A BEGINNER SURF CAMP EXPERIENCE IN ERICEIRA
Maybe you are as unaware as I was that Portugal is one of the surfing capitals of the world. Who knew?! Earlier this year I partnered with Topdeck Travel, and they very kindly (and possibly ambitiously) sent me to Ericeira on a Surfari to learn from surfing "elites" and catch some of the best waves on this Earth along the Portuguese coast. On my Topdeck Surfari I even stayed in one of the top surf camps in the world: La Point, Ericeira, and apprently it's also great for a beginner like myself. It was bound to be an adventure and experience as I had never surfed a day in my life. Also, I think I got a great video out of it too! (See above).
I was actually a bit nervous when I first arrived. Although I’ve travelled “alone” many times before, I had never truly been alone in another country. I had also unnecessarily managed to convince myself I was probably with a totally advanced group of rad surfer bros and I would slow everyone down.
To my relief, when I rocked up at the hostel, I was greeted by 14 other eager and welcoming faces who were also travelling alone and also hadn't touched a surf board in their life. Over the next few days we bonded, soaked up some sun and ate some fantastic food (shoutout to the Portuguese tart!), but then it was down to business: catching them waves...yo?
So, with my luck OF COURSE we arrived to the surf camp in Ericeira during a “big swell”. This meant the waves along most of the coast were ... well they we're really big and advanced, so a big out of my depth... literally. Thankfully, there were some sheltered areas with waves suited to our beginner 'expertise'. After one of the most comfortable nights sleep (seriously, I need that mattress on that bunk bed, actual HEAVEN) we awoke at 7am to get started.
On day one we were fed, suited and boarded up by 8.30am, quickly followed by lesson on “surf theory” that I can honestly say just made sense. I wish I could tell you more, but you just have to be there. Afterwards we were given some instruction on sand on how to “pop up” on the board to really ride those waves, “bailout” and dismount the board if an object (or person, more common than you think) was in our way, and the proper way to “wipeout” without getting hurt. Fun fact: I was really a natural at wiping out. Finally, we were brought to the waves.
There were three things that truly surprised me as I started: how ridiculously warm I was in my wet suit, how much fun I was having and how little fear I had of falling in the ocean. And that comes from a girl who will not get into the ocean around England. Between laughing and paddling all I was thinking the entire time was “legs, please pop up”.
On my first go, I rode the wave lying flat on the board, which is so much fun, and about as graceful as I got. The second time I managed to make it to my knees. Progress, but not what I was hoping for. After that, I peaked. I just could not stand…yet. I kept telling myself “Day two, I will stand and ride this ocean like the Sea Goddess I am”. For now, I just needed to understand how to feel balanced or zen on the board, or as Joao (one of our instructors) put it to me “Be one with the board, feel the board, BE the board”.
It was extremely good fun, even though I only made it to my knees or wiped out in a glorious fashion (and I even caught some green waves!). But I did kick one of the instructors in the head though - I am so sorry, Vitor. All of us laughed together, no-one cried and the we head out for a celebratory lunch.
Within just few hours of surfing, myself and the others had made more progress than we thought we ever could, in just two hours of instruction. I felt extremely accomplished, but was also annoyed at myself the same time. It was okay though, day two was going to be my magnum opus of surfing. I was going to ride that wave like the very wobbly God of the ocean I was going to be or wipeout trying…which was really the only options I had.
Until then, the other Topdeckers and myself partied the night away, until the hardcore time of 12am, some of us much later. After which, we headed back to grab some shut eye as we had another morning of surfing ahead of us and a lot still to accomplish. Day two was going to be the day we all conquered the ocean. Poseidon, step aside.
Well, on day two (spoiler alert) I did not pop up. I got extremely close though. My feet were on the board, but then my body was also immediately in the water. I kept slipping, which happens to the best of us, apparently. I think I would have done it too, if the waves hadn’t been so intense on this day. However, that was out of my control. So let’s call it a half pop. Some progress, yes? But I definitely was not the God of the ocean as intended. That said, most of my Topdeck group did conquer the waves and that was awesome. Poseidon even cried at the loss of his crown title to a member of our group (Nick)…well I like to think so anyway. Truthfully, I do wish we had a few more surfing days, as our instructors were incredible and the surfing was worth the early mornings, but alas, that chapter was over. I guess that means I will have to come back next year and teach that ocean who really is boss! (It’s probably not me, but I will give it a decent shot).
Afterwards, the Topdeckers and myself headed back for our last post-surfing lunch where we felt accomplished and utterly exhausted. Partially from the surfing, but a majority were tired from partying the night before. I can say I have never enjoyed a sport so much and I am happy to have made so many memories with such a lovely group. This was the perfect taster trip to an ambitious sport. Surfing was not only one for the bucket list, but something to continue in the long run. I will come back to the surf camp, hopefully with stronger abs (I have been working on it!), and my God… I will pop up.
This post 1st appeared in a shortened from TopDeck Travels Ultimate 49. To check out more click here.