Blog | Surf’s up
Get your Scouts out on the water and discover this unique activity…
Though spring isn’t nearly warm enough for most people to venture into the waters of Cornwall, Explorer Scouts from throughout the District have gathered at Harlyn Bay beach on a chilly afternoon in February to brave the waves. Surfing is a side of Scouting we rarely see, but watching the Explorers enthusiastically sprint to the vast expanse of blue with their boards in tow, you can see why this is an activity that’s surely set to become a Scout classic.
‘Surfing is a unique Scout activity. It clears the cobwebs. Sitting out on the waves is an amazing feeling – there’s nothing quite like it.’ Simon Viles is District Explorer Scout Commissioner for Stenek Ha’n Mor District in Cornwall and he’s keen to spread the word about surfing…
Leaders and volunteers all over Cornwall are set on making Surfing a Scouting favourite. Sally Bartlett, a former Beaver and Cub parent and now Scout leader is very much a fan of surfing. ‘I’m not a seasoned pro – I sort of body board and scream!’, says Sally. ‘My love of water has grown so I now go in once a month – I love it. My son now also has the surfing bug and goes all weathers.’
Sally’s son, Harry, developed a passion for surfing through Scouts and is now keen on anything outdoors related. ‘I started to surf at surf camp – it was one of my first Scout camps and we stayed at Nine Ashes in Bodmin and travelled to Harlyn Bay,’ says Harry. ‘We had two days of surfing and I loved it from the minute we started.’
Now Harry is older and can drive, he and his friends chase the waves throughout Cornwall, travelling to the north coast to surfing hotspots like Polzeath, Perranporth or Hayle. ‘Riding a great wave all the way onto the beach is ace, as is meeting new people and making new friends,’ says Harry.
A Scouting essential
Though surfing may seem like an idyllic luxury for Scouts in Cornwall, it’s also a necessity. ‘Cornwall is stunning, but living in such a rural peninsula has its problems,’ says Simon. ‘For us to go anywhere is an epic journey – if we ever wanted to go to Gilwell 24 in London for example, the travel costs are really expensive.’
While most people think of Cornwall as being picturesque and idyllic, the county contains some of the most deprived areas in the UK, containing pockets of deprivation that are in the top 5% of the country – comparable to inner-city London, Manchester and Birmingham.
‘There’s not a lot of money down here at all – it’s not all beautiful harbours and beaches,’ says Simon. ‘But this is when something like surfing can be really important to young people. You can buy a relatively cheap second-hand board and a cheaper wetsuit and then that’s it – you just need to get to the beach. We also run surf events for £15 and the young people get all the equipment they need.’
Surfing for all
Simon makes sure that everyone can have a go at surfing, no matter what their ability. ‘A surf school instructor, for example, will take out a young person with additional needs and accompany them on the water. Everyone can experience this kind of fun.’
‘What’s great about Cornwall, is with the inland rivers, the transitional stages from Beavers to Cubs to Scouts are really easy to navigate when it comes to water activities,’ adds Sally. ‘You have the indoor pools for the younger Scouts – so they get that first feeling of what it feels like being on the sea and what being on a boat feels like in complete safety and in a less intimidating environment.’
To introduce some Scouts to the world of surfing, Simon recently took a group of Scouts to Retallack Spa and Resort in Cornwall to experience the FlowRider wave simulator, which gives everyone the chance to surf all year round.
Well and truly making surfing accessible to all, facilities like this side step the various restrictions with surfing in the ocean, such as weather, safety or lack of waves. And it’s not just Cornwall that others the chance to surf. There are facilities all over the UK that other water adventure, from indoor wave simulators to full-on surf schools.
There are schools in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England and surfing opportunities can be found in the most unlikely places. ‘I’ve surfed in north Scotland, south-west Wales and I know people that have surfed in Bournemouth,’ says Simon. ‘I’ve even surfed in Scarborough!’
Anyone and everyone can have a go at surfing and the rewards from getting out onto the water are seemingly endless. ‘There’s definitely something special about surfing,’ says Sally. ‘There’s nothing quite like it. You can really lose yourself and nothing else matters. It’s also amazing fun!’
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