Lifestyle Travel · May 27, 2017

The One Where I Learnt To Surf

A few months ago I had an email ping in from my friend Kylie. We’d only spoken online before and from what I knew of Kylie (and can confirm now) is that she is the ultimate cool girl (if ever there was a definition). Her Instagram feed is rows of shots of her surfing, exploring the coast in her camper van with varying hues of blue. Oh, and she’s a DJ-cum-creative-director who used to be fashion editor at Vice- so I think that’s a comfortable definition of cool.

So when she emailed me asking if I’d fancy joining her ‘London Girls Surf Club’ and embarking on a three day surf adventure to the North Devon coast I panicked. The last thought I’d had about surfing (or even attempting it) was during my 10 year old Avril Lavinge phase, where I yearned to wearing Billabong surf shorts as daywear and imagined that my fishnet sleeves and chained parachute trousers were my pinnacle of being a Roxy girl. Or even the time I thought I could win over James from Busted. But since then (and trust me, it’s been a sweet while) it hadn’t even crossed my mind. After asking if I was sure she’d emailed the right Olivia, I agreed. I stressed I was certain to be a liability, had a very limited swimming skill set but promised I’d give it a damn good go. Because sometimes in life that’s the best you can do, isn’t it?

The funny thing about all of this is when I told people about this trip the greatest reaction was probably total bewilderment. ‘You? Surfing!?’ I am not a water baby by any stretch of the imagination, and I’m the kind of outdoorsy person that you’d probably get a print like this for and think it was hil-arious. Anyway- before I knew it I was on a train to Tiverton Parkway, with three days of the unknown with a group of girls who I’d never met before. To say I felt nervous was an understatement (I quickly broke the ice by reminding everyone of my ‘nervous Purvis’ nickname) and a mere hour after arriving I was on a lake standing on a paddle board like Orlando bloody Bloom (with pants on, naturally).

After a morning paddle boarding- I had my first surf lesson on the same afternoon. We picked up our foam boards and headed to the sea, feeling pretty fortunate the tide was in synch and had some (small) waves for us (thankfully). After stepping into the sea I can hand on heart say I didn’t come prepared for how scared I’d feel. I think I had a bit of an initial panic cry in front of Carlo (our amazing instructor) before I could even get waist deep into the sea. But, with a bit (or, a lot) of patience- I managed to not only stand up on my board, but ride along the coast without falling in. If we were closer to December I’d have called it a Christmas miracle- but finding the courage to push myself and ultimately challenge myself so far out of my comfort zone felt amazing. Being self employed I’m very rarely, and fortunately made to push myself into places of vulnerability- but challenging myself and proving that I could felt amazing. I DID IT!

Although over the following days we weren’t quite so lucky with the tide, doing something different- that not only required physical strength, but mental strength too felt incredible and I also gained a little ability to feel more confident in myself. Not only did I prove I could not only stand up on a board and swim to depths that I didn’t think possible, but I was surrounded by a group of the most vibrant, body confident, inspirational women who honestly made me feel like anything was possible. It sounds a bit soppy, but perhaps that’s what inhaling large amounts of salt water does to you. Who knows. Either way I’m feeling ready for our next adventure, and can’t wait to share more about this special journey with some amazing ladies.

*does shaka hands*


With many thanks to Vans, Aussie, Instax, Carl Wilson for the photos and the wonderful people at Croyde Surf Academy. If you’re also interested in finding out how to donate to raise awareness to help combat mental health with extreme sports head here.

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