The experts' guide to summer: From getting fit for the beach to recreating that Olympic buzz

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How to surf like a Californian

By Emily Dugan

The real surfing pros make gliding along waves look as effortless as zipping up a wetsuit. But as any seasoned amateur will tell you, neither of these are as simple as they appear.

Let's start with the wetsuit. You're not going diving, so the zip goes at the back. Forget this and you risk getting an almighty chafe on your chest, not to mention a weird crotch bulge in the fabric where your bum is meant to be. Also, unless you're leaving the UK, don't go in without one. Trust me. It might be 30 degrees out, but the sea will still feel like an ice bath, and you'll end up fleeing to your car in a teeth-chattering frenzy after five minutes.

When picking a board for your first attempt, the bigger the better. All the cool kids might be standing on things that look like a cross between a tea tray and a toothpick, but if you want any hope of catching a wave, you want your watery steed to be the size of a small landing craft.

And finally, you need to find some water. Your best bet is a quietish spot, not too far from the shore, where you're not likely to crash into others. But not too quiet. If you're just starting out, a "secret" beach without a lifeguard is an invitation for a Baywatch plot-line without the relief of a scantily clad rescue at the end of it.

How to survive the Edinburgh Festival

By Holly Williams

For three weeks in August the Scottish city will be overtaken by hard-drinking comedians, southern culture vultures, students frantically flyering their dub-step version of Hamlet – and bewildered visitors sure that there's great stuff going on if only they could find it…

The art of semi-planning

Don't be paralysed by the fear of missing out. With thousands of shows, across hundreds of venues, you will miss something. The trick is to semi-plan: book five things in advance, by people you already like or acts who are hotly tipped. This will leave you relaxed enough to take punts on unknown shows. Some will be rubbish, but you might discover a total gem. Congratulations! You are now embodying the oft-trumpeted "spirit of the Fringe".

Semi-planning part two

Rent a flat with mates. Book it now. Even in May, it will be over-priced. Come August, it will also be over-crowded, when your cousin's-boyfriend's-friend needs somewhere to crash…

Adjust your (internal) clock

Edinburgh time is different: shows start at 2am. And drinking in a venue bar at that time is acceptable alternative entertainment. Fortunately, there's nothing to get up early for (except the odd breakfast show, where your dedication may be rewarded with a free croissant).

Dress for all weathers

It will rain. It will be inexplicably hot. The gap between the two will be perplexingly short. Venues will be icy/tropical. You might find yourself running up cobbled hills 18 times a day. So: comfy shoes; layers; raincoats. Don't worry about looking cool – you'll be surrounded by American tourists and people in mime outfits anyway.

How to mix the perfect summer cocktail

By Christopher Hirst

Sultry climes produce the best summer cocktails, both long and short. Of the former, the Tom Collins emerged in the 1870s to cool the stifling summers of pre-air-conditioned Manhattan. Despite the urge to gulp, the great cocktail writer David Embury insisted, "This is a long drink to be consumed slowly and with reverence and meditation." In a tall glass, stir 75ml gin, 30ml lemon juice, 20 ml sugar syrup (recipes on the web or buy gomme syrup, sold by many supermarkets and off-licences) with four large ice cubes, then top up with sparkling water.

Cuba is the birthplace of the favourite long cocktail of our own time. A diminutive of mojo (OED: "magic, the art of casting spells"), the mojito is an appropriately magical combination. In a tall glass, lightly bruise 10 mint leaves with handle of wooden spoon. Add 60ml white rum, 20ml fresh lime juice, 8ml sugar syrup. Half-fill with crushed ice and stir thoroughly. Top up with ice and sparkling water.

The same island produced the wonderful daiquiri. The original daiquiri was a short drink, heavenly as an aperitif. Add 60ml white rum, 15ml fresh lime juice and 8ml sugar syrup to a cocktail shaker with whole ice cubes. Shake and strain into a Martini glass.

How to organise the perfect picnic

By Bill Granger

I have mixed feelings about picnics. Part of me could swear that food tastes better outdoors, but at the same time I'm not a fan of trekking around a park carrying a million things.

When my girls were younger, it was easy just to pile everything on to the pram, which would double as a trolley, but these days I've come to the conclusion that the best picnics are simple affairs. In my book, all you need are a couple of things that can be transported easily and that you can eat with your hands. I'm not a great believer in using cutlery or plates on picnics – you just know someone's lunch will end up on the floor.

I'll usually make a huge sandwich, but rather than worry that it will go soggy, I take my inspiration from the classic French pan bagnat, a stuffed loaf that benefits from staying wrapped for a couple of hours, giving the bread plenty of time to soak up the dressing.

My current favourite is to split open a large ciabatta and fill it with oily salsa verde, green olives, shredded roast chicken and pieces of crispy bacon. I wrap it tightly in foil and let it do its thing. I'll then pack a few home-made individual pavlovas, a large tub of Greek yoghurt flavoured with desiccated coconut and honey, and some fresh fruit. Pack everything into your cool box then lay it out for everyone to help themselves.

How to get your summer reading sorted

By Katy Guest

If you're the type of traveller who likes to match your reading to your destination, you'd better be going north this summer. The internationally bestselling Swedish crime writer Camilla Lackberg's The Lost Boy was published in March; A Man in Love is the second volume of the controversial memoirs by the dashing Norwegian Karl Ove Knausgaard; and Someone to Watch Over Me, just out, has already seen Yrsa Sigurdardottir inevitably labelled "Iceland's answer to Stieg Larsson". (If Stieg Larsson is the answer, then what is the question? Ponder that over your reindeer steaks.)

Some more traditional destinations are represented in the summer's best fiction – but they might not make comfortable holiday reading. Lionel Shriver's Big Brother and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah explore obesity and racism in the US; and in Aminatta Forna's The Hired Man, the uncovering of a mosaic in Croatia exposes buried rifts.

Alternatively, try Writing Revolution, a collection of writing from the Arab Spring, for a rich immersion in places you might not want to visit right now.

And, if you must, visit Florence as depicted in Dan Brown's Inferno – but don't get carried away with all the secret passageways unless you fancy a long vacation at the hands of the Italian police.

How to choose a pair of sunglasses

By Rhiannon Harries

Deep in a university laboratory somewhere in the Midlands, scientists are beavering away on the formula for working out your perfect pair of sunglasses – a complex algorithm involving face shape, UV protection and the number of pairs you have lost or sat on to date.

Until they manage to nail that, it's best just to make your selection using the same criterion humans have been using since the invention of sunnies: "Do these make me look cool?"

The rules of this game, as demonstrated by perennially shaded slebs, used to be quite simple. The size of your sunnies was in inverse proportion to your quotient of talent or credibility. Ergo, ginormous bug-eyes for the Hiltons and Kardashians of this world; more diminutive retro specs for the Depps and Mosses.

Things are a lot less binary now, thanks partly to the appearance of attention-grabbing styles on the spring/summer high-fashion catwalks – oversized acetate styles or more delicate metal frames all came highly embellished with geometric patterns and flowers, even at grown-up labels such as Prada.

Classic aviators are the Ray-Bans du jour, but a gentle 1950s cat's eye is one of our favourite shapes for this summer. You'll find a version of the latter at every price range, from Dolce & Gabbana's luxe Sicilian Baroque collection to Asos's cheap and cheery frames – choose according to the likelihood of you crunching yours underfoot in your tent at Glasto. We're less sure about the current vogue for mirrored lenses, though – something of the Stanford prison experiment about them, which is hardly the vibe you want to channel on a lovely summer's day, now, is it?

How to get fit for the summer

By Alexandra Heminsley

The surest way to get fit for the summer is not to get fit for the summer, but during it. A bikini body is merely a body in a bikini, and a frenzied fortnight of sit-ups will change little. Instead of panicking, take advantage of the extra hours of light and try getting to know your neighbourhood on foot.

The fastest way to defeat is to Head Out for a Run: to blast your way to the end of the road at a sprint and half-drown in lactic acid. If you're a newcomer to running, try an app such as Get Running, which eases you in with audio directions between walking and running until you're ready to run non-stop.

Or – once hayfever's fluffy grip has loosened – try your local parks. Organisations such as parkrun.org.uk are an inspiration – not just for their open approach to running but for being a genuinely community-run event to which anyone is welcome.

If you can run about 5km by the end of the summer you'll head into autumn knowing that the grinning pleasure of gambolling through a park, sweating in neon accessories, is not a treat restricted to a few snatched sunny weekends, but a year-round thrill.

'Running Like a Girl' by Alexandra Heminsley (£12.99, Hutchinson) is out now

How to cope without the Olympics

By Mike Higgins

How do you recreate the spirit of 2012, when stranger greeted stranger with gripping news of clay-pigeon-shooting gold? Here's where you might find some glimpses of such collective sporting transcendence this summer, if you rummage around hard enough:

British & Irish Lions tour of Australia: 1 June to 6 July

Can the Lions repeat their feat of 1997 and overcome the Wallabies in their first tour of Oz since 2001? Do you care enough to spend three consecutive Saturday mornings in a pub staring between the heads of 120 burly men at a "big" (ie small) screen? You do? Wow.

Wimbledon: 24 June to 7 July

More worrying distractions from comfortably low expectations – in Andy Murray, we have a "slam winner"; and in Laura Robson, we have, well, if not a contender then someone who can emulate the intoxicating magic of Jo Durie. Bring. It. On. (Until. The. Semi. Final.)

The Ashes: 10 July to 25 August

Further Aussie opponentry, and the omens are worryingly good: with the victories of the past two series ringing in our ears, a ropey Australian squad, the unavoidable fact that England can bat and indeed bowl a bit… our boys are utterly, completely, horribly doomed.

World Athletics Championships: 10 to 18 August, Moscow

Mo! Jessica! That long-jump guy, you know, um… yeah, him! Farah will try to do the 5,000m and 10,000m double again, Ennis will hope to go one better than her 2011 World silver and fingers crossed, everyone, for Greg Rutherford, god love him.

How to wear shorts

By Hugh Montgomery

The issue of how to flash one's knees is as knobbly as they come. So here's a handy five-point guide to raising the hem:

1) Keep things tailored: which is to say, straight and above the knee rather than baggy and/or cargo.

2) Shorts, shirt and tie? Just don't do it. You may feel fashion-forward, but you will inevitably look like you're dressed for Sunday school.

3) Get a bumper pack of ankle socks: the obvious, but oft-ignored solution to the eternal socks/shorts conundrum.

4) Get colourful: because it's nice to release yourself from the black/brown/grey/beige legwear for three months a year. Might we recommend J.Crew's saturated Stanton cotton-twill range at mrporter.com, available in colours from cobalt blue to yellow via a fiery red, all at £65?

5) But save prints, whether plaid, palm or paisley, for the pool.

And, inevitably, 6) Ignore all the above, imagine you're Ryan Gosling, and accessorise whatever old pair of jogging shorts you happen to find in your wardrobe with an aura of puppyish nonchalance.

How to playlist the summer

By Simmy Richman

Agreed. The Daft Punk album is good. But you are eclectic and complex and your summer playlist needs to show all the workings of your inner world.

For imaginary lazy afternoons at home with the windows open, include a track or two of glitchy, heat-prickly electronica from the new Boards of Canada album (out early July).

Need something familiar while swinging on the porch hammock in your mind? Pick a corker from Country Soul Sisters Vol 2 (out 10 June).

Top-down driving on vast open roads that don't really exist (that's OK, you don't have a convertible either)? Rock out to this year's Alabama Shakes, the scruffily charming Hollis Brown.

But what if you should wake to find a real-life impromptu barbecue that requires a soundtrack that won't kill the vibe but will portray you as worldly and wise? Perhaps something esoteric and upbeat from the Crystal Fighters' Cave Rave (out next week)? Or stick with the ever-reliable Fela Kuti (The Best of the Black President 2, out now and containing the original 16-minute-plus version of "Sorrow, Tears and Blood").

Sick of the incessant shuffle? Problem solved. Shove on Tom Moulton Remixes: Philly Re-Grooved 3, 18 Daft-who?-classics – including the masterful "Be Thankful…" – from the father of the disco mix.

How to survive a camping weekend

By Laurence Earle

Camping is one of life's simplest pleasures. But that's not to say it's easy. Here's what I've learnt from four decades of weekending under canvas:

If the forecast is terrible, you don't have to go. It's all very well being British about it, but there are no prizes for sitting there shivering. Cancel and do something else instead.

A real fire provides magic as well as warmth. Frankly, it can be the best thing about the whole business. Seek out the relatively few sites – ukcampsites.co.uk and campfiresburning.org have details – that allow campfires.

Travel light, sure, but remember: some non-essential items really are worth the effort – comfy cushions, twinkly tealights, snuggly sheepskin rugs, proper coffee, decent red wine, chocolate…

Kids love a learning experience, so bring some books. OK, David Attenborough could probably busk it, but for most parents, a trip to the library for basic guides to stars, birds, wildflowers, butterflies, clouds etc will help fill in those gaps.

And finally, don't forget: marshmallows (for toasting), string (for bows and arrows), eye masks, earplugs, a corkscrew, your sense of humour.

How to look good in swimwear

By Rhiannon Harries

Ask yourself this: do you really enjoy swimming? All that nasty chlorine and salt? You do know you can cool off in your hotel shower, don't you? Forswear the waters for ever and the whole swimsuit issue becomes gloriously irrelevant. Seriously, just think about it. But if you insist on public bathing and haven't been called up for the Victoria's Secret show lately, bear in mind the following…

Pre-hols, don't spend too much time trying on swimwear. Checking that you have the right size, comparing the overall effect of several different styles – these are both good ideas. Scrutinising your rear view in a changing-room mirror for more than 30 seconds? Don't. Just don't. The human body is not engineered for a decent view of our own buttocks; if people aren't keeling over in horror as you stroll past on the beach, let that be good enough.

Counterintuitively, less can be more, so don't automatically opt for a one-piece or, worse, tankini because you didn't stick to that juice diet. An ample bottom looks way better in a mid-cut brief than in boy-shorts. Asos.com does nice, affordable mix-and-match separates and figleaves.com is good at styles for the more buxom bather.

The main enemy for looking good in swimwear – or any skimpy clothing – is motion. It is possible to arrange yourself attractively while static on a sunlounger; it's the long walk to the beach bar that's tricky. For this part of the swimwear drama, simple maxi dresses and playsuits in thin jersey and cotton play important supporting roles and look more contemporary as cover-ups than leopard-print kaftans or embroidered cheesecloth. Although our preferred option is still a sedan chair and some willing volunteers.

How to holiday like a politician

By Jane Merrick

Tony Blair had it easy. When he was prime minister, the economy was booming, so he was able to loll about on a yacht in the Med or kick off his flip-flops on Cliff Richard's veranda in Barbados. But since the inconvenient combination of austerity and the MPs' expenses scandal, the politician's holiday has been a fine balance between not looking like you're sunning yourself in luxury and not being forced to queue with the rest of us for a 4am Ryanair flight from Stansted.

You want a smattering of staycationing to show you're doing your bit for the British economy (see David Cameron wearing Boden in Cornwall) but also a bit of low-budget airline travel (Cameron again, flying to Ibiza by easyJet).

Dismissing your holiday destination as a routine tour of duty (Nick Clegg and his family go to stay with his in-laws) when in reality it's a luxury villa with pool and orangery is a must.

If you're trying to be the anti-politics guy, like Ed Miliband, meanwhile, let everyone know that you've turned your phone off for the stay (even though you're sitting on your hotel bed with your iPad lurking on Twitter or Googling "Ed Balls" when Justine's not looking).

How to spruce up your garden in an afternoon

By Emma Townshend

Take advantage of garden-centre offers But check before you buy: avoid temptations such as foxgloves, which flower once then die. Maximum impact for minimum buck comes from plants that will flower freely all summer long: penstemon, salvia, phlox, buddleia, marguerite daisies. Read the labels carefully for clematis and roses: they must be "repeat flowering". If you're spending on plants, consider adding an irrigation watering kit to the trolley, such as Hozelock's Automatic Holiday Watering System (£39.99, amazon.co.uk). It will repay the spend before you ever go away, with better, bigger flowers from grateful, steadily watered pots.

Sort out the seating There's no point having a garden if you don't have anywhere good to sit. No white plastic furniture, no matter how cheap it is at the supermarket. I apologise in advance for this, but you will later thank yourself for spending an afternoon queuing at Ikea: the Hogsten armchair (£80) is delicious, especially if you throw in the footstool (for another £20). On a tighter budget? Ikea's Haro is a sweet white metal table and four grass-green chairs, all in for £65.

Clean machine Last, but most essential. Get some proper scrubbing brushes with washing powder for patio and path surfaces. For really slimy furniture and paving, rent a pressure washer (HSS has a mini one for £29 a day – hss.com). Cut and feed the lawn. Question every bit of odd gardening tat that's ended up outside, and make at least one trip to the tip. If you don't have a car, at least bag it up and get it out. Now sit down, look at the flowers and have a cup of tea. Ahhhhh.

How to bluff your way through Le Tour

By Mike Higgins

Riding a bike is simple. The Tour de France is not – for those new to it, still heady with the victory last year of Sir Wiggo, its traditions, tactics and pleasures can still seem quite silly, really. But don't despair! Absorb the glossary below, and come 29 June and the opening stage, you'll at least know your domestique from your grimpeur.

Directeur sportif The team manager; occasionally seen screaming at his riders, head out of the passenger window of a heavily logo'd car, like a very angry dog.

Domestique Faithful team member, riding himself into the asphalt for the team. Or potential traitor, nursing obscure grievances and biding time before riding for glory at the most inconvenient and entertaining moment.

Soigneur Doesn't ride, but does just about everything else: from making sure the next hotel has Coco-Pops (team leader's total fave) to cheering up the team's suicidal Russian climber.

Peloton The main pack, wide when slow, thin when swift.

Le dandy Any British cyclist who a) appears more than once in the French newspapers during the Tour and b) manages to avoid putting on his sponsor's baseball cap back to front. And Bradley Wiggins.

Grimpeur A climber, notable for having the build of Gollum, but without his healthy pallor.

Panache To ride with panache is a French euphemism for being a bit of a head-banger, ie soldier on with a broken collarbone, dislocated hip and no brakes – pour l'equipe, n'est-ce pas?

How to not go to Glastonbury

By Hugh Montgomery

Being a sophisticated/lazy soul, you haven't got a ticket, natch. So here are some other ways to occupy yourself on that last weekend in June…

1) Revel in the music of fellow absentees, beginning with five full cycles of the new Daft Punk album and moving through Bowie, Prince and Madonna.

2) Prank-tweet: given that the majority of your Glastonbury-attendee friends will spend much of their weekend trying and failing to meet other attendee friends, feel a part of it by sending out fraudulent missives to "Meet in Shangri La by the flea burlesque in 5, ok?"

3) Go camping, Glasto-style: recreate/endure the most iconic aspect of the festival in your back garden using a tent with one pole missing and no manual; four bottles of warm vodka with an infusion of Coke; and three mysterious packets of sandwich ham, sans bread, beaded with sweat. Ask your neighbours to start playing psych-trance at 7am for added authenticity.

4) Declare yourself a conscientious Glastonbury objector: write a blog about this vis-a-vis the death of counterculture. Include the words: hospitality, yurts, Bono.

5) Find another event: may we recommend Brucie Springsteen, once again headlining Hyde Park's Hard Rock Calling on Sunday night?

How to have a right royal baby

By Rhiannon Harries

If you're not seven months' pregnant right now, then, like the old bikini diet, you probably should have started earlier. This is surely the summer to be welcoming a new arrival to the family, since almost every choice will have been made for you. The Moses basket, the blue Bugaboo, the Hayley Westenra lullaby album – heck, go the whole distance and take the name, too. Don't be bourgeois about gender; Elizabeth is lovely for a boy. At least then, when you read the inevitable countless headlines detailing the minutiae of the life of the third-in-line, your brain will be momentarily fooled into thinking that they have some vague relevance to you.

Of course, it's going to be tricky not to feel a tiny bit upstaged. Especially if you haven't got a legion of well-wishers waiting to greet you when you emerge from the hospital. Or Kim Kardashian sucking up as a fellow first-time mother with notes and gifts. Or a bespoke Beatrix Potter-themed nursery staffed by helpful bunnies and bluebirds. You will neither be able to beat nor join this kind of thing.

Rebel, we say. Forget the Bugaboo – steal a trolley from Asda. And how about a Sex Pistols-inspired theme for the nursery? After all, children – whether royals or commoners – inevitably create anarchy.

How to navigate blockbuster season

By Nicholas Barber

Don't quote me, but this summer's flashiest blockbusters could well be more intellectual than the Oscar-friendly dramas which are due in the winter. Man of Steel (14 June), for instance, is masterminded by Christopher Nolan, and it promises to be the most philosophical possible film about flying crime-fighters in skintight blue Lycra. Pacific Rim (12 July) has giant robots and monsters biffing each other, but it's directed by Guillermo del Toro, so it should have rather more substance and style than Transformers. Elysium (20 September), starring Matt Damon, has its share of cyborgs and explosions, but it's also Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to the coruscating District Nine.

And The World's End (19 July), courtesy of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, has laughs and midlife crises to go with its alien invaders. Be warned, though. After Earth (7 June) is directed by M Night Shyamalan, and his most recent attempt at a blockbuster was (ugh) The Last Airbender.

If in doubt, you can't go wrong with low-budget black-and-white comedy. Book now for Noah Baumbach's delightful Frances Ha (26 July) and Much Ado About Nothing (14 June), a sparkling modern-dress version shot in his own house by Joss Whedon.

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