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What do I need?
While surfers in sunnier climes can happily take to the water without one, a wetsuit is essential if you're planning to brave the waters of the UK. What you buy will depend on the temperature of the water you plan to go in - will you surf only in the summer or winter as well? It can pay to ask for advice in a surfer shop. Though, if you're not ready to make a big investment, you could always look on eBay for a second-hand one.
Aside from a wetsuit, you'll obviously be needing a board. But don't buy one straight off - surf schools will rent you the necessary equipment giving you a taste of the sea. If you're bitten by the surfing bug, it's worth trying to find a second-hand board - a long board, between eight and 10 feet, is ideal as it provides a more stable platform, catches waves earlier allowing you more time to get to your feet, and is easier to paddle.
Whenever you surf, ensure that your leash is attached to your back foot (depending on your surfing stance) - it will keep the board close to you should you fall off and will not barrel into swimmers if you come a cropper!
The south west of England provides many of the UK's surf schools - Newquay in Cornwall is well-known for its surfing community and there are a host of surf schools that welcome all abilities and ages. The Devon coast also offers plenty of opportunities for beginners looking to try the sport for the first time. But across the country and in Wales and Scotland, there are excellent beaches for surfers and many will consequently boast expert surfing lessons.
What to expect?
Surfing lessons are a lot of fun but if you are self-conscious or nervous it's an idea to arrange that a group of friends join in. Before you even set foot in the water, your instructor will teach you the basics of how to properly lie on your board, paddling technique and control of the board, how to stand and various safety techniques. Once you have the safety and technical aspects mastered on the sand, you will take to the water to test your mettle... just don't expect miracles on your first or even second lesson.
If you are unsure whether you will take to surfing, why not try a one day course to begin with. If you take to it like, well... a duck to water, you can always return for a week-long break.
Remember, while surf lessons can make a big difference, you can't expect to catch a wave on your first trip to the beach. It takes time, practice and plenty of energy, so be prepared to stick with it!