Surf Sistas Longboard Clinic
Longboard surfing may have originated in the warm waters of Hawaii, where it was known as he’e nalu (literally ‘gliding on waves’), but you can practise the art of effortless cross-stepping and nose-riding much closer to home – in the clear (if rather colder) waves off the coast of Cornwall. Surf Sistas offer courses and holidays designed for beginners and experienced surfers alike, and their two-day longboarding weekends for women, taught by female instructors in Newquay, is perfect if you want to get a taste of the art of dancing on waves.
I join Surf Sistas on Fistral Beach in Newquay on a balmy weekend in July 2020. Samantha Sunshine, one of our team of three instructors, has the group warm up with a mix of yoga and dance moves before we stride out into the cold green sea. Once in the line-up (the group of surfers sitting waiting for a wave), I realise that longboarding may look totally relaxed and effortless – but it’s physically tough. The waves pound us relentlessly and I paddle for what feels like miles, then push up on my board again and again, trying (and mostly failing) to catch ‘green’ unbroken waves and ride them to the shore. By the end of the day I can barely lift my arms above my head, and my hair is drenched in salt. But even when I fail to catch a wave, I usually see one of the other women in the group make it, and sail along the swell with their hair streaming out behind them. And when we sit astride our boards and take a breather, it’s so inspiring to watch Samantha glide along a wave as calmly as if she were walking.
The next day the waves are smaller, and we spend the morning waiting to see if the swell picks up, sitting overlooking Towan Beach with cups of coffee. Each longboarding clinic includes two theory sessions as well as four in-water sessions, making it easy to put what you learn into practise. Samantha shows us longboarding videos and pulls out pastel-hued illustrations she’s painted herself of a smiley lady longboarder moving up and down the board to help illustrate where we should place our feet and our weight as we attempt to cross-step and nose ride once we’re back in the water this afternoon.
Post surf, buzzy Newquay’s indie foodie scene makes it a great place to grab some grub and sit watching the sun set over the swell. Accommodation isn’t included in a longboard clinic, but Surf Sistas can help participants sort campsites nearby – and some of my fellow surfers are kipping in their campervans, like proper dirtbags.
Back in the water the next day for our final surf, I don’t magically become an expert longboarder, elegantly dancing my way to the nose of my board. But I do feel myself progressing, learning to distribute my weight and understanding the beginnings of turning my board. I may need a lot more work on my longboard from here, but it’s been fulfilling to hang out in the water with an all-female crew of women for a weekend – and Surf Sistas have definitely inspired me to get out in the ocean and work on the art of he’e nalu.
Try it: A two-day longboarding clinic with Surf Sistas costs £175 and includes in-water coaching, theory tuition and video analysis. Clinics begin April 2021, and bookings are refundable if Covid restrictions are changed. Participants can also try out different boards during a clinic courtesy of Open Surf.