“Exhilarating and addictive…”
That’s how UK-born, New Zealand-based Francesca D’Oriano describes the feeling of riding a wave.
Based out in Lyall Bay, the yoga instructor and founder of Wellington Ladies Learning to Surf has the ocean right at her doorstep, which provides more than enough motivation when the conditions are right.
“We’re so lucky out here [and] Lyall Bay is the perfect place for learning. For the complete beginner, the smallest one foot little wave and even whitewash is just enough to push you onto the board to stand on your feet.”
A much better surfer than she was two years ago, Francesca admits that while she may not be the world’s best surfer, the reason to start the club was purely to encourage other women to grow in confidence, and also, to have an immediate support team of women who are willing to go out together for organised and impromptu surfing sessions.
The women meet fairly regularly and Francesca organises yoga safaris where yoga is interspersed with the weekend’s surfing activities – much like yoga – surfing is best done without too much thinking, which Francesca adds, can be incredibly challenging when what you’re learning requires you do just that.
Dealing with the elements and different locations makes for other considerations which add yet another dimension to the sport: “You can be progressing one minute and then you go out to a brand new beach that you’ve never experienced before [and] the conditions are completely different, the waves are different and you feel like you’re learning all over again.“
Having attempted surfing some time ago with her husband, Francesca felt as if she had been thrown in the deep end – overwhelmed by the huge swells – her attempts to get back into the water had been quelled, and she developed a fear of waves. But, determined to get back on her board she has slowly but surely found her confidence again, but says, that because of the risk factors involved it is not a sport for the faint-hearted and it is more than likely that a certain kind of personality will be drawn to it.
“All the girls have a zest for experiencing life in all of its forms… you’ve got to have passion and a desire to push yourself forward, learn and build your own confidence… you can’t be one to give up easily, because you’ll get frustrated and you won’t progress.”
There are multifarious dimensions to surfing; the undeniable thrill factor, the social aspect; the challenge of obtaining new skills; facing fears and setting goals, and, when sitting out on the water waiting for the next wave, there is much pleasure to be had in being ‘at one’ with nature… and watching the sun go down.