Solo surfing?

An interview with Susan Fitzpatrick

Safety Information: The RNLI advises that you should head out surfing with a friend. This article is some information on how to meet people to surf with. We do not advise that anyone heads out surfing on their own without any other surfers in the water.

Head to https://rnli.org/safety/choose-your-activity/surfing for more information.

We have heard the story countless times; I have taken a few lessons, gotten to a good enough level, but I just want to head out and practice. Only one problem – I don’t know anyone else that surfs or is available when I want to surf. And even if you do, the stars really need to align with waves, work, other hobbies, family obligations etc. The chances that you and a friend can drop everything and head for a surf are slim, every surfer has had this experience at some point.

So what is the solution? The obvious solution is to of course head out solo to catch some waves with other surfers out in the water. Yet this decision can seem incredibly daunting and can more often than not squash your surfing dreams before they have even had a chance to get off the ground. 

As chance would have it, we where interviewing one of the local female surfers Susan Fitzpatrick and this topic came up. Susan suggests her experiences as a keen enthusiast and over a decade  surfing local waves.

Photograph: Susan catching waves on one of our tours

Q: How did you first get into surfing?

Susan: The first time was when I was In Newquay on holiday, I wanted to give it a go and it seemed like the perfect place. I took a couple beginner lessons and was instantly hooked. Prior to that I did snowboarding. When I came back up to Scotland I got in touch with Coast to Coast to book some hires when I heard about their North Coast trips. I booked in and after the first I was really hooked and carried on booking. I was lucky enough to go with nearly every available instructor at the time. When we got back I bought my first board from Sam and then my surfing really kicked off after that.

Q: Do you remember the first time you headed out surfing once you got back?

Susan: Probably near enough right away. What was great about the tours was that we got taught so much about reading the forecast and loads about the East Lothian coastline. I wanted to go surfing but I didn’t want to wait for people to go, there were always people at Belhaven and Pease so I felt pretty comfortable heading out. The first time I went I came to hire a board and headed out to Pease at high tide. It was a bit of a shore dump, wrong tide time. Lesson learnt!

When I first started there were no women in the lineup, but that has changed now. I still see predominantly men, but I have noticed that on smaller days there are a lot more women.

Q: What would you say are the benefits and downsides of surfing on your own compared to in a group?

Susan: The benefits are that you are on your own timetable, you can take as long as you want to get ready and can take some time checking out different breaks. 

If I arrive at a beach and there is nobody there I don’t feel particularly confident. Even if you are on your own I would say go to a beach with fellow surfers, just for safety.

When I head out in a group there is definitely safety in numbers and the comradery is great.

I would say on a technical level when I head out on my own I surf better as I am more focused on surfing rather than focusing on the social aspect.

Q: Would you say there are any additional challenges to being a female surfer?

Susan: There is a little more attention drawn to women, a few comments and double takes from people. I have had people questioning what I am wearing and I don’t think they would make similar comments to men.

Practically speaking as well toilet facilities can be difficult, there aren’t often areas to get changed. As women we are obviously more dependent on these facilities so it’s definitely something to keep in mind.

Q: What advice would you give someone looking to head out surfing?

Susan: I would say get lessons if you are a total beginner, and if you can head out on a tour. 

Keep an open mind and enjoy the freedom and experience that comes with surfing. Be confident but there is no pressure to head into the water once you are down on the beach. Make a decision that feels right to you.

I definitely wouldn’t head out on a beach you haven’t surfed before on your own, you just won’t know what the beach is like. Surf a part of the beach that matches your ability and that you feel comfortable in. Ideally you want other people out there in the water.

When you’re ready to join a lineup (a group of surfers waiting for a wave) don’t be intimidated by other surfers, but also don’t feel pressured to join. Just because there are better surfers out there doesn’t mean you can’t surf, just have confidence in your ability. Always challenge yourself but you need to know yourself when you are ready.

Talk to people and learn about the different swells and follow wave etiquette. I used to do a lot of driving just checking out the local spots. 

Q: If someone would like to engage with a community and find people to start surfing with, what would you recommend they do?

Susan: Just talk to people in the car park when you are getting changed and once you have headed out in the water. I have made a lot of surfer friends and that’s how I did it. Just chatted and then eventually exchanged numbers.

Speaking to people is a really good way of getting more knowledgeable about the area and to ask for their advice.

Aside from this it is just a great way to make friends. I have a female surfer friend that I met surfing and now we have a life long friendship. A lot of the friends I have made are women who were also out surfing solo when I met them. We have created whatsapp groups, facebook groups,  you just need to get yourself involved to join in.

We would like to thank Susan for her time and it was a real pleasure speaking with her. Susan was a legend on our tours and is a friendly local that always says hi ! We hope that her story has inspired some of you to head out, be social, meet like minded surfers and above all stay safe.

Coast to Coast Surf School are keen to help our growing community of surfers and present opportunities for new and established surfers to meet others. If your looking to meet others or simply surf safely here are three options :
 
(1) Coast to Coast provide lessons and hires most surf able days between April and October. You can text us to see when the next lesson is and surf alongside our surf class.
(b) We also recommend you join a Coast to Coast surf tour – these week trips are one of the best ways to make good surf friends for life.
(c) In 2024 Coast to Coast are running monthly Sunday Socials, a series of surfing community events for customers to meet other surfers and listen to talks, film nights and do social events from the surf centre.
Victoria Bain

Victoria Bain

Office Manager at Coast to Coast

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