Just stand up and take some waves

Would-be surf boarder Abi King takes the plunge with lessons – and a touch of lux­ury – in Por­tu­gal

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - GLOBE TROTTING -

HALF an hour into my first ever surf­ing les­son, and I am nail­ing it! Mar­lene, our teacher, has been show­ing us how to get from ly­ing on the board to stand­ing up, break­ing it down into three steps – push­ing up with the hands, get­ting on your feet, then fi­nally step­ping one leg for­wards into the full stand­ing po­si­tion – and I’m sail­ing through.

Granted, we haven’t ac­tu­ally got into the sea yet – you learn the ba­sics on sand first – but how dif­fer­ent can it be?

I’d re­ally hoped I’d be a nat­u­ral. You see, I’ve al­ways se­cretly fan­ta­sised about be­ing a surfer, so it seemed like fate when I fi­nally got the op­por­tu­nity to learn, on a long week­end-break at the new and achingly dreamy Surfers Lodge Peniche in Por­tu­gal.

‘You’ve got this,’ I tell my­self, lug­ging my board and smug grin into the wa­ter. Af­ter a few goes, get­ting used to clam­ber­ing on the board, pad­dling, then push­ing up, we’re ready to try and stand up.

But, as my class­mates some­how man­age to get up straight away, I rapidly come crash­ing into the choppy At­lantic Ocean, over and over again At the end of our three-hour les­son, I’m not sure what’s taken the big­gest bat­ter­ing: my pride or my body.

But de­spite all that, another wave is wash­ing over me, and this time, be­lieve it or not, it’s not wet and salty. It is the bliss­ful back­wash of sat­is­fac­tion. The eu­pho­ria of be­ing a grown-up, who’s spent the morn­ing play­ing in the sea, fi­nally do­ing some­thing I’ve al­ways dreamt of, and learn­ing (or at least at­tempt­ing to) a new skill. How cool is that?!

On day two, I’m de­ter­mined to crack it, but still aching and stiff from the first les­son, it’s even harder. I man­age to get on my feet for about three-quar­ters of a sec­ond – not ex­actly the life-chang­ing eureka mo­ment I’d been hop­ing for, but it’s a start, right?

“It was months be­fore I could prop­erly stand up,” Mar­lene tells me. Com­ing from some­body who even­tu­ally quit her day job to live the Charm and cool at the Surfers Lodge Peniche surfer dream, it’s re­as­sur­ing.

Still, in the cin­ema room at the Lodge later – where we watch video footage of our lessons to see where we’re go­ing right and wrong – I can’t help won­der­ing if I’d have more luck send­ing the film into You’ve Been Framed...

Dig­ging these digs

Nes­tled on the out­skirts of the Peniche penin­su­lar on Por­tu­gal’s mid-west coast, about 100km north of Lis­bon, Surfers Lodge Peniche opened last year. It’s founded by John Malmqvist, a for­mer Swedish surf champ (and if that sounds like an ano­maly – it is; John jokes that he’s surf­ing’s an­swer to the Ja­maican na­tional bobsled team), whose vi­sion was to cre­ate surf hol­i­days with a touch of com­fort and lux­ury, com­bined with bo­hemian cool.

There are other surf schools dot­ted nearby, but, when it comes to sleep­ing ar­range­ments and hos­pi­tal­ity, stan­dards tend to be ba­sic.

“But there are plenty of peo­ple who’ve reached a point where they want to surf, but they also want some­where nice and re­lax­ing to stay, and good food and wine,” says John.

The team’s done a great job mak­ing this a re­al­ity. With a stylish, bou­tique feel, up­cy­cled boat parts, flot­sam, vintage surf boards and old sepia photos, it’s homely too, and the am­bi­ence is what makes it a real win­ner; de­spite the lux­u­ries – the power showers, fluffy tow­els and rooftop pool and jacuzzi – that sense of ul­tra laid-back surfer cool re­mains.

There are 15 en-suite bed­rooms; nine twins and six dou­bles. Plus, two 12-sleeper dor­mi­to­ries mean big groups are catered for too.

Por­tu­gal has long at­tracted surfers and this re­gion is ideal for both be­gin­ners and pros – the fa­mous Su­per­tu­bos beach, where nu­mer­ous World Cham­pi­onships have been held, is just down the road. The two beaches a ten-minute walk from the Lodge are per­fect for in­ter­me­di­ate learn­ers and to­tal be­gin­ners.

Be­yond the surf

Surf­ing is the main ap­peal, but there are lots of other things to do here too. Two golf cour­ses, stand-up pad­dle board­ing, ten­nis courts and scuba div­ing can all be found nearby, while the Lodge also of­fers yoga, mas­sage, plus skate and bike rental – I had a lovely af­ter­noon ped­alling around. There are walk­ing trails too or a tour of the lo­cal Fa­tum surf board fac­tory or visit the Quinta do San­guin­hal vine­yards. It’s a 45-minute or so drive from the Lodge, but it’s ut­terly charm­ing and they do a su­perb rosé

It doesn’t have to be ac­tion-packed – the Lodge’s roof ter­race, com­plete with gi­ant cush­ions and hip­pie-style rugs, was made for loung­ing. Snug­gle up with a book or take a snooze in the af­ter­noon sun­shine.

Wine and dine

Qual­ity grub is what the Lodge’s kitchen’s striv­ing for; a mix of gourmet burgers, hearty sal­ads and melt-in­your-mouth cho­co­late desserts. But if you’d like to ven­ture out to eat as well, cafes dot­ted along the beaches are ideal for laid-back lunches, while, for a spe­cial din­ner, check out Res­tau­rante Nau dos Cor­vos – which is built right on the edge of the nearby Car­voeiro Cape cliffs – for top-notch seafood served with stun­ning views.

Left – Abi Jack­son learn­ing the moves and, above, a fel­low stu­den­ton the wa­ter dur­ing a Surfers Lodge Peniche surf les­son

PA Photo/www.luis­sil­va­cam­pos.com.

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