Surf’s Up, School’s In!

Anyone can surf, according to Darryn Quigley and Harley Ingleby from the Solitary Islands Surf School, and these guys should know. Harley is a two-times world longboard champion and Darryn came from the demanding role of Sports Development Manager at Surfing WA; he also helped develop Vegemite SurfGroms. They have proven their belief with students from three years old to students in their late seventies. Coastbeat’s resident would-be grommet asked these two experienced surfers and teachers some gnarly questions about learning to surf.

Solitary Islands Surf School

Cb: I’m pleased to hear that anyone can surf because I’ve always thought it looks pretty cool. But just to be clear, do you need to be athletically gifted to enjoy surfing? (Please say no…)

Darryn: Definitely not! Yes, things can be easier if you are athletically gifted, but connection with the ocean comes from time in the water, always learning.

Cb: Do you need to be a strong swimmer?

Darryn: It is not essential but it is an advantage. We are lucky at the beaches we teach at as they are very flat and allow people to stay in a safe depth but still offer great long rides. Everyone has their own comfort area and we strongly recommend they stay in this area. Managing risk and varied abilities and strengths is the most important quality a good surf school needs.

Cb: Can you learn to surf in a day? I have a lot of writing and housekeeping to get done…

Darryn: Yes, you can stand up and ride waves in a day and develop basic ocean awareness skills. Lessons range from 1 hour to 1.5 hours

Cb: Excellent! I think I can schedule that. What do I need to bring to a lesson?

Darryn: Swimmers, towel, drinking water and a big smile with a positive attitude.

Cb: How do you pick a good break? I’ve heard that’s important.

Darryn: This varies for each person or group taking into consideration the age and ability. For a complete novice or learner, a good even sandbank where the waves spill over and run for a longer period is preferred. Minimal water movement with rips and sideways current helps offer optimal conditions.

Cb: Are the wind conditions important? (Do I sound like I know what I’m talking about?)

Darryn: The wind can play a major role in the conditions just like the tide. Stronger winds can create stronger currents or messy conditions and can also move novice surfers into not so safe areas of the ocean.

Cb: So many young Australians surf. What made you want to take it a step further to become a surf instructor?

Darryn: It started just as an opportunity to make a few dollars while I travelled, especially overseas. I always wanted to become a teacher, so I almost got there.

Cb: Can you remember the first lesson you ever gave?

Darryn: I actually can’t remember, but I can remember doing a lesson in the UK in March, with the water less then 10 degrees, a 5mm wetsuit on, boots, gloves and a hood. This combined with a north wind blowing so hard every part of my body hurt and thinking who is crazy enough to do lessons in this weather and actually pay for it.

Solitary Islands Surf School toes on the nose

Cb: Yes, we’re so lucky here in northern NSW! What’s been the most rewarding lesson you’ve ever given?

Darryn: Nearly all my lessons I give feel rewarding. It’s just being in the ocean and sharing waves.

Cb: What a great job — you sound like an into-it teacher to me. Can you remember your own first surf?

Darryn: I remember around the time; I was around three or four. I wasn’t too sure about this surf thing, but Dad was so stoked on it and I saw the joy it gave him, so I thought it must be alright.

Cb: What do you do when you can’t surf?

Darryn: To be honest, besides doing lessons, I don’t surf much at the moment. I have two-year-old twins and they take up all my time. I’m definitely not complaining as I love every minute with them.

Cb: Welcome to my world! So you understand the parent’s point of view: what are the most important things to remember for safety at the beach?

Darryn: Listen to lifeguards, swim between the flags, be respectful, understand your own ocean ability and make sure you stick to the waves and areas that suit. Don’t swim or surf alone and if in doubt stay out.

Solitary Island Surf School operates in the Coffs Harbour and Sawtell regions. You can find details here or by phoning 0438 561 370.