“Would you like a surfing lesson for your birthday while we’re in Devon?”
The email from Dad to H bounced into our inbox a few weeks before we headed to the coast, and as my lovely husband has never met a sport he didn’t like, it wasn’t so much a question of deciding whether he wanted to have a go as when, and for how long.
There were emails, the filling in of Internet forms and all of a sudden it was Monday afternoon and as the girls and I unpacked what seemed like the entire contents of the fridge onto the rug for a very leisurely and rather sandy picnic, H headed off to meet his fate, or at the very least to find a wetsuit and a surfboard.
We nipped round the coast from Putsborough for the lesson, to Croyde Bay, sufficiently beloved of surfers to feature in the surf weather forecasts, and just a smidgen more westerly angled to catch the very best of the prevailing wind direction. You also don’t have to climb a hill to get back to the village which if you’re going to start carting a surfboard around, suddenly makes a lot of sense.
Croyde is another of those big wide flat beaches, where at low tide the sea seems to have disappeared to the far horizon as you perch on the dry sand just above high watermark; all but empty when we were there, or perhaps that’s just the feeling you get with so much space.
But back to the surfing. It turns out that if you book onto a beginner group surfing session on the Monday afternoon after half term it might not be that busy, in fact it might be very unbusy indeed (and yes that is a technical term), and so our next sight of H was as a wet suited duo appeared around the corner and he and his instructor set off for the long walk down to the sea.
One on one surfing; what better way to start.
The girls were deeply involved in burying their feet in the sand at the time so we left H to fall off the first few times by himself – if by ‘by himself’ we include my squinting at the horizon to pick out a little speck of green standing waist high in the surf and occasionally appearing to be doing some sort of scrambling on a surfboard.
But once we’d finished eating what parts of lunch we were going to eat, and smearing the blackcurranty innards of a fruit pie all over ourselves and our Mummy, we set off down to the water’s edge to see how H was getting on and to wash off at least some of the sticky.
And as luck would have it, at the perfect moment, I had the camera poised. I may have had to crop in a gazillion times, and straighten the horizon lots, and it might have been a bit grainy anyway because frankly photography is not made easier when you’re also snuggling a hefty little 18 month old, but I was there, and I have undeniable, unphotoshopped evidence that once my husband stood on a surfboard.
For a few seconds anyway. If I showed you the next picture in the sequence it would simply be a surfboard with a little dark head bobbing in the water next to it. But it definitely counts. There is absolutely no way that I have the balance, the coordination, the general athleticism, and definitely not the upper body strength to be standing within my first lesson so I think it’s spectacularly impressive. I may also be biased. And it wasn’t the only time he managed it either, just the only time I caught it on camera.
And while we watched the girls discovered that the outgoing tide had left all sorts of exciting dimples in the sand that were filled with water that was definitely warmer than the sea itself, and perfect for playing with Elma’s watering can and running around.
After two hours H returned to us, beaming from ear to ear, and totally fired up; well right up until the point when I asked him to move his arms and we discovered that yes, surfing is quite hard work!
In the meantime Kitty had rather set her heart on a certain purchase from the beach shop; and well what are Daddies for if not to indulge you on holiday,
One pink net, and one very happy and excited little girl later we went to see what we could find. Down the side of Croyde Bay, rocky fingers of the headland stretch out to the sea; completely covered at high tide but rapidly exposed as the water falls away they are ripe for exploring with a bucket and net.
Kitty’s favourite find might just have been our first; a sea snail (the little dark blob in the bottom left) slowly making its way across the sand.
But H found a fish in a rock pool and some lovely people slightly further down the beach with a serious knack for finding crabs brought us their ‘cast offs’, including a crab carrying another little crab underneath, all of which were admired warily from a distance before being restored to the appropriate rock pools!
(Note to self – shoes would have been good here!)
And after such intrepid adventuring, there really was only one way to end the day wasn’t there;
Happiness … comes in a cornet!