Beaches are usually associated with relaxation and sunbathing. But this beach is different. As far as the eye can see, wetsuit-clad figures jump around on the wide, flat stretch of sand, warming up for a day of riding waves. At the far end of the beach, an impressive block of cliff shelters a huddle of white houses from the ceaseless trade winds. This is Famara. A small fishing village on the north-eastern coast of Lanzarote where I’ve come to learn to surf. Lanzarote may not be everyone’s idea of a surfing paradise but it holds the nickname of “European Hawaii” because you can surf all year round.
On my first evening, the guys from the surf-house take me to the local ‘Burgeria’ restaurant which serves huge, stacked burgers alongside authentic tapas, such as spicy chick-pea stew, fish covered with green ‘Mojo’ sauce, spiced with coriander and cumin and ‘Bien Mesabe’ cake (made with what tastes like almond puree).
My first day of surfing is filled with nervous anticipation, excitement and fear. We’re in good hands though. Our instructor Carlos expertly takes us through the motions and assures us we will all be able to ride a wave by the end of the day. Our group gathers into a circle to warm-up and we follow his stretching, lunges and hip thrusting gyrations, which has us in fits of giggles. We are shown the steps of going from lying down on the board, to standing up in one swift move. This is achieved by placing the hands under the chest to lift the torso and then quickly tucking the legs under, so your feet are standing where your chest was, with your leading foot forward.
We carry our boards down to the water’s edge, and enter to waist height, cautiously watching the endless rolls of water spilling towards us. As instructed, I start by turning my surfboard round to face the beach, then lie belly down on the board and wait for a wave to take me down to the shore, like body-boarding. If your weight isn’t centred, the board will either nose dive or flip up in front of you. Once I have the hang of this, Step two is to now do this on my hands and knees (like a dog). Step three is the real deal, coming right up to standing. This time, the wave catches my board, shoving me forward with a strong gust of energy. I push myself up onto my hands and tuck my feet under my body, all the time looking ahead to see where I’m going. My first few attempts end with an awkward topple into the salty water, but by lunchtime, most of us have managed to wobble through a few seconds of riding a wave. The feeling is exhilarating and addictive. I spent the rest of the day beaming from ear to ear. Surfing seems to be a mixture of sensing the ocean and trusting your instincts.
On top of the beauty of the island, and the chance to brush up on my Spanish, I returned home a lot slimmer and fitter, if a little bruised!