When I watched surfers from the shore over the past 2 months living in Manly, Australia, I assumed that they were all pros. Standing up on moving water? Yeah right. So when I arrived for my surf lesson this week, I wasn’t expecting to achieve much more than having a good laugh.

We began our lesson by stretching and learning how to get up on the surf board. Our instructor explained the 3 steps; seal, harbour bridge, and standing position. Seal is much like the cobra yoga position laying flat on your stomach and stretching your torso up with your arms. From there you move into the “harbour bridge” position, which is surely named after the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

You move your body up from the surf board and balance on your toes at the end of the surf board. Your arms are straight out with hands flat on the board. This position does not last long though because it is quite hard to balance. On my first wave I almost made it to the final position; standing. However, I ended up like this before I could get my second foot forward:

By my third wave, I was standing though! The instructor said it’s not often that he sees people stand so quickly in their first lesson. I am far from a natural though. I stood up a handful of times in the full two hour lesson, which made me feel pretty proud. It also made me feel very tired! The next day, my arms were sore from all the paddling I had to do to get out to the wave.

The most difficult part of the entire experience is having enough upper body strength to swim fast on the surf board to ride the wave. You must wait, facing the shore, for a wave big enough to ride. When you see one coming you start swimming as fast as you can. If you’re not going fast enough when the wave comes you will just wash over the top of it. I certainly don’t have enough upper body strength or experience to go fast enough before the wave hits. Thankfully the instructor was out in the water to push us when a wave came so we could get a head start.

Will I be competing at the women’s championship tour at Bells Beach in Victoria this weekend? No. Did I reach my goal of having a laugh? Absolutely, and then some! Surfing is honestly easier than it looks. Even if you do not stand up, it is still super fun to ride the wave on your stomach! It’s amazing how fast you go. I can easily see how some people become obsessed with the sport. When I did a tour of the Great Ocean Road a couple of weeks ago, we stopped in Torquay, Victoria to see Bells Beach. It looked like almost any other Australian beach, but you could feel the surfer spirit in the air. I feel that I could not have had the full Australian cultural experience without this awesome day. I can honestly recommend trying surfing to anyone willing to try! You won’t regret it!

Kayla Bailey, Champlain College, is studying abroad in Australia with TEAN.