Story of the week: A surfing escape to Cornwall

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I’m a poor swimmer, have nothing by Mambo and didn’t even know the thick end (nose) of a surfboard from the thin end (tail).

I am, in short, the world’s most unlikely surf dude.

But Big Friday reckon they can turn an urbanite like me into a waxhead within a weekend.

That’s why I joined a 12-strong group, predominantly female, and ranging from a Kiwi trance DJ to a network analyst from Essex, to catch their Surf Bus for the five-hour trip down to Newquay, the home of British surfing.

Weekend escape

Big Friday offer different weekend packages from serious surfing and partying to chill-out surf chic at a secluded B&B with its own reiki massage hut overlooking Harlyn Bay, just outside of Padstow.

Our group stayed at the Boarding House, a lively but rather down-at-heel hostel-style surf lodge, located just a hop from North Fistral Beach.

Fistral has some of the best surfing in Britain and conditions from now until late October are at an optimum with sea temperatures around 16 degrees.

Sadly the vagaries of the British weather are beyond control and, at 10am on the Saturday morning, five-foot waves and on-shore wind were hardly ideal conditions for a bunch of beginners.

Nevertheless, we ventured stoically into the swell after the safety talk from our instructor, “rather surly but looks great in a wetsuit” according to one group member.

For me, just even getting into my own super-clingy bodysuit proved tricky enough, let alone riding the waves a la Hawaii Five-O. But, with practice, most people are up on their feet within the first two-hour session.

Apres surf

That night we hit the town with dinner at the stylish Chy Bar offering welcome relief from the stag-party frenzy of Newquay’s downmarket big Saturday night.

The next morning some were back out catching early waves, while I headed for a leisurely stroll along the beach and brunch at a relaxed surf café on Watergate Bay.

By the time we rolled back in London’s Victoria on Sunday night, Big Friday hadn’t made a surf dude of me, but a weekend of fresh air had banished the post-summer blues.

“It wasn’t the cheapest weekend but I liked the fact everything is arranged for you,” concluded Bronwyn, a 25-year-old PA, as we said our goodbyes.

“But I feel loads better for an escape from the city.”

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This story first appeared in The Guardian in 2004. Liked this? Try also Reviving a dying village in the Algarve.

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