Walking on water: John Cooper dives into the world of surfing, and decides that the thrill of riding the waves lives up to the hype that surrounds the sport

In the film Point Break surfing is referred to as the 'source'. According to Californian lore, it is supposed to be an awesome, zen-like religious experience. I didn't believe the hype, so I decided to try it.

While waiting for the tide to change - this affects the 'sets' (the nature and frequency of the breaking waves) - the class was shown around a small surfboard production house by veteran surfer and instructor, Roger Mansfield.

By midday we were equipped with wetsuits and spongy surfboards (included in the price of the lesson). Beginners are given these because, as Roger explained, 'if you wipe out and this hits you on the head, it doesn't hurt'. The first 45 minutes of tuition involve heading to the beach to learn fundamental techniques like 'trim': optimum positioning on the board, and what to remember when paddling out to the surf: always hit the oncoming wave at 90 degrees 'or the surfboard's going to hit you in the face'.

After the beach lesson, it is time to put theory into action and experience the small, glassy swell (unaffected by wind, perfect for beginners). We walked towards the surf, holding the surfboard on the water, and once at knee-depth, lay on the surfboard, before paddling out into the surf. Roger instructed us to find an appropriate wave, turn the board around and paddle enthusiastically to catch the wave. The wave approached, I paddled, but it flipped me tail over nose. As a result of lying too far forward on the board, I had 'pearled', and consequently downed about a litre of brine. When this occurred again, Roger lost patience: 'That's not what you were doing on the beach and that's not what I taught you.'

On the next attempt my distribution was right and I was invigorated as the wave surged underneath the board, carrying me back to shore with its momentum. Gripping the board at chest level, I stood up slowly into a low crouch, then into the wide, low stance. I could only have been standing on the board for 10 seconds, but it felt like half an hour. It was unbelievable to watch the wave break underneath the board, being carried at what felt like an incredible pace. 'Stoked' is the finest surfbum description for the rush of standing on a fast breaking wave, with just a dense piece of foam between you and the water.

By the afternoon the tide had changed, and long rides on the board were out of the question, so we spent the afternoon practising the transition from lying to standing. By seven o'clock, after being filmed on camcorder so we could see our mistakes, the day's surfing was over.

Surfing is an experience so thrilling that it is hard to explain. It is an opportunity to forget your worries and cynicism, to be purely occupied with making the most of the waves. 'Experience is everything,' Roger explained. 'You're only as wise as the number of waves you've ridden,' he continued, saying that 'every wipe-out is a learning experience.' How could being pounded by waves and swallowing sea water be considered a learning experience? By four o'clock my attitude had changed, and I was looking forward to more wipe-outs and more lessons from the sea. I am not the only one: first-time surfers invariably come back for more. The consensus of my fellow pupils? Believe the hype.

Offshore Surfing Courses and Action Holidays, (0637-877083) 'Surfari' day's surfing pounds 35

Pro-Am Surf Contest 27-29 August, Fistral Beach, Newquay

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week