After my introduction to our Mother Ocean as a toddler, which mostly involved clinging round my dad’s neck as he swam and dived in the foam, I was eventually given a crappy fluorescent green bodyboard – complete with string wrist leash – from a two bit Spanish paraphernalia beach shop.
The result of Med holidays, cruddy waves and a naff bodyboard – Tez
This bit of kit wasn’t even a real bodyboard, let alone a high performance wave slaying machine, and yet I loved it! From the moment I first set eyes on its ugly features I knew we were destined for a long and fruitful relationship.
What I didn’t realise is this was a parental ruse to stop me nagging them for ice cream.
My folks loved nothing better than laying down, spread eagle, on oversize towels for the whole day at the beach. Every now and again ma and pa would prise themselves from horizontal for a servicio break, to dip a toe in the cooling water or hit up a taverna for lunch. By and large, most days of our summer hols were spent on the sand. My baby bro and I were free to roam about without a care in the world.
Even with all this freedom we constantly moaned about being bored, which is where the ‘boog’ came in.
My dad used to ride waves – infrequently granted but it was still part of the gene pool never the less – pretty impressive when you live in the middle of England which isn’t noted for its swell potential.
Without thinking too hard about their act, what my parents actually did when they purchased that ‘sponge’ was start me off on a lifelong quest of wave riding, wind chasing and snow sliding. Learning to surf was the best thing this lad from Staffordshire could ever have done and the experiences of those early years still resonate and affect my daily routine today.
Less than world class
At this point you may be thinking that I had access to a fun beachie or even an epic point break – but you’d be wrong. Our family used to holiday every year in Spain. Not on the wave rich Atlantic coast, nope, it couldn’t have been that easy. My first soirées into the world of wave riding all happened on the Mediterranean facing Costa Blanca – and mostly in August!
Where it all started, depicting the types of dribble I learnt on – pic travelandtravails
The Med as we now know does get a few waves from time to time but usually in the dead of winter and only those intrepid souls who can be bothered to search out shelter from the usually accompanying howling winds tend to score – locals and pros then.
And yet, this relatively unknown Spanish coastal town was actually pretty regular in its delivery of slop – sometimes swells were even good, or at least certainly OK and ample for my wee frame and crappy wave riding tool.
Summer holiday slop
During a typical stay the two Plavenieks brothers would be out riding soup twice a week on average.
The horseshoe shape of Playa Arenal meant that when the summer thermal kicked, during afternoons, the wind would push a few lumps onto the beach. The far north of the bay usually offered shelter and a small peak would appear where we would spend hours at a time frolicking in the froth.
Aerial shot showing some OK waves – pic panaramio.com
Looking back, some of these bumps were hardly waves at all, and yet, we didn’t care and were oblivious to the fact.
Evening magic and other surfers
If we were lucky, early evening would see the breeze die down and the bigger wind swell at the southern end would clean up. After a few weeks we began to dial into this and were right on the money for when the blow receded.
Over the years we began to realise we weren’t the only wave sliding aficionados in the area and before long we began spotting real surfers. They would turn up at optimum times and ride the shallow reef/point on the right hand outside section of the bay. Reef, in fact, stretched all the way down the coastline to the north and south and due to the shallow nature attracted even the smallest amount of swell.
Before long I began yearning for what the surfer dudes had and started trying to stand up. At this point I was just about small and light enough to get a few seconds of standing tall on my fluro green bodyboard – but it wasn’t ideal.
Pretty grainy shot but you get the idea of what conditions could be like
I started pestering my folks for a proper surfboard, and in time, they actually agreed. I became the proud owner of a 7.6ft minimal – a stick I have to this day and one which still goes like stink. I customised the graphics myself and stoked would be an understatement.
The making of me
As both bro boy and I got older we started to do our own thing and Spanish Coast Blanca holidays became a thing of the past. However, as I’ve already said, if it wasn’t for my parents (unwittingly) introducing me to the world of wave riding, in the most unlikely of locations, then I might never have learnt how to surf. I shudder to think how different my life might have turned out.
Nowadays I not only surf, I also windsurf, stand up paddle, snowboard and dabble with a kite. Chasing good conditions, when I get time, is still something of a habit but working in the industry helps with justifying regular trips to beaches when my own backyard isn’t firing.
Nowadays – Tez
There are many different ways in which you can learn to surf and this is just one tale. In some ways it’s easier to book yourself a bunch of lessons in a wave rich country with a qualified surfing coach on hand to show you the ropes – but where would the fun in that be?
Sometimes writing your own story and discovering things for yourself is the most fulfilling path you can wander down. In time, for sure, get someone to guide you and point out where you’ve been going wrong, but during those early forays, focusing on the stoke factor of being in the ocean should be all that matters.
I learned to surf on a cheap and nasty bodyboard – and I’ve never looked back…
*** Thanks to my parents for taking us on all those overseas holidays and giving us the opportunity to travel, surf and find our place in life ***