Learning to surf was pretty high on my list of things to do in Australia, but I somehow managed to spend three months travelling around Queensland without getting around to it. When I arrived in Agnes Water – the laid-back, hippie surf town, and most northerly point you can surf on Australia’s east coast – I knew that I had to book a lesson before I left!
The hostel where I was working in return for free accommodation – Backpackers@1770 – had links with two of the surf schools in Agnes Water; Lazy Lizard and Reef 2 Beach. After chatting to some of the staff and other guests who had already been out on a lesson, I decided to go for the smaller group size and Springs Beach location offered by Lazy Lizard Surf School.
On a very hot Thursday afternoon at 2pm, Tom from Lazy Lizard picked me up from outside the hostel entrance in the surf school’s mini-van. There were a few people already inside but, even after we quickly collected a few more backpackers from the other hostels in town, our group was still small…and a complete mix! I had been worried that I would be the only person who had never tried surfing before…but there were lots of other beginners!
Aside from a couple of girls who said they’d previously had lessons, and one who had done a bit of surfing in Bali, the rest of us were complete novices. We chatted in the van as we drove the short distance to the Springs Beach turnoff and rattled our way up the rough road to the beach’s carpark. Another surf school had just finished their lesson for the day and were packing up as we arrived, but apart from that, we seemed to be the only people around.
Tom – our so-laid-back-he-was-almost-horizontal surf instructor – unloaded the boards from the van, handed out stinger suits and told us to make our way down to the beach. Unlike the main beach in Agnes Water, getting to Springs Beach is a bit of a walk…which is relatively easy on the way there (it’s completely downhill!) but fairly difficult to walk back up…especially after five hours of surfing and if you’re not used to carrying a board!
Springs Beach is beautiful – a long stretch of white sand backed by Australian bush, with a curved bay at the far-right hand side. Tom told us to make for a shaded spot under one of the trees and to get our boards out, and lined up on the beach. The girls who had surfed before headed straight into the water, while the rest of us novices began the first part of the lesson – beach surfing! Tom demonstrated how to position ourselves on the boards, the correct placement for our feet and how to stand up. He gave an extra hand to those who were still unsure after his demonstration and then…in no time…we were in the water!
At first, everyone’s main concern was just getting out far enough beyond the waves that seemed determined to push us back towards the beach. We were told later it wasn’t a particularly easy day to learn to surf because of the small, “dumpy” waves, but most of us eventually managed to get out and to stay relatively in a line, like we had been instructed to do. Tom went between us, one-by-one, and gave those who needed a bit of extra power behind them a push off on waves.
I tried to stand up too early a couple of times (and completely failed!), to which Tom shouted over to me “Don’t try so hard, you have to feel the power of the wave first” After managing to get onto my knees a couple of times, I finally stood up and rode my first ever wave! The feeling was incredible…and I was totally hooked! No matter how many times I crashed out, I just kept going back for another wave…
I managed to stand up a couple of times but, in the end, the number didn’t matter…I was just having way, WAY too much fun to care! I didn’t even realise that we’d been in the water for three hours when I got out to grab a drink of water (surfing is thirsty work!) and we ended up having another two more hours of surfing after that – staying long enough to catch the beautiful colours of the sunset over Springs Beach.
When Tom said it was time to go, everyone was happy but exhausted! The walk back up to the van was slow and mostly silent, and by the time I was dropped back off the hostel, all I wanted was a cold beer and to go to bed! When I woke up the next day, I had a bruised hip, tired arms and a few scrapes, but I was still on a total high! I might have a lot of Australia left to see and experience, but learning to surf in Agnes Water was one of those perfect Queenslander days I know I’ll never forget…
Learning to Surf in Agnes Water – Need to Know
getting there & away:
- Agnes Water is located on Australia’s east coast, and is the closest access point to the Southern Great Barrier Reef.
- If you’re coming by car, Agnes Water is a six-hour drive north from Brisbane, or a 14-hour drive south if you are coming from Cairns. The closest large towns and cities are Bundaberg and Gladstone – which are each a 90 minute drive-away.
- Greyhound Australia runs coach services to and from Agnes Water from the all of the major stops on the east coast.
- Agnes Water also has a small, regional airport for anyone who wants to splash out and fly in!
WHERE TO STAY:
- I stayed at Backpackers@1770, which has a brilliant central location for the beach and supermarkets, a really, really laidback feel and some lovely people. I paid $26 for a ten-bed dorm on the first night and then I worked around two hours per day for free accommodation.
- If you’re looking for something less backpacker and more boutique, Lagoons 1770 Resort & Spa offers Executive King Studios from $179.
- If you have a campervan – or car and tent – you can also stay at Agnes Water Beach Caravan Park where prices for sites start from $30/night in off-peak season.
- Lazy Lizard Surf School offers four hour lessons for $22 (although ours lasted longer than this!). The price includes hostel pick up and drop off and stinger suits.
- Lessons from Reef 2 Beach Surf School cost $17 and have a photographer available if you want to purchase photos of your first ever wave!
- Gnarly Tours also offer surf lessons in Agnes Water for $20 a day
Have you learned to surf in Australia? I’d love to hear about some of the other places that are great for beginners and your experiences of surf schools! Leave a comment below!
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