Community Campfire

Riding the wave: what surfing taught me about life and myself

You can visit and follow Kirsty here:

Instagram: @FreeSpiritKirsty

Not forgetting the amazing photography skills of Megan Hemsworth:

Instagram: @MeganHemsworth


Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m a surfer.

I live in Newquay, Cornwall. But until I was 35, I led a pretty sedentary lifestyle in landlocked Wolverhampton.

I’ve always felt drawn to the ocean. When I was young I’d happily stare at the sea for hours. It had a pretty hypnotic effect on me. But I was too scared to set foot in it.

I could swim in a pool but I never translated that into sea swimming. Growing up inland, the sea was a big unknown for me, and something to be feared and avoided. Until one summer during a holiday in Cornwall.

Photo by: Megan Hemsworth

Learning to surf

I spent an afternoon watching a group of surfers dancing on the waves. I was in awe and I vowed there and then to have a surf lesson just to tick something off my bucket list.

The day of my lesson and I was a bag of nerves before we even hit the water. But I was so focused on listening to what I needed to do that I forgot all about being scared. It took several attempts but when I finally stood up and rode a wave, I’d never felt anything like it. I was instantly hooked!

How surfing’s changed my life

Fast forward 10 years and I now surf regularly, sometimes several times a week. It’s my main form of exercise and I still can’t believe how much surfing has changed my life. I live in a beautiful part of the country, I’m fitter than I was in my 20’s and my mental health has improved significantly. I’m heaps less stressed, I’m more patient and I enjoy the challenges that surfing gives me. It’s a constant learning curve and I’ve learnt so much about myself in the process.

It’s changed my life. It made me see what was important to me and I’ve ditched so much of what society teaches us is ‘normal’ and ‘expected.’ We downsized our home to move here, ditched our careers and live a much slower pace of life.

Surfing is one of the hardest sports you can do and it’s why a lot of people give up very quickly. The sea is never the same from one day to the next. The waves are inconsistent and it’s not like going to a tennis court and practicing your serve over and over again. The sea is something to be respected and quite often, it likes to remind you who’s in charge.

Photo by: Megan Hemsworth

Scary times

One of the scariest experiences I’ve had was when my leash (which attaches my surfboard to my ankle) snapped in some fairly big surf. Suddenly there I was in no man’s land without the one thing that kept me afloat. At first I stayed calm and started to swim back into shore. But after a while I got tired and the panic set in. Luckily a fellow surfer helped me but it really freaked me out. I learnt though that panic is the worse thing you can do in a situation like that and avoiding the sea would’ve been a mistake. Luckily I got back in a couple of days later before I had time to talk myself out of it.

I didn’t surf bigger waves for a while after that, but slowly and surely over time, I built my confidence back up.

How nature can help us heal

The sea is an incredible healer for me. I can paddle out, gaze at the horizon and leave all my worries behind on land with no distractions. No one can disturb me out there. I can literally shut the world out for a couple of hours which I think is hugely important to everyone. We all need our own space and time, especially in such a busy, fast-paced world.

And then there’s the physical benefits. Surfing’s an all over body workout but to me it doesn’t feel like exercise. That’s hugely important to me. I think you’ve got to enjoy the exercise you do otherwise you won’t do it and it becomes a chore.

Nature and the wilderness can teach us so much about ourselves. It can teach us to be grateful, and to help us realise that we are part of a beautiful world that’s so much bigger than ourselves. It’s massively important to our physical and mental health, especially in times of uncertainty and chaos. Just getting outside and filling our lungs with fresh air can be just what we need to get us through day to day life.

Photo by: Megan Hemsworth

If you loved that and would love to see more from Kirsty or Megan, please check out the links at the top.

It’ll probably be the best thing you’ll do today!

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