I have lived in the sea side towns of Brighton and Hove for nearly 5 years and there are a ton of water activities to be had. For me the want was always there to try them, but like most things time got away from me. (This is the gal who lived in Colorado for 3 years and never once went skiing or snowboarding.) but this year I was finally going to do it! With my best friend we headed over to the Hove Lagoon for a ladies taster day.
This was going to be a long day with four activities planned which included Windsurfing, SUP, Wake boarding, and finally SUP Yoga. (Yes that is really a thing) Eager to get started we made our way to the main cafe where we waited until our group was called to meet. After a quick breakfast to calm my nerves, we were brought outside to some park benches were we met our four instructors and then led to the wetsuit hire.
They were a bit worn, which is to be expected, but some had a few to many holes in them. but after a quick swap we found ourselves in a very narrow outdoor changing room with a few lockers. A little tip if you are going to visit during peak hours, try not to do what I did and have a large rucksack full of towels and change of clothes. The space is very limited. However that said the desk staff in the clubhouse had a spare room that we could keep it in and there was someone in there at all time. but still use at your discretion.
Wetsuits finally on we made our way to our first activity of wind surfing. what would quickly be a norm, we would have an on land demonstration then we would get into the pool. I will say windsurfing was the most complicated as you need to think about your stance and how to hold the sail to get it to work. Relieved it was our first activity as I personally was still awake and energy levels up, if I’m honest later in the day I may have struggled even more.
we all were assisted with our sails on how to attache to our boards and finally it was time for us to get in the water. The collected six of us slowly descended into the water and it was only cold on my feet (I had never worn a wetsuit) I was pleasantly surprised how comfortable it felt in the water. Then came the hard part, putting our land demonstrations into practice on the water. Now I am not the most flexible and my balance now in my out of shape state, is not on par. It used to be, and I’m working on it, but today was laughable as my ankles and knees wobbled like a loonytoons character. I stood up and immediately I was in the water. I shook it off knowing I would probably be the first person to fall in, and I was actually glad. That anxiety was out of the way now it was just getting back on again. To my relief the instructor saw my struggle and told me not to look at my feet but actually to a horizon that was still (its also good to do this when you feel sea sick by the way)
With this new nugget of information I already was finding my balance and was moving on to the sail raising technique. Looking over my best friend was taking to it like a duck to water, which didn’t surprise me as she always grew up around the sea, where as I have been a land baby, which would become even more apparent later in the day.
we ended the session with a bit of a race where one of us got on the wind surf board and the other pushed. I was eager to push as I had my Salomon Fellraiser shoes on which were very grippy and I could run against the rough lagoon floor. We were doing great and then it came to my turn to get on and I just got to excited and proceeded to fall backwards causing the sail to crash forward just nearly missing my friend. Lungs burning from swallowing to much sea water and apologising profusely, we both giggled and drug our board back to the group.
After a quick break next it was time for Stand Up Paddle boarding or SUP for short. This one actually seemed so much easier after our windsurfing lessons and the group giggled with delight. Once more we got on our boards and I was already feeling I was finding my sea legs and balance on these boards. It took me a bit to stand up and not be on my knees but once it came to the paddle part, all those years of canoeing at girl scout camp was coming back. I was enjoying my time and then the dreaded words came out of our instructors mouth. “Ok we are now going to cross over to the sea”
Let me just take a moment to give a little history on me. I grew up in middle America, dealing with tornadoes and mountains, thunderstorms and heat waves. I only saw the ocean for the first time when I was in high school and only lived close to it in my late 20’s and early 30’s. I am not the best swimmer, I can hold my own, but swimming in the sea is a whole different thing. Immediately sensing my terror my best friend tried to keep me calm and reassured that she would stay by my side. I was also pepping myself up that I could do it. Moving closer I was feeling calm, I mean what could go wrong? we had leads on our ankles so we wouldnt lose our boards, life jackets and an instructor. I pulled my board on the waves and belly flopped onto it and to my surprise found my knees quickly. But I was facing parallel with the tied, when you should be perpendicular, and before I could adjust I found myself thrown from the board, smacked in the face and knees in the pebbles. I tried to get up quickly and try again, but then another wave in quick succession knocked me over again and taking the air out of my lungs with it.
I will be the first to admit I was now in a blind panic. I was in no real danger of course but I was not used to the sea. My friend encouraged me to not force it and I didn’t need any convincing as I instinctively grabbed my board and walked back to the shore. Muttering “no no no” incoherently and holding a sob in my throat, the young instructor came over to see if I was OK. I told her I was not used to the sea and just couldn’t do it and would wait here until the others went out. She was very understanding but said she needed to be with the others, which was fine by me i was not expecting her nor my friend to stay with me. I was much safer (and calmer) on the land.
after that it was time for a much deserved lunch. The cafe had standard kind of food, but bless them on this day they seemed to be running out of a lot of stuff. I just had some chips and my mate had a lovely large potato salad. after a long and a bit of a delayed start it was time for SUP Yoga.
at this point I was ready for a bit of a relaxing activity. Now I have done maybe one or two yoga classes in my day, but that was like 2009 and I was a lot younger. So for me doing yoga on ground much less on a giant surf board was going to prove a challenge. We all meet up and paddled to a star like platform and hooked our boards in so they didn’t move. Doing various Warrior and Sun poses I actually found myself feeling a bit light headed and needed to take a break. I felt a bit embarrassed if I’m honest but i also didn’t want to force it. Luckily I was in a group of amazing ladies where we were all laughing and joking at this point so it wasn’t to bad. I know i wouldn’t have done well if there was a snob in the group. My poor mate had to head back to shore as she got pebbles in her wetsuit from her unfortunate nose dive with a SUP board when coming in from the sea. She was absolutely fine and laughing when we were struggling against the incoming tide to help her out. I got the feeling our poor instructor was probably happy to see us leave.
meanwhile back to yoga I was alway happy when it was time for child’s pose to catch my breath and just relax.
Earlier at lunch we had been informed that the line for wake boarding had been failing all day and the lagoon crew had been trying to get it ready for use to have our last session. But sadly it didn’t seem to be cooperating. so they offered us either raft building, which all of us turned our noses up at, even me who is a scout and usually likes that kind of stuff. Alternatively we were also offered to come back and do a learn to wake boarding sessions and another go at SUP on the sea (by that point i would have just chilled in the club house)
Luckily as I was in my child pose for like the 15th time trying to not pass out from all the deep controlled breathing I saw my mate waving to the group saying they fixed the line and we were going to be able to wake board.
paddling back to the Lagoon shore I was starting to really feel the fatigue in my body. You certainly get your moneys worth as each session is at least and hour and half, but I’m not used to so much balance and using muscle groups. But wake boarding i had been looking forward to the most.
we got different life vests and helmets and boards that strapped to your feet. Having the usual on land demonstrations this time we were told to keep our body completely limp and let the line pull you up. Now this may sound easy but it is a natural reaction in anyone to tense your body. Do this and you will immediately fall face first into the water.
the collective group was nervous and exhausted and when the instructor asked us who wanted to go first no one jumped at the chance. Then my mate was brave and decided to go first. GoPro in hand as this was the first time I could film, I captured her attempts back and forth. Fair play to her for being brave and first to go as it helped the group find the courage to start staying “I’ll have a go”
Finally it was my turn. I was doing all the steps in my head and the instructor was asking if i was ready. i felt the rope start to pull tighter but it was caught in my hand. again I panicked a bit and shouted “wait wait wait” but my trained instructor already noticed and stoped the pulley. after a false start I finally felt the rope go taught and then let my body go loose. I was actually able to stand up and everything for about 15 seconds, which I was very happy about, but then the second time my foot came loose in the bindings. after some instruction on how to get it tighter again while in water I had a few more goes, but I was exhausted and decided to cut mine a bit short just like my mate.
after all the other ladies had their go, we had one final treat of a doughnut inflatable attached to the line and it being pulled really fast on the wake boarding line. My mate had seen it earlier that day and was hell bent she was going to ride it, and sure enough after some talking to the instructor they said yes!
Sun now setting it was time to say goodbye to the group, taking one last group photo and then stripping our wetsuits and getting into some much wanted dry clothes. Overall I would say I was very happy with the day. I will say it is ALOT to take on in one day if you aren’t in the best shape, but actually you will probably be in good company. There isnt a lot of lockers or facilities when these taster days happen, however the desk staff were alway patient and willing to put the bags behind the desk where someone was always there. of course like anything it was “at your own risk.”
I would say my favourite experience that I would do again was the SUP. and one day i will got back and do it out in the sea. but in the mean time i might do it on a calm lake first but thats the point of this taster day was to introduce you to the sports and see how you feel. I would also suggest getting the inflatable ones (its more study then that sounds) compared to the carbon fibre ones. I had both boards and thats my preference.
But overall a wonderful day and I would suggest this to anyone.