Is surf therapy a thing?
So it has taken me a lifetime to finally get the courage to publish this, I’m feeling very vulnerable and exposed as it is something I don’t really talk about to friends or even family… Whaaat! Now I’m about to tell the world in the hope that it might help maybe one other person?!
So I’m gonna press ‘Publish’, run away and hide, BYEE.
There is something about surfing, it is very addictive, you feel free and nothing else matters. All that matters is the feeling of your feet being submerged in the water whilst you wait for the sets to roll in. That refreshing feeling of water on your face and pure joy when you stand up and surf, the feeling under your feet is indescribable. It isn’t always perfect, don’t get me wrong but overcoming the elements and fear is pretty amazing and wipe outs are all part of the fun, right?
Unlike your average UK surfer interview you see in magazines like ‘Surf Girl’, ‘Carve’ or ‘Wave Length’, I grew up in a totally non-coastal area in the UK. In fact we were living 8 miles from a shop, in a little village. Living in a little cottage house, an old farm down a mile long track, far from everything. We had two sheep, chickens, damson trees and three beautiful cats, not a surfboard in site.
My hobbies included climbing trees, rolling myself down grassy hills, swimming in rivers, feeding the sheep, cuddling the cats, building kit cars, singing and dancing to Queen, Pink Floyd and Dire Straits. Oh and selling ice creams to walkers passing by (entrepreneur in the making).
Primary School was great, (even if it was 8 miles away from where we lived), I swam for my school and ran Cross Country for my town and had some great friends.
I remember being the funny one, loved my friends and just wanted to have fun. Unfortunately, that all changed.
I didn’t go to the Secondary School where all my primary school friends went to. I remember being really anxious about going into a brand new place with new faces and personalities. Wondering who I’d be friends with, if they would like me, what I’d say and do.
I think what happened, was that all the girls in my class had already got their friends and weren’t bothered about me, sat in the corner on my own wondering what to say to spark conversation. I had a few friendships but they would break down when I said I wouldn’t smoke one of their cigarettes or that I wouldn’t pick on someone else. I remember the feeling in my stomach churning and feeling like I was going to throw up when someone showed any interest and actually tried speaking to me. This anxiety was causing me hell and people took advantage of the fact I was an easy target and of course, I was bullied day in, day out and all I was told to do by teachers was to ‘ignore them, they won’t pay attention if you just ignore them’. How was I meant to ignore people purposely bumping into me in the hall way or obviously calling me names and making me feel like a piece of shit on the floor?
Each day my self-confidence and self-esteem was getting lower and lower, I felt worthless, ugly and just, well…SHIT. I felt like no one would like me or want to be my friend so what was the point?
In the end, I would just retaliate and tell people to leave me alone, and just assume everyone was out to get me, to upset me or hurt me. Thank god I had my family.
When I was 12, we moved to a new place, new life, new school, new…friends? NOPE. The same thing happened again. It was a replay, it was happening again, so obviously I thought I was a massive freak and was just never going to fit in. This time I was a freckled, ugly, billy no mates with a weird English accent. Great. Here we go again. Blah.
I put up with it for about a year and eventually moved to a smaller school with about 10 people in each year.
It was much better, mainly because people there had been through similar things and although there was obviously arguments, everyone got on really well. From then on, school, college and university afterwards things began to get better.
Even though I am still coping with anxiety, self-confidence and self-esteem issues. I don’t think it will ever leave me but surfing helped with this and changed my life completely.
It was in 2010 that I had my first surf lesson which lead me to join university because of the surf team, this is where I met friends for life and led me to travel to America, Australia and some of Europe to surf.
There’s a whole community of surfers who have similar interests and one (or more) things in common, it brings people together from all over the world & it’s so easy to relate to other surfers, to relax and fully be yourself in and out of the water.
Pete Machin, my first proper friend at uni always said to me to just not give a shit about what other people think, he said to do what makes you happy and to enjoy life. During freshers week I went to the surf team taster session and Pete was pushing me into waves, shouting ‘paddle paddle paddle!’ And I found myself really wanting to catch this fast surge of white water just to make him proud. He was so stoked when I finally stood up (sorta)… I heard him shout ‘shit yeah fresher!’ And that was it, Pete and surfing were my two best friends from that day on.
Those bullies may have made me feel small, small like a mouse surrounded by big hairy lions but now I think I could be stronger and a better person because of it.
You made me feel crap but thank you for making me who I am today!
It sounds cliche but, ‘What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger…’
When I’m surfing I feel free and I don’t think about anything else except the waves, my surroundings and the beautiful people around me. I have got some truly amazing friends now who I’ve met through our love of surfing and the outdoors. I’m still working on loving myself for who I am, my self confidence and self esteem but I’m getting there, I will get there and so will you.
Whether it’s surfing or another hobby to distract your mind, go grab it! Do it, NOW!
Some surf charities I have had the pleasure of working with:
In loving memory of my best friend Peter Lee Machin who introduced me to surfing, loving life & not giving a shit about what people think.
Rest in peace batman. X