A view looking down Cayton Bay beach

Surfing in North Yorkshire

When I hear the word surfing, I think of places such as Bondi Beach, Hawaii or Cornwall. What I definitely don’t think of is surfing in North Yorkshire and the freezing North Sea. However, that is exactly where I had my first taste of surfing.

I have seen people surf in numerous places during my travels but for some reason I had never tried it. I felt that this summer it was finally time to put this right and what better place than in my home county, Yorkshire. So, on a cloudy day in late August it was time to give it a go. I was actually quite nervous. Not because I was scared of surfing or the sea, but because I really wanted to be good at surfing and had in turn mentally put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed.

Despite it being August, it was not the sunniest of days in Yorkshire. We set off from where we were staying far too early for my liking, in reality it was only about 8.30, and headed for the location of the surfing, Cayton Bay. When we arrived, I immediately had some regrets. It was far colder than I was expecting it to be. Shivering as I waited to be given my wetsuit, I was directed to what I was told were the changing rooms. However, it can only be described at a small shack which was still open to the elements. I quickly got into my wetsuit, happy to find it was on the thicker end of the spectrum, something which certainly helped with the cold.

It was then time to meet the rest of the group and the instructor. The instructor looked exactly how I imagined he would. A man, Steve, in his late thirties rocking bleached blonde hair, he certainly fitted the surfer stereotype. The group however was anything but your surfing stereotypes. There was a real range of people from a girl who can’t have been more than 7 years old, she put the rest of us to shame with her surfing skills, right up to a middle aged mum who decided that now was the time to give surfing a try.

Cayton Bay beach is situated right at the bottom of an incredibly steep walkway. This would have been tough enough to descend normally, but when you are carrying a surfboard and the wind is gusting, it becomes rather difficult. After a few stumbles and near misses, I made it to the beach in one piece.

This was where the actual surfing instruction began. Steve began by getting us all to stretch before giving us the important instructions about the board. He explained that as beginner surfers, the key was to try and catch waves and be able to stand up on the board by the end of the session. So, Steve showed us the things that we needed to do in order to be successful. Once you feel the wave pushing you, take up to three strokes before pushing yourself up onto the board; make sure that your feet are always just over the end of the board and most importantly watch out for the leash at all times.

After a few practice attempts on the beach at standing up on the board, we were let off into the sea with the strict instructions not to move out of the space lined by the flags. As I set off towards the water, I was apprehensive. Despite wearing a wetsuit, I knew that the water was cold, and I was worried that I would not be able to enjoy the surfing because of it. To my surprise, the wetsuit was brilliant. It stopped me from feeling the cold at all, instantly putting me at ease.

It was tough to begin with. As a confident swimmer, I was able to catch waves with relative ease, but the act of standing up on the board was something that I had to work on. I really struggled with my balance at the start, often falling off the board backwards into the waves. However, as the time went on and with some help from Steve, I was able to work out what I was doing wrong. Gradually, I was beginning to be able to stand up on the waves. Of course, this wasn’t every time, but it was a start. It made me feel like a real surfer.

I am sure that all the avid surfers at Cayton Bay that morning were probably laughing at us beginners, but I didn’t mind. I was really getting the hang of it. Naturally, there were still regular wipe outs or times when I completely failed in my attempt to stand up on the board, but these were decreasing in number. The highlight of my session was when I was able to ride a wave all the way to the shore without falling off.

Before I knew it, the two hour session was up. It was time to walk all the way back up that hill. If it was difficult on the way down, then it was even harder on the way back up. After two hours of surfing, I was already tired and the only thing getting me through the walk was the knowledge that at the top I could peel off my wetsuit.

I definitely won’t be making an appearance at the 2024 Olympics for surfing, but I can certainly say that it is something that I will do again. I am glad that I tried surfing in North Yorkshire for the first time , but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t looking forward to trying it somewhere far warmer next time.

Image Credit: John Fielding via Wikimedia Commons