Surfing in Bamburgh with NE Surf School
We caught up with Emily, founder of NE Surf School in Bamburgh, Northumberland, to hear about her adventure from surf bum to surf school coach and what the outdoors means to her.
NE Surf School teach beginners to advanced, group lessons and private lessons. The school also runs projects in the community to make surfing more accessible and promote surfing for mental health.
Surfing in Northumberland
NE Surf School is based in Bamburgh, Northumberland, a coastal village with a pristine beach, drifting sand dunes, a magnificent castle and a great surfing community.
It's just amazing, the vast expanses of beaches with no one on them is just to die for. The community is really nice. The surf coaches are really friendly and everyone's happy when they come here. If you've not been here before and you're seeing it for the first time, it is genuinely mind blowing. I find it mind blowing and I see it every day.
Bamburgh Castle sits on a basalt outcropping overlooking the North Sea and is visible for miles around. The striking masterpiece was built in the 11th century by the Norman lord, Sir William de Percy. It has been the home of the Armstrong family since 1894, and today is open to the public as a popular tourist attraction.
The Castle features many impressive architectural features, such as a great hall, a chapel, a drawbridge, and several towers. Inside, there are many interesting artefacts and works of art on display, including arms and armour, tapestries, and paintings.
I was surfing yesterday at sunset, and when the light hits the castle in a certain way, it looks like a lego structure that's been picked up and placed there - it just does not look real.
I qualified as a teacher in 2019, taught in schools and noticed that kids who struggle with the classroom environment actually flourish when given a chance to to develop outdoor skills. If I can reach those kids through surfing lessons, I think I'm using my time more effectively and I'm also happier because I'm outside.
Every child should have the opportunity to develop a passion.
Generating a love for the outdoors for the next generation is so important and I think that we have to try more than when we were kids. Giving opportunities to as many children as possible, to get passionate about an activity that's inherently outdoors away from social media is important, because neglecting those opportunities is the root of a lot of mental health issues.
I was a little bit more uptight before I started surfing and more bothered about trying to control things that I couldn't control. I'm not saying that I'm totally chilled out now because I'm not, but since I started surfing, I'm able to react to things better in a more relaxed way.
If you take a big wipe out on a massive wave, you can panic and scratch for the surface and it's horrendous, but when you get to a point where you've done that and you've not hurt yourself, the next time you're just so much more relaxed when it happens.
Being able to deal with being scared, being in a situation you can't control and being able to get to a point where you can't necessarily control it, but you can work with that environment you can't control - being able to do that in the water can really help you to be able to do that in your personal life.
It's really important to have a space where people can just be present and enjoy something without there being some kind of next step or ulterior motive. With so many other things in life, it's always about what you're going to do next. Having something that is pointless is really beneficial. The only time that I don't think about anything is when I'm surfing, that's one of the great things about it.
Having that break from thinking about yourself and your own life and your own internal issues and struggles allows you to open your mind up to what really matters and what's really going on in the world and I think it gives you a lot of perspective. You can go into the surf worrying or stressing about something and then come out and realise that it wasn't that important.
I feel like I'm in control of my life. I think part of that comes with accepting that you can't control everything.
Learning to Surf
Learning to surf can be an extremely fun and rewarding experience. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you're getting started:
1. Start with a beginner-friendly board: Look for a board that is at least 9 feet long and has a wide nose and tail. A foam or soft top board is a good option for beginners because it is more buoyant and forgiving if you fall off.
2. Learn the basics on the beach: Before you hit the water, take some time to learn the basics of paddling, standing up, and balancing on the board.
3. Learn to read the waves: Look for waves that are breaking at a consistent and steady pace, as these will be easier to catch and ride. Try to avoid waves that are breaking too close to shore or in shallow water, as these can be dangerous.
Surfing lessons are so good because you don't need a lot. You need the sea and a bit of foam. It’s such a good sport to get into because you can be independent with it. You don't need to rely on someone else - you don't need to find a tennis partner. You can do something active, positive and fun for yourself, by yourself.
As a surf coach, I can see when I teach other people to surf, how someone can come with really little confidence and then over time, over a year or two of surfing, it completely changes their outlook in life.
If you’re not that interested in surfing, it probably doesn't seem that technical - it is just someone going out and coming back. But there are so many technical elements when you think about the tides and the wind and the swell. I remember hearing people talk about the conditions when I first started surfing and thinking; I will absolutely never understand what they're talking about and how what it looks like relates to what they're saying, but I guess over time, you do start to learn.
I can totally relate to being at a point where you might feel like giving up surfing lessons because it is really, really hard. Surfing is hard because you're not just learning a skill, you're learning how to read the conditions. You can have a trick in your mind on a skateboard and practice on a static bit of concrete, but in the sea, it's constantly changing. You have to actually catch the wave, so I think having really realistic goals with that is so important.
When you're learning to surf, you can look at people who make it look so effortless and compare yourself to them but you've got to be realistic and learn how to read the environment that you're in. Just being in the sea and missing every wave you go for is still progress because you're learning from that - take it in little steps.
You can start surfing at any age - there's no end point and you're almost always getting better. Even if you have physical limitations, there's so many different options.
Surfing in its essence is catching a wave so you don't have to be able to stand up to do that.
There's a really awesome community growing of people who are making surfing lessons more accessible to those with physical limitations.
There's so many different adaptations that you can make to a surfboard to make it more accessible. For example, putting handles on for someone who maybe doesn't have the strength to support their body or you can put a chair on a surfboard so that someone in a wheelchair with limited mobility can still enjoy surfing.
I feel totally at home, outdoors.
We support those who dedicate time to making the great outdoors more accessible and encouraging time in nature for mental health benefits. Nature has the power to nourish and heal and we strongly believe that people need the sanctuary of the outdoors more than ever before. Find your next home outdoors in the most spectacular glamping locations across the UK: