Feature Article- Beach Break in Bournemouth

Bournemouth- known for it’s stag-dos, shopping and sand. With the beach being it’s major tourist attraction, it’s not hard to see that it’s a popular place for the surfers of Bournemouth, but if people went to the beach early on a weekend morning, they might see a small group of surfers, all children, trying to learn this amazing profession. It’s hard to know what to expect unless you go there yourself.

Standing on the beach near the lit Boscombe pier at 10 o’clock in the morning is not a highly ideal way to start a Saturday. The weather, bitterly cold and even with six layers on you can’t keep the cutting winds from piercing your skin. The beach looks muggy with the sea a dark metallic shade of blue with the pale horizon miles in the distance. The beach seems remote with one elderly man a short distance away with an old metal detector and one or two middle-aged couples out walking their dogs, scurrying along to get out of the cold. However, huddled next the pier is a small group of children and parents, the children in their navy blue wetsuits waiting around with surf boards. The parents are all huddled together with the children in a sparse pattern with two young girls standing and gossiping about their school and the two young boys standing away from each other, waiting with their boards. All the groups are shivering with the children softly bouncing from one foot to the other, showing the effects of the cold weather and the brisk winds. It’s hard to endure this weather with each passing minute but these four children are here every week, exactly the same time.

These lessons are run by the small surfing company ‘Surf Steps’ for surfers of all abilities with just one requirement integrity. The mother to one student Jack Fulton, aged 13, says “These four are usually the ones here every Saturday. Jack loves surfing, even with the bitterly cold weather we’ve 2had recently”. It’s hard to understand why four children would give up a morning snuggled in front of the television for surfing in the blasting cold but the dedication is something that is to be admired. The instructor for the class, Andy Joyce, 37, is also happy with this turn-out. “I love how committed the kids are. They really put in the most effort they can and try to learn and have fun all together”. The weather has been record-breaking this last month all over the United Kingdom with temperatures in Bournemouth hitting as low as minus five and on the beach this is abundantly clear. When it’s time to get in the water, the two girls show each other a dis-heartened look but eventually follow their instructor. When they put their feet in the sea, they let out a squeal of shock which brings a smile to the parents faces and then the girls start laughing, almost hysterically at each other. It’s obvious that they are true friends. Andy Joyce is happy with the ratio of girls, especially as surfing is a sport which is typically dominated by men. “We see more girls turning up for lessons now which I think is brilliant. There are a lot of professional surfers who are women in tournaments now, I think that girls can benefit from these strong role models”. One such role model is the second teaching instructor, Emma Hedges, 27. “It’s important to show people that girls can be fearless as well. Lots of girls aren’t taken seriously with outdoor sports but it’s time to change that”. The classes are spared equally by both Andy and Emma, with the second class being taught at two o’clock in the afternoons and this teamwork has made them close as friends as well as business associates.

It’s difficult to maintain any kind of business in this economic recession that the united kingdom is experiencing, especially when you run a seasonal business such as surfing. “Our summer months are packed with new-comers. People drives for miles just to come for a lesson but the winter months are a completely different story. The winds are choppy and the weather can be unpredictable. It’s been difficult with the recession but we’re hoping to get through it as well as we can”, says Andy. This is the harsh reality of running a business, especially one with its peak hitting in the summer months. This has been the same for many sports in recent years. ‘Time’ magazine ,online at http://www.time.com/time/arts, reported a downturn of sports in America in 2008 and that the 3recession was making sports unreliable in a business sense. It’s always a shame to see business taking the financial rough-end of the troubled economic system but never-the-less, Andy and Emma take pride in the number of classes they hold in the winter months. The turn-out today is typical of a weekend class and the enthusiasm displayed by the children is nothing short of heroic.

As they begin mounting their boards, all the parents stay at the side of the beach, carefully watching over them. It seems as if they do not want to distract them but some can’t help but clap as their child rides the small waves. This class shows a small, but dedicated community. All the parents wait amongst themselves, holding towels and jackets over their hands for when their children come out of the chilling water. One has even brought a round of teas for the spectators to keep warm. As we stand there, it’s amazing to see Andy encourage the students through his simple instructions and by just retrieving their boards and making them try again when they fail to keep on a wave. He explained that he has been surfing almost thirty years and that it’s the patience that beginners need when trying something new. This is obvious when you see his relationship with his students. Overhearing him, he never patronizes them and continues to makes them laugh with comical impressions and slapstick humour. You can see the respect on the student’s faces. Jokingly, he tells me that his fellow instructor has a different approach. “Emma scares the children out of their wits! If you want something done right you go straight to her. I can never get anything pass her. If I phone in sick, she goes straight to Facebook to see if I was out the previous night!”. It could be this difference in character that makes them such a good team in a culture where business is being hit hard.

At the end of the session, the children are shivering hard in their wetsuits and struggling desperately to get their boards out of the sea and carry them up the sandy beach. Three of the children go breathlessly running straight to their parents, eager for the warming towel and cup of tea that awaits 4them. The eldest student holds back with the instructor, obviously exchanging boy-talk as Andy pats him on the back and they share a private joke. This small group of students, parents and instructors makes Bournemouth seem like a very collective community that makes a dedication and sticks to it, through literally wind and weather. These children seem too young to entirely commit to such a sport but they are here every week with the supportive parents who wait an hour on a deserted, Arctic beach just to watch over and be proud of them. If this town could really take the time, we’d all be proud to take part in such a supportive community that takes pride in its achievements no matter how big or small.

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