What a swell party this is

Kristie Lau pushes humiliation aside for surfer-girl status.

Somebody has almost certainly peed in that wetsuit before, the charming Glenn assures me. I freeze in my tracks and collapse the top of my wetsuit down around my waist in a flash. Glenn is clutching his stomach, laughing at me and I glare at him with narrowed eyes; he thinks I'm a big-city princess. His laughter only makes me more determined to show him what I'm made of so I hold my breath and fiercely zip up the top of the wetsuit. "Let's go Glenn," I snap as he almost topples over with mirth.

Glenn tells me Terrigal Beach, on the Central Coast of NSW and about an hour and a half's drive from Sydney, is the spot for mastering the art of surfing. The breadth of the beach combined with mostly calm conditions froth up magical amateur waves. Plus, the pros avoid the area in search of far bigger beasts so you're learning without the pressure of an audience.

It's a sunny day and the esplanade is full of children slurping ice-cream cones and families waving off the seagulls eye balling their chips. It's a good thing they're all distracted because the foam surfboard I'm told to pick up is really quite heavy. My humility isn't saved as I struggle to drag the board along the sand towards the water. But I wonder if I'm quite ready to jump straight in; Glenn has quickly run me through the correct way in which to switch from tummy-down to standing up. I doubt I've nailed it but there he is, calling me in.

I'm concerned about small things like whether I'm standing on the right side of the board as I walk into the surf and whether the cord attached to my foot is strapped secure enough. Of course, I voice each of my concerns to poor Glenn. In true laid-back surfer style, he says: "Relax Kristie, you'll pick it up. Just get on the board; you're going to catch this wave."

I paddle as hard as I can and although I feel like I'm a little late on the wave, somehow it all comes together and I'm actually riding it. Obviously, standing up is another story.

Four more attempts and I can finally pull my feet up on the board. I stay up for a mammoth three seconds before my balance fails me and my body crashes into the water. But those three tiny seconds are exhilarating and Glenn's encouragement makes me all the more eager to paddle back out and give it another go.

I hit the five-second mark once or twice and as the session comes to an end, my muscles begin to ache like crazy. But the desire to better each previous attempt, to go one second longer or to gain a little extra control, keeps me motivated. In fact, it dawns on me why so many are passionate about the sport. It's all about perfecting your game and chasing the perfect wave.

Glenn and I return to the sand and he asks me whether I enjoyed myself. I nod enthusiastically. Enjoyed myself? I'll be signing with the world series as soon as I get back to Sydney.

The writer was a guest of Central Coast Surf School, Terrigal.

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