Taken from Daily Mail 25th August 2009:
UK beach breaks: How I learned to surf like Jennifer Aniston (sort of) at wonderful West Wittering
By Chris Leadbeater
The English Channel looks rather inviting. I’m a little surprised. The midday sun is tripping across the surface, daubing a light golden sheen onto a body of water whose name normally conjures up mental images of murky blues and dank greens. At my feet, rippling wavelets inch casually up the damp slope and softly kiss the beach. It’s a summer Saturday afternoon on the South Coast and the setting is deeply picturesque.
Becalmed: Chris manages to keep upright near a surfboard. But sadly, on dry land
But then, I’m loitering on a deeply picturesque slice of British seafront. This is West Wittering Beach, an idyllic chunk of powder and pebbles that juts out from the base of West Sussex five miles south-west of Chichester (and ten west of Bognor Regis).
I glance to my right, and follow the curve of the shore as it stretches, pale and bumpy, into the near-distance – before ebbing into East Head, a sand-dune spit peppered with scrubby grass, where the land runs out in a delicate flick of the foot. Behind this, a slab of wetland plays host to a wealth of bird life – warblers, geese, herons and terns.
Ahead of me, meanwhile, the Isle Of Wight dominates the view, sitting squat and wide across the broad channel where ferries begin their voyages between Portsmouth and the Normandy ports. The whole scene is a firm riposte to those who think the English seaside is all rundown chip shops and shadowy gaming arcades – something that obviously isn’t lost on the families gathered in the shallows, swimming and paddling.
The latter pastime is why I’m here. But not ‘paddling’ in the sense of ‘trousers rolled up, wading through seaweed’. More like ‘paddling’ in the sense of ‘paddle surfing’. Or SUP – ‘stand-up paddle surfing’ – to use its exact name, a mix of surfing and kayaking that combines a huge 11-foot surfboard with a paddle that is hardly any shorter.
The basic idea is to stand on the board and push your way forward using the giant oar, rather like a gondolier who has ditched the formal clothes and boating hats of Venice for flip-flops and the tropical heat of Hawaii. It sounds an ungainly sort of activity, but paddle surfing is increasingly popular, largely because it provides a real work-out for just about every major area of the body – your arms via the paddling, your legs via the constant challenge of trying to stay upright, and everything else via the regular ordeal of having to drag yourself back onto the board once another wave has flipped you over.
That's more like it: Paddle surfing expert Simon Bassett shows how it should be done
The exercise factor probably explains why paddle surfing is a sport célèbre among the Hollywood glitterati. Jennifer Aniston is a devotee, Matt Damon has given it a go and Kate Hudson was photographed paddling off Malibu in February – although the fact that these A-list practitioners tend to hit the surf wearing strappy tops and tiny shorts (apart from Matt Damon, that is) is indication that they skip the falling-off stuff and go straight to the arm and leg tone-up. I, in contrast, am wearing a black wetsuit – in recognition of my status as an absolute beginner. Falling will clearly be on my agenda.
“Come on, these are ideal conditions,” my tutor promises, as we pad down the beach. Simon Bassett has been at home on a surfboard for over 30 years, and teaching those who aren’t for the last 20. He’s clad in a T-shirt and shorts, and has glasses perched at the end of his nose – the outfit of a man who falls into the sea as often as he visits the moon. Indeed, he doesn’t appear to notice the switch from solid to liquid as he pushes off and glides away with the serenity of a swan on a lake. I lower my board gently onto the water, put a foot in the middle – and go head-first into the brine.
So commences a two-hour session of trial and error. Mainly error. Soggy, pitiful error.
Jennifer Aniston is a big fan of surfing with a stick...
But after ten minutes we achieve a meagre element of progress, as I ‘master’ the art of hauling myself onto the board.
In another ten, I’m able to kneel up. And in another five I’m finally able to paddle, forcing the oversized navigational aid through water barely deep enough to cover the shells on the bottom, and moving in stuttering bursts.
“That’s good. Now let’s try standing,” Simon encourages. He sounds optimistic. He needs to. We’re approaching the hour mark before I’m able to raise myself to my full height. For a single pure moment, I’m perfectly poised at the centre of the board.
Then I dip my paddle into the sea, pull it backwards and lose both balance and dignity. A few metres away, a small boy in fish-shaped armbands eyes me as he might the early-morning drunkard he spies slumped over a park bench on his way to primary school.
By this juncture the tide has turned and the wind has decided to throw its considerable weight around, tearing towards the beach and dispatching choppy breakers across what, half an hour earlier, had been the proverbial millpond. Simon frowns. “It will be a struggle in this weather,” he says, politely glossing over the inconvenient truth that I’ve been struggling since we started. He has a point, though. Even forward motion from a kneeling position has become an impossible dream. What feels like weeks of forcible paddling has me believing that I’ve sweated my way to open water, far removed from the mocking stares of children. But when I look back – the muscles in my arms screaming for mercy – I’m still five horribly underwhelming yards from the shingle.
Just as I’m convinced that the only thing I will achieve is the certain knowledge that paddle surfing puts you through your paces more brutally than any trip to the gym, it happens. The wind takes a breather as I clamber to my feet for the last time, stifle a wobble, and plant the paddle into the sea on my left. One stroke. Another. A third, this time on the right. I wait for the tumble and the crash. Neither comes. I’m standing, and I’m forging ahead in a straight (ish) line. That (I quickly notice) I’m doing so in a metre, perhaps a metre-and-a-half, of water, is a technicality scarcely worth mentioning.
Family favourite: West Wittering Beach is a hugely popular West Sussex sunspot
“Well done. Good try,” says Simon, it seems sincerely. “A couple more lessons on a less blustery day, and you’ll definitely have it.” After two hours of getting to know the English Channel more closely than anyone could deem necessary, I don't have the energy to query his sunny (and completely bone-dry) opinion. But then I take another glance at my glorious surroundings and realise that, if I’m going to look foolish in the name of watersports, there are far less beautiful venues than West Wittering Beach…
Surfing specialists 2XS (01243 512552, www.2xs.co.uk) offer two-hour ‘Learn To Paddleboard’ courses at West Wittering Beach, for £45 per person. Sessions run until the end of October. Find on West Wittering Beach at www.westwitteringbeach.co.uk.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-1206384/UK-beach-breaks-How-I-learned-surf-like-Jennifer-Aniston-sort-wonderful-West-Wittering.html#ixzz0PrWYxQMS
Taken from The Observer Magazine:
Take to the water with the huge range of
watersports on offer by X-train, based
at West Wittering beach. Top-of-therange
kit, expert tuition and complete
safety cover, for all ages, is provided.
Modern wide-style equipment makes learning this
exciting sport easy. West Wittering is a great place
to learn, with a shallow tidal lagoon ideal for
beginners. Wide-style windsurf boards and
miniature rigs mean kids as young as five can try
a Ripper course. This three day course costs £175
with junior wetsuits and buoyancy aids included.
A Learn to Windsurf course for teenagers and
adults, including wetsuits and equipment, costs £120.
West Wittering windsurfing club, run by X-train,
is the oldest and largest in the country, with great
tuition, rescue boat cover, excellent equipment
hire packages, new showers and changing rooms.
The club offers a wide variety of membership
packages with a family paying £350 for the year.
To find out more tel 01243 512552.
After a two-day introductory course, using small
kites and big boards, you should have the hang of
the basics. Once again the lagoon is a perfect place
to start as surrounding sand bars will stop you
reaching the Isle of Wight!
Stand up paddleboarding (SUP)
This is the latest craze to hit the world of
watersports. Instead of lying on a surfboard, you
stand on it and paddle. A challenging fun sport,
good for core strength and balance. Courses cost £45 for two hours including wetsuits and
Surfing is physically challenging and heaps of fun
for all ages. Beginner’s lessons are on soft deck
long boards with a real emphasis on learning to
stand up to get that initial buzz. A Saturday surf
club for kids offers a mix of sports according to
conditions for £25.
For more information call 01243 513077, email
email@example.com or visit www.x-train.co.uk
An alternative location for surfing is Wittering
Surf School, affiliated to Wittering Surf Shop at
East Wittering. The school runs surf lessons using
qualified BSA instructors with beach lifeguards on
hand. A lesson costs £25, including board and
wetsuit, starting off with a beach-based session,
running through technique and safety with time
to get on the water and practise.
Lessons are for complete beginners or for more
advanced surfers who want to brush up on their
skills. Tel Nick or Lizzie on 01243 672292.
Shore Surf Club is one of the longest-running
surf clubs in the UK, also based at East Wittering
and welcomes new members. Visit www.shoresurfclub.co.uk
Kayaking and canoeing
A variety of courses are run at Cobnor Activity
Centre at Chidham and the adjoining Christian
Sailing Centre, both recognised by the British
Canoe Union. This year Cobnor has introduced
informal kayaking sessions on Saturday mornings
for beginners and others, with relaxed, goodquality
coaching. Sessions are for 12-year-olds
upwards. To reserve a place tel 01243 572791 by
the previous Wednesday.
Waterskiing and wakeboarding
Chichester Watersports Centre, based at
Westhampnett on a 40-acre lake, offers
waterskiing and wakeboarding for all abilities. A
half-hour beginner water-ski lesson costs £40, or if
you can do it already the cost per tow, including
buoyancy aid, is £20. Just for fun you can have a
banana ride or ringo ride starting from £15 for
one. Contact Toby Stalard on tel 01243 776439 or
Taken from www.thetraveleditor.com
A new way to work out... Paddle Surfing
As a watersports enthusiast, always keen to discover a new rush, I was intrigued by the latest craze of Stand-up Paddle Surfing or SUP to the uninitiated. This once pastime of Polynesian royalty, will be debuting at the Honda US Open of Surfing this year, show cased by some of the world's top surfers.
As I stepped on to the flat, golden sands, the sun beating down I could have quite easily been in Hawaii but this was West Wittering, West Sussex, home to 2XS.
SUP is currently riding the waves across the South West of England, popularized by celebs such as Jennifer Aniston. The basics of SUP are quick to learn and before long I was paddling proficiently across the calm lagoon of West Wittering beach, with only a thin sand bar between me and open sea.
SUP has many benefits, it's easier than surfing and of course far more versatile. What's more it gives you a great upper body work out, as I found out. Undoubtedly why Ms. Aniston and friends have jumped on board.
“You don't need waves, so any piece of flat water with do but catching waves is also easier with paddle surfing than with surfing.” said Simon Bassett owner of 2XS. “We take groups inland up the estuaries, where you can get amazingly close to the wild life.” continued Simon in between advising on ways to improve my technique.
While I paddle surfed around the lagoon, working on my abs and navigating around the occasional, struggling wind surfers, Simon turned his attention to my two boys aged 7 and 5. They were fully kitted out to try wind surfing for the first time. Both a little apprehensive around the water, Simon's expertise showed as he quickly gave them the taste of success and the experience of wind surfing in complete safety. Simon's contagious enthusiasm quickly lead to the boys progressing from nervously sitting on the board to windsurfing independently across the lagoon. Their smiles at their achievements were only eclipsed by the reward of sweeties Simon had stashed in his wetsuit.
With burning abs and a sense of achievement, we returned to the clubhouse and warm showers, secretly planning our next trip to 2XS, to brush up on my power kiting skills and try my hand at kitesurfing. The excitement even had Mummy musing about a beginners windsurfing lesson.....
Windsurfing - an activity for the whole family!
When you think about family days out probably the last thing you'd consider is windsurfing, but Simon Bassett, owner of 2XS seems to have come up with the perfect solution. “Many of my friends, keen surfers themselves, almost had to give up the sport when they had young families so when I saw a prototype windsurf for children in Hawaii, I just had to buy some” said Simon.
Simon now runs X-Train Ripper courses for kids at West Wittering beach, covering kayaking to power kiting and everything in between. You can imagine my boys excitement when I asked them whether they wanted to go wind surfing, having previously been confined to the sand. Neither are particularly confident swimmers but obviously the thought of riding the waves with the wind in their hair was enough to get over any fears. By the way did I mention my boys are just 5 and 7?
West Wittering is the perfect place to learn a new water sport, whatever your age, or fine tune your carve gybe. The Blue Flag beach and golden sands offer shallow waist-deep lagoons, at low tide, protected from the open sea by sand bars and waves at high tide, without the crowds. However, for children, learning a new sport with Simon takes on a whole new meaning.
“We try to avoid all the technical jargon with children. All they want to do is get on and have go. Everyone is used to kids whizzing down the mountain, fearless at the age of 3. Technique and finesse comes later. That's what we do here, we let them pick up the basics in a safe environment and without the pressure. We then start introducing the terms and help them develop an understanding” continued Simon. However, this isn't a sport where you can drop your children off and go for latte. Simon encourages everyone to get involved to help boost confidence and for additional safety so don't be surprised when you get handed a wet suit.
Fully kitted with wet suits, buoyancy aids and bright yellow 2XS bibs, we headed out across the flat sands at West Wittering to try our hand. The boys were bubbling with excitement although I was still slightly concerned that they'd bail out. However, with encouragement and the prospect of sweet rewards, Simon soon had my first boy up and surfing, grinning like a Cheshire cat, really looking the part. Gone was the fear, replaced by the thrill of doing a grown ups sport.
Number two was slightly more reluctant but after an hour, a water fight and a ride on the back of the paddle surf, he too was up and away. A real achievement and testament to Simon's teaching style. In my son's own words “It was really fun and easy”. Now how many adults would you expect to say that after 1 hour of windsurfing?
Taken from the Chichester Observer:
Paddles at the ready for new national event
Paddle boarder Simon Basset
Stand-Up paddle boarding is coming to West Sussex. It is a new sport that can be practised at the beach in surf conditions or as an endurance event over a distance, or just enjoyed as a way to paddle round, improve fitness and explore at sea or on inland waters and rivers.
The BSUPA have been set up to promote the sport, provide training, organise contests and provide member services and during 2008, the group are running a series of contests that will end in a UK national champion.
The first national event will be held at West Wittering beach, hosted by 2XS, on May 17 and 18. This will be a surf and distance event.
There will also be a SUP distance race from Brighton Pier to Worthing Pier this year, while the Isle of Wight Air Festival on September 20 and 21 will include a surf and distance event.
There will be two others events later in the year to be announced.
Alongside these will be a number of distance events for individuals.
BSUPA will also be working with other organisations to promote SUP riding, safety conduct and deal with any access issues on certain locations.
BSUPA membership provides third-party insurance, a free T-shirt, a car sticker, membership card and e-zine.
Members are able to enter any BSUPA competition.
Prices are £50 for a family membership, £37 for an adult, £25 for under-18s.
You can join online – follow the links to www.bsupa.org from this story in the sport section of www.chichester.co.uk –or call our membership hotline on 07752 398933, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
BSUPA has two key men and SUP enthusiasts living on the Manhood peninsula.
Matt Argyle is the secretary and deals with marketing and PR and can be contacted at email@example.com while Simon Bassett is the director of training and events (firstname.lastname@example.org)