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Deborah C Dooley Headshot

Board in Devon

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There can be few things more pleasant in this life than reclining on a beautiful beach, and surveying white crested waves dotted with those black shiny suited acrobats of the sea.
Not dolphins. Surfers.

Surfing is one of Devon's greatest lures. Its glorious coastline produces some of the world's finest waves. And thanks to cleverly designed modern wetsuit material, dedicated (and hardy) surfers can now ride their boards virtually all year round.

Nobody quite knows how it all it started, but what we do know is that the Polynesians were surfing way before the Europeans ever considered it. The Hawaians called it he'e nalu, meaning wave sliding - which seems a pretty fair description. Although they initially regarded it as more of an art than a recreation, first praying to the gods for protection (which seems eminently sensible). In 1821, however, missionaries from Scotland and Germany fetched up uninvited in these parts of the world and forbade the practice of surfing, along with a whole host of other Polynesian traditions.

This was presumably on the grounds that anything which looked that much fun must be sinful - what bores they were. Thankfully however, you can't keep a good sport down and surfing soon re-surfaced. In the manner of all thoroughly good things, it has stood the test of time ever since and by the time the Beach Boys were crooning so beautifully about the wonders of wave-linked stuff, surfing had firmly established its place in history as possibly one of the best things to happen to the human race since the cream tea. The advent of fibreglass boards in the 40s and 50s hugely increased the surfing potential of even the biggest waves. And since then there have been numerous advances in the shape and design of boards, allowing surfing to advance into previously unthinkeable realms of athleticism and daring.

I should point out here, that even if, like me, you have no hope in hell of ever surfing properly - ie standing up on a board, all is not lost. You can take a nice comfy polystyrene board out just far enough so that the waves are choppy (but not scary), point yourself in the direction of the beach, and, just as the next wave approaches, hurl yourself flat onto your board. Shrieking is perfectly permissible at this point, but your cries will be of joy as you and your board hurtle smoothly along, finishing up in the shallows - tousled and happy. (Purists will call this belly boarding, but whatever, dude.) Trust me, it's the most enormous fun, with bonus that there's no risk of that unpleasant phenomenon called a wipe out, where you and your board go right under and a lot of seawater goes up your nose.

If however, you want to have a bash at the standing up variety, you're in luck. Surfing lessons are on offer throughout Devon, taught efficiently and safely by charming young people with fantastic tans, great teeth, and beach hair. Giving you something nice to focus on while you're practising.
Watching surfing is wonderful. Doing it - standing, lying or simply clinging - is even better.
Writing about it works well, too.