When I turned 30 years old, I decided to challenge myself and take up surfing. Little did I know the size of the challenge I had taken on, or the obsession that was just about to take control of my life path. All I knew was that I loved spending time on and under the waters of the ocean, so why not try a new water sport? Surfing seemed like an exciting choice that would take me away from the city at the weekends, and allow me to enjoy the beautiful coastlines of the UK.
My first lesson took place on a rainy and cold summer's day in Croyde, Devon. Clad in full wetsuit, gloves and booties I clumsily followed my instructor down to the beach, struggling to carry my 8 foot NSP board under my arm. On the sand, under grey skies and drizzle, the other two students and I received a brief safety talk and were taught the basics of transitioning from lying down on your surf board to standing up (otherwise known as 'popping up'). After several practice pop-ups in the sand, it was time for us to get in the water and start surfing.
As beginners we were to be surfing only in the white water, and were not going to be venturing much further than waist-deep water. Regardless, I was excited and anxious all at once. The first thing I learned in the water was that my huge, heavy board was a lethal weapon. It was only after receiving several body blows that I slowly managed to gain a modicum of coordination and control over my board as we waded through the oncoming waves. Then followed an hour and a half of flailing, falling and fumbling in the ocean as my instructor pushed me into wave after wave and attempted to get me to stand up. It was exhausting. It was painful. And finally, it was exhilarating when at last I was up, standing on my board, riding the wave into the beach. The next day, covered in bruises and with aching muscles, I was back in the water to try again.
And so started my obsession with surfing. At first it was a few surf weekends away, exploring the coasts of Devon, Cornwall and South Wales. Soon it became surf holidays to France and Portugal, and later longer holidays to surf the warm waters of Central America. I remember very clearly the day that I first attempted to paddle to the outside, to join the line up beyond the breaking waves. I remember just as clearly catching my first green wave. It was a rush of speed, adrenaline and then pure joy at the end of the wave. After a year, I was hooked - not just to the physical challenge of the sport, but also to the time spent quietly sitting in the ocean contemplating the beauty of nature and the immensity and power of the sea.
The problem soon became that I simply did not have enough time to dedicate to my new found obsession. I was eager to progress as rapidly as possible, but without surfing every single day this was very hard to do. Working in banking and living in London, meant that surfing time was relatively rare and extremely precious. At 31 I had an epiphany. I was not happy living in the city. I was not happy working a stressful job, in an office, behind a computer screen. I handed in my notice and resigned from my career in banking. I had only one plan. I was going to Costa Rica to surf.
And that's where I have been ever since, surfing everyday - twice a day whenever possible. I hope still to be surfing in another 30 years time.