Why you should give surfing a go this year

Coastal, Activity, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Ruth on 24th November 2020

Why you should try surfingPhoto credit: Surfing England

Once a fringe sport with its own counterculture, surfing is now firmly in the mainstream. In fact, participation in surfing and other related water sports increased 56% between 2016/17 and 2018/19 according to Sport England.

There are many reasons people get in the sea, such as to improve fitness, boost mental health and, perhaps, even prevent dementia.

But, despite the increasing participation in the sport, surfing still has a pervasive image – that of a young, white, able-bodied athlete – that could deter people from picking up a board and wetsuit and giving it a go. Can you be too unfit, too inexperienced or too old to surf?

Melissa Reid doesn’t think so. The 30-year-old from Porthtowan is a two-time World Para Surfing champion, as well as being a bronze-medal winning para triathlete, and thinks anyone should give surfing a go.

“Surfing is just about going out and doing it. Being in the water is going to make anyone happy,” she says.

Melissa Reid

Photo credit: Sean Evans

Melissa quote

Melissa learnt to surf in Porthtowan aged 8, after her dad wanted a lesson and persuaded her to come along too. They didn’t tell the instructor that she had a visual impairment.

She fell in love with the sport there and then, and eventually went on to compete at a junior level against able-bodied surfers, before getting into triathlon in her teens.

A back injury in 2017 meant she couldn’t run or cycle, but surfing was still an option. She got back in the sea and within months was competing for England in the World Para Surfing Championships.

But, despite, being top of her game, Melissa’s main focus is just enjoying being in the sea.


She says: “Going in the sea is never about competing. It’s just about being in the water. It really relaxes me, and it takes me away from the real world.

“It gives you peace depending on the conditions or it can give you that adrenaline boost. It depends on what mood you go into the water in, and what the sea is doing. Sometimes I just want to sit in the water on my own; there are not many places you can do that.”

Another Cornwall surfer who finds peace in the sea is Noor Hamad, a GP from St Agnes, who has relished her time in the water particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It definitely improves my mental health,” she says. “I’m not sure if that’s to do with having time out or it’s to do with being in the sea, but if I’m not surfing, I’m sea swimming or kite surfing. At the moment, when life is a bit strange, it’s good to do something normal with friends, where no one’s at risk.”

Noor Hamad

Noor Hamad quote

Noor’s family come from the Middle East where getting in the sea is “not on their radar”. She tried surfing while in Australia, but only really developed what she calls an “unhealthy obsession” after she moved to Cornwall - home of some of the UK's best surfing beaches - and had her two children.

She now surfs with a group of other local mums and takes part in surfing group run by Joel Gray of Surf Solutions – and thinks that anyone who is willing to should give surfing a go.

“Anybody who can swim and be safe in the water – anybody, do a lesson first,” she advises. “And don’t take it too seriously!”

Great British Coast

Surfing England, the National Governing Body for Surfing in England, agrees.

They say: “Surfing is one of the most fun sports you can ever try and the best bit about surfing is it can be adapted for everyone to take part! It doesn’t matter if you lie down, sit, kneel, stand up; it’s all about being in the water, having a good time and feeling ‘stoked’ – surfer’s language for being excited!

“The best way to try surfing is to take a surf lesson with a Surfing England Accredited Surf School, you can be sure you’ll be safe and have a good time – you can find a network of schools across the whole of England online here."

Melissa ReidPhoto credit: Surfing England

Melissa quote

Noor also knows the importance of feeling stoked. She adds: “People get frustrated because they are not choosing the best conditions for progressing. But we all get these ups and downs – that’s normal. Just think: ‘Well, it’s lovely I got in anyway. It’s lovely to bob around with friends and maybe see a seal, or a rainbow, and get the mental health benefits.’

“You can pick it up at any age. There are lots of people surfing in their fifties, sixties and seventies; even after half an hour, they come out with a massive grin on their face!”

Melissa agrees: “It does not matter what age, ability, disability. The only thing I would say is: give it a go.”

Surfing in Great Britain

If you can't wait to give surfing a go this year, take a look at our range of coastal cottages to make sure you're closest to the beach. With outdoor showers, board storage and sea views, you can find the perfect destination for your surfing holiday within our collection of cottages. 

Coastal cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.