Like most Irish people who have seen the surfing classes on beaches, I always meant to give it a go but never got around to it. Well I finally DID get around to taking a class recently with Kingdom Waves, and my only regret is that I didn’t try it earlier! Find out about my first surfing experience below:
Peter (that’s me) Catches A Wave
The surf class took place on a dull morning in late September, the rain was on and off all day, and I’ll admit to wondering if I was in the whole of my health to be even contemplating getting into the water on a day like this. Tom Leen (owner of Kingdom Waves) welcomed us all (it was a group class) and kitted us out with wetsuits.
What It’s Like To Wear A Wetsuit
This was my first time to wear a wetsuit, and for anyone who doesn’t know, the zip goes to the back (I was putting mine on the wrong way around, oops!). You’ll also need to have swimming trunks/swim suit to wear under the wetsuit.
Well the wet suit was just that – wet. Not sopping wet, just kinda’ damp but not cold. Tom said they were as dry are they were ever likely to be. Once on, I started to feel much warmer, things were looking up for avoiding Hyperthermia. Once zipped up and suited, you’ll probably feel a little odd. If you can imagine what a rubber band feels like you’re probably getting the idea. The other instructor called Aidan (A.K.A. Smurf) gave us all a Kingdom Wave t-shirt to wear over the suit for identification, as there were other people surfing and it’s hard to tell one surfer from the next without the shirts.
Surf Class Begins
We were invited to grab some boards and instructed in how to properly carry them. Then we did some gentle warm ups. Our group was mixed in age, from early twenties to mid fifties, and everyone was able for the warm ups. After that we gathered round Tom and Smurf and they guided us through the basics, things like:
- pushing the board through the surf
- how to correctly mount the board with the correct placement of our feet
- how to paddle
- how to push our bodies up while still lying on the board so we can surf a wave
- how to slow or stop the board should we need to avoid a collision with a person.
It wasn’t long before we were in the water trying to catch our first waves. There was a great sense of fun from the group, with people laughing and chatting, all of whom had never surfed before. Tom had already established that a couple of people in the group could not swim, and we were all instructed to only go waist deep in the water. I suspect the non-swimmers were being kept under close surveillance, but doubt they needed it. I spotted one of the non-swimmers zipping though the waves lying on her board. I could hear whoops and roaring laughter as she sped toward the beach.
Seconds later I was sharing the same experience as I caught my first wave and felt a rush of joy as the sea carried me to shallow water. I wasn’t the only one smiling from ear to ear, the entire surf class were laughing and joking, all heading back out to the waves. Tom and Smurf gave further instruction in the water, and with every attempt at a wave we each improved our skills. After about half an hour, Tom decided were were ready for our next on-shore lesson, this time we would learn how to stand up on the surfboard.
We all gathered round the instructors again as they explained the principles of standing up on the surfboards. They then went back out into the water and showed us how they did it. Back on the beach, we practised going form a lying position to a standing position on the board for a few minutes. We were all eager to get back into the waves to give it a go.
Standing Up On A Moving Surfboard
I’ll be honest, standing upright and balancing on a surfboard that’s being propelled by a wave is not easy to do, so expect to take many dips before you come close to getting it right. I made many failed attempts before I actually managed to get to my feet for a fleeting second before tumbling in the waves. However brief that glorious moment was, it was enough to give me a massive thrill and sense of achievement. Others around me were doing the same and obviously enjoying the buzz. More attempts led to more success, and one second standing on the surfboard became two…it pretty much stayed at two seconds, but I was having increasing success managing to stand on the board so that was great.
To be honest I did not want to get out of the water, and about four of us out of the group lingered on as long as we could with Smurf. As the saying goes, ‘all good things must come to an end’, so we reluctantly headed back to the changing area.
Getting Out Of A Wetsuit
Not as difficult as some make out, just pull the zip handle at the back and peal the suit off. The hardest part is getting your feet out but it’s hardly worth mentioning.
Despite the time of year the water did not feel cold. It was actually around 15 Degrees Celsius. Plus the wetsuit did a great job of keeping me warm, so coldness was never an issue throughout the two hour class. It’s funny that the only time I felt cold was getting changed at the start and when I was dressed again after the class. Luckily I had brought an extra warm top, because it was needed after surfing. A hat or hood would be handy (or heady) too.
Okay, unless you’re used to swimming a lot, you’ll probably feel a little stiff around the shoulders and uppers arms the day after surfing. It’s a good idea to stretch your muscles shortly after surfing to lessen the soreness. Still, ‘no pain, no gain’.
If you’ve been giving it your all on the waves you’ll probably need to eat and drink soon after surfing. I’d have eaten the leg off a donkey if it was put in front of me, but settled for a ham and cheese salad sandwich and a coffee instead.
Overall, my first surf lesson was a great experience, and if Tom and Smurf from www.KingdomWaves.com can take a landlubber like me and turn them into surf god, I’m sure they’ll do the same for you. As one lady in the group correctly stated, ‘surfing is something you can do badly and still enjoy’. Never a truer word said!
A Little About Adventure Water Sports In The Dingle Peninsula
One of the great advantages Ireland has as a tourist destination (as well as living here!) is that it’s surrounded with ocean and has many wonderful sandy beaches. The dingle Peninsula is so popular because we have some of the best blue flag surf beaches in Ireland.
It’s possible for visitors doing a Dingle Peninsula tour to visit many of these blue flag beaches in a single day. Thanks to the stream from the gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic ocean maintains a steady warm temperature throughout the year, making sea water sports and activities something people can enjoy all year round (with the aid of a wetsuit that is!).
Increased availability and affordability of wetsuits and other water sports gear for sale or hire on the peninsula has greatly contributed to the rapid growth in water adventure tourism. For example, to rent a wetsuit and surfboard on Inch beach costs about €10. Ireland and Kerry in particularly has seen a massive growth in surfing and sea kayakking over the past 5 to 6 years. It’s fast becoming THE place to be for surfing in Europe, with surfers coming from as far as Australia to catch a Kerry wave.
Final Word On Kingdom Waves
When it comes to surfing, Tom, Smurf (and I suspect all the instructors of Kingdom Waves) are the real deal. These guys eat, sleep and breathe surfing, and when they’re not delivering excellent lessons to novices like me, they can be spotted around the Dingle Peninsula and Fenit hunting for the perfect wave.
Check them out at there website www.KingdomWaves.com.
P.s. No body used the word ‘Dude’ on the day, though I was sorely tempted to do so.