Reflections on learning to surf

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Anna Cornfield.

I wanted to share this email I received with you all.

Unless you truly try to get to know someone you can never really know their story. We can put on brave faces and have the world and everyone think that everything is OK. By opening up and being honest about our struggles we allow others to connect, relate and be inspired. It’s been a real privilege getting to know Anna, every time I see her she cracks me up, she’s North East born and bred, she can sing any sea shanty going and can read a surf report as good as anyone I know, she’s an incredible asset to the surf community and though I’ve surfed with her lovely husband for many years now It wasn’t until I set Yonder up that I was lucky enough to meet her.

Through sharing stories like this with other people, hopefully Anna will help and inspire others in a similar position feel less alone perhaps. Annas story shows that that there can be many barriers to surfing or doing anything we really want to do, but whatever those barriers are, it is possible to find our own ways to overcome them and achieve our goals; hopefully inspiring others to do the same.

Mine and Annas journey into surfing was different, but I am glad that I was able to play a part in hers and hope to continue to do so, she has definitely been an inspiration to me. Everyones journey into surfing is different, It’s whatever gets you there that’s important.

“I have been trying to learn to surf for the past 5 years, and always seem to have made excuses as to why I can't do it: It's too cold, my wetsuit hurts, the boards too heavy, the leash feels weird, I'm not fit enough, the waves are too big, I just ate a banana, the waves are too small, I haven't got time, I'm too hungry!

I think in the end I was just making excuses because I'd lost all faith in myself that I would ever be able to do it. My husband tried so many times to teach me, but he's a good surfer and couldn't seem to comprehend why I couldn't do it, was getting exhausted and spontaneously combusting! He bought me a lesson with a local surf school with a really good reputation ran by one of his male friends. I didn't go. I think I was worried I'd be a laughing stock, and everyone would watch me fail, and also not understand if I started to cry and stomped off to make sand castles. Of course that wouldn’t be the case but that’s how I felt.

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I first heard about Yonder when I was pregnant, I was actually really gutted as I wanted to book there and then. Things were running through my mind like: they'll understand, it'll be full of like minded people, if she can do it then I can do it, i might make some friends, I'll be a really good surfer, I don't need make up, I'll turn into Steph Gilmore, how will I deal with my new found fame?!

After a horrendous pregnancy and a equally horrific birth, the bubble had just about burst, I couldn't walk, I was in and out of hospital, I couldn't stay awake and I had a tiny human that depended on me. No way did I think in 8 weeks time I'd be going on a surf lesson!

After the birth in November I'd been assigned to start cognitive behavioural therapy sessions in the new year, as I have suffered for the last 10 years with anxiety and depression. I was really struggling to motivate myself to do anything, leaving the house became difficult, wearing anything other than pyjamas wasn't an option, the idea of meeting friends brought on anxiety attacks. My therapist suggested I was stuck in a spiral the less I did > the less I wanted to do > the less I was able to do. She wanted to reverse it and asked me what motivated me? What did I enjoy doing? What are my favourite things? What would I like to do? She let me go away and have a think and I came back with a list:

Favourite things:

Crunchy nut clusters for breakfast

Wearing bright colours

My dog maui

The beach

The allotment

Obviously my new baby

Going shopping

Things I would like to do:

Leave the house on my own

Take the dog for a walk with pram

Go to metro centre

Learn to surf

Get up before 11am

Take the baby swimming

Meet friends for coffee

The first week I was really motivated and met up with quite a few friends, and started to get out of bed earlier knowing I had some yummy cereal waiting for me. I got in touch with Sally at Yonder surf school and booked on to a lesson for January 11th. I was excited, and enthusiastic but I felt i was pretty terrible at surfing ... Sally was very quick to remind me that I did just have a baby 2 months ago, so in reality I was practically super woman and the fact I'd got out of the house on my own, organised child care, pulled on a wetsuit and jumped into the North Sea in January was actually a massive accomplishment!

We are now in June and there is official video footage of me standing up on a surfboard! I've been going surfing or meeting with the girls I've met at least once a week. We have a social media group where we can all chat, organise events, exchange jokes and keep up with the surfing news. I hosted a surf movie night and really enjoyed spending time out of the water with a cool bunch of women, many of whom are mothers.

Sally inspired me to try surfing, even after 5 years of failing at it. By taking a leap of faith in myself I've improved my physical and mental health, gained some lovely new friends and felt accomplished and proud of myself. I was lucky enough to stumble on an opportunity to do these lessons and be able to afford to go. I think it is paramount that other women get to be part of "run by women for women" events and activities, especially in sectors that are predominantly male. I'd love to see more funding and lessons for teenage girls in BMX, skateboarding, skiing, motocross, cycling, snow sports, go karting, rock climbing and kayaking. It is our job as women to empower and inspire each other, and to ensure that movement gets stronger with each generation.

Yonder Surf