Surf’s Up Down Under!
Kat Tancock overcame her fear of water and learned to surf under perfect conditions in New Zealand’s Mount Maunganui on the Bay of Plenty — and she has the Facebook profile photo to prove it!
I’d always wanted to try surfing. But there was one small problem: I have a bit of a water phobia. So it was important I try it somewhere I felt comfortable. Last winter when I visited Mount Maunganui, a beach town in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, I knew I had found the perfect place.
You see, I lived in “The Mount,” as locals call it, for several years as a kid in the late 1980s. It really was an idyllic place to grow up and it’s still a wonderful place to visit, with a relaxed vibe, good food and more beachfront than you could ever use. Sadly, the area was hit with an oil spill from a container ship run aground in October 2011, but most of the beaches have been reopened and are deemed safe to visit again.
After a few warm-up days swimming and boogie boarding, I felt ready to try surfing. As I was visiting Mount Maunganui with a group of friends and family, we set up a lesson for about eight of us one sunny morning. We were split into two groups, an instructor for each, and given a surfboard and wetsuit. The water was warm enough to go without, but not warm enough you didn’t appreciate it.
We set up on the beach and optimistically practiced standing up quickly, and also learned about how to stay safe in the water with a giant board attached to your ankle.
TIP: Stay underwater when you fall until you know where your board is. Don’t do as I did and let your board almost nail your sister in the head the day before her wedding.
The beauty of learning to surf at The Mount is that the waves break in chest-deep water (and note that I’m not much over five feet tall), so it’s much more doable if you’re like me and deep water stresses you out.
Our hour-long lesson was exhausting. It’s not the surfing that works your body, but dragging the board back out through the waves after a good run in. I have to admit I quit 10 minutes early to lie in the sun on my board and recover my strength. And my shoulders and core muscles were sore the next day.
But it was all worth it. I got up on the board properly once – and I even have photographic proof. The feeling and sense of achievement was exhilarating, and the surfing shot makes a pretty awesome Facebook profile image, too. I’ll definitely be trying this again.