Surfing the whitewater

It looked amazing from the cliff top. Well, the best it had looked in a good long while. Waist to chest high, a light cross shore wind making it a tiny bit raggedy, but mostly peeling, mellow-looking waves with a sensible period. And only a handful of people in.


I hadn’t been in for a while (and by ‘a while’ I mean more than a couple of months) but I’d been putting off getting back in, telling myself I was waiting for a good day, and to finish that big project at work. But I was missing surfing so much I was just going to have to suck it up and get back in.


Wetsuit, boots and gloves on and I bounded down the sand dune and into the sea. A few minutes later as I walked out, it seemed a lot bigger than it looked from the cliff. Definitely overhead in fact. Hmmm.

“That’s ok, you’ve got this – you’ve been out in bigger surf than this” I told myself as I jumped over a wave, onto the board and started (enthusiastically) paddling.

I’d taken the mini mal because I was expecting pretty small waves, so paddling didn’t feel as bad as I’d expected, but duckdiving was definitely off the cards. Now for anyone who isn’t used to surfing in cold water, it might be May, but the sea is still not warm! After a few turtle rolls, I had to actually stop to regain my sight after a particularly severe ice cream headache.


My friend Owain is a longboarder and he’d managed to find a channel and zoom off out back. Me, on the other hand, I just seemed to be battling with wall after wall of whitewater. After a good ten minutes of trying to get out back, I’m ashamed to say, I had a bit of a tantrum at myself.


The irony of it was that the waves were easily head high, sets a bit more, and if I’m being honest, the likelihood of me catching those and then making the drop given that I haven’t surfed anything over waist high in the past six months, was probably slim to none. Yet I was so desperate to get there because that’s where I thought I ‘belonged’. Sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud doesn’t it?!


So what did I do? Well, just about the time I was having a full blown discussion with myself about what a crap surfer I am and considering just getting out to sulk, two ladies got in right next to me, both on 8ft soft top boards. They were catching the whitewater in less than waist deep water, and quite frankly having what looked like a bloody marvellous time. I thought sod it, time to embrace the whitewater. And so I did. And you know what, I reckon I caught more than 50 waves. I didn’t care that they were whitewater waves, I was having the BEST time I’ve had with a surfboard in a very long time.


The period was pretty long so I managed to get a bit of paddling practice in between waves, paddling back out as far as I could and catching waves in water where I couldn’t stand up. And it felt good to work on those noodle arms! Whitewater is a lot less forgiving for popping up, so I got heaps of practice with that. Then I was remembering what we teach the kids at Wave Project, practising turning left and right, and not looking at my feet – which is my worst surfing habit!

All in all it was a brilliant surf. I actually felt stoked when I came out, which compared to the frustration I usually get, felt amazing!

And I still feel really stoked now because I feel like I’ve turned a bit of a corner and realised I need to go easy on myself. So next time you’re feeling frustrated or annoyed at yourself during a surf session, remember to do the same. We are all exactly where we are supposed to be. Don’t get cross with yourself because you can’t get on to green waves and nail your duckdive. Whatever it is, every wave teaches you something and those tiny little lessons all add up.


It’s all about having fun out there, otherwise what’s the point?


Do you know anyone who’s getting frustrated with their surfing progress? I’d love it if you’d share this article with them.

Author: Amy Lambert

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  1. Excellent advice. I’m my own worst enemy when I can’t get out back or having a frustrating. Need to remember what you have written here!

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    • Hey Tom, I’m so stoked this has been helpful for you. To be honest, I was a bit scared to post it and to admit that I’m surfing terribly at the moment, but as always you guys remind me that it’s all ok and we’re all still just learning and trying to have fun. Let me know how you get on with your next surf? Amy 🙂

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      • I’m going tonight, assuming it’s not too small, so should be ok with conditions today. Be nice to have a consistent 2-3 feet and clean for a while to let us all get back into it.

        Got two weeks near Hossegor in 5 weeks time, so need to get the practice in.

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        • Yeah, I’ll take 2ft and clean any day! Hope you have a great surf tonight, and an amazing time in Hossegor, I’m well jealous!

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  2. Love this post Amy! I think you did amazing just to try and get out back when it was head high (something I would have been too chicken to contemplate). That’s a real achievement in itself and I would def add that to the success of the surf you had!

    I’m stoked to hear you had such a good surf and you’ve reminded me to stop putting so much pressure on myself to get out of the white water (which I’ve been doing just lately and getting frustrated). If I waited for perfectly small green waves everytime I would lose on out valuable surf time.

    You’re right in that you learn something everytime you go in. And it’s all fitness/paddle practise too.

    Let’s surf soon!! X

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  3. Hi Amy, it sounds like not surfing and having long gaps between your sessions is a recurring theme for you. I had to deal with the same thing until one day I had enough and moved closer to the ocean. My life has changed in more ways than I could have imagined.

    I feel for your struggles but at the same time you’ll be catching white water for the rest of your life unless you do something about it. It’s something every inland surfer has to confront at some point in their life.

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