetsuit.
Offering plenty in the way of expert tuition, friendly advice and all the necessary gear, surfing in Southerndown is the perfect activity for thrill seekers, hen parties, stag dos, or simply those looking to take on a new challenge. Lessons are relatively inexpensive at £25 for two and a half hours, and with a bit of willing enthusiasm, you could easily find yourself up and riding on a board within one or two lessons. The appealing setting of Southerndown’s beach makes the experience all the more enjoyable, and with the opportunity to surf next door in Porthcawl, Ogmore and beyond, there are more than enough opportunities to hone your skills and take the sport further.
Having never tried surfing before, I was pleasantly surprised by the immediate satisfaction and thrill provided by catching a wave and the inevitable wipeouts into the chilly sea. Once in, the sea is far warmer than you would imagine, and paddling back out for another wave soon becomes addictive. Although I made several fumbling attempts at standing up, with two seconds probably remaining the record length of time I was able to balance, the enjoyment factor of riding the waves left me with a refreshed smile on my face.
Southerndown Surf School. Info: 07964 985404 / www.southerndownsurfschool.co.uk
pics: EMINENT PHOTOGRAPHY