Lorcan HealySarah NelsonJohn McInerney
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OutdoorNI.com Does...Surfing with Long Line Surf School

Posted on May 8, 2012 @ 11:14 AM in AdventureBeaches

OutdoorNI.com does Surfing is the latest in our regular blog feature ‘OutdoorNI.com does…’ which is our opportunity to showcase the exciting outdoor activities available in Northern Ireland.

Find out how OutdoorNI.com’s Sarah Nelson got on when she embarked on an afternoon’s surfing with Long Line Surf School.

My family have spent many a year having a rainy picnic on the beach; mum and dad sheltered in the car while my sister and I body boarded the waves doing our best Baywatch impressions. However despite always heading straight for the sea on holidays and living with a beach on my doorstep for four years I have never actually had a go at surfing.

So when Long Line Surf School recently launched on the North Coast I couldn’t wait to have a go.  Based at Benone Beach, away from the hustle and bustle of the seaside towns Long Line Surf School is situated in the perfect natural setting for that chilled out vibe that comes hand in hand with the sport.  Long Line HQ – a purpose built distressed wood cabin situated right on the boardwalk beside Benone Tourism Complex adds to the whole surfing experience.  It is here where I and a few others who were taking part in the group session met our instructor for the lesson, head coach and owner of Long Line Surf School, Dan Lavery. 

After a warm welcome Dan kitted us out with wetsuits and booties before everyone had a quick change, eager to get to the beach.  We were also given stylish Long Line branded rash vests for over the top of our wetsuits – so at least for a few minutes I looked the part – however it’s safe to say any such illusions were soon to be shattered once I was in the water!

We were then introduced to our surf boards and buddied up to carry them a short distance along the board walk to the beach – a treat in itself with the stunning Binevenagh Mountain as the backdrop to our walk and indeed the whole lesson.  As we came through the grassy dunes there it was; a stunning 7 mile stretch of sandy beach complete with crashing waves making it easy to see why Northern Ireland is one of Europe’s premiere surf spots..

Once on the beach we had a brief safety chat where Dan assured us that we were in safe hands - all Long Line surf instructors are fully trained surf coaches with ASI (Academy of Surfing Instructors) and hold Beach Lifeguard qualifications.  Next it was time to get to grips with our boards and learn the lingo so we knew the correct terminology for the different parts. Before we knew it, it was time to hit the waves for some body boarding to get used to handling the boards in the water.   As we headed into the sea it didn’t take long for the first cold waves to heat up thanks to our cosy wetsuits. If it wasn’t for the dark clouds…and the rain… and the wind we could have almost been in Hawaii.  All joking aside the session proved you don’t need fantastic weather to head down to the beach – with the right equipment the chance to have a go at surfing is reason enough!

After about 15 minutes of experiencing the rush of the waves speeding us into the beach it was time to head back to the sand to learn the one thing crucial to surfing –learning how to stand up.  Dan gave us all a demo before we practiced the positions on our boards.  Just about managing to stand up on the security of dry land, I quickly came to the realisation that this whole standing up on the water thing mightn’t be as easy as it looks…Thankfully Dan helped us put everything into perspective, explaining how long the average surfer spends on their feet and that even if we managed to get on our knees that would be encouraging enough– although I couldn’t help but have the feeling that this was directed at some more than others!  He also took the time to show us what not to do – some great tips to try and save us the hassle of working it out the hard way. 

Now it was the moment we’d all been waiting for – the chance to have a go ourselves.  Armed with determination and my all important surf board I headed in.  After my first few attempts it was clear that ‘If at first you don’t succeed…’ was to become my personal mantra for the afternoon.  It didn’t take long to accept that I would be spending the majority of my time in the waves as supposed to riding them but luckily for me - falling in was half the fun!  I eventually managed to progress onto my knees – an achievement in itself.  Others in the group were a lot more successful with the majority managing to stand up so at least I was able to live vicariously, acting as an all important witness and joining in on the celebrations whenever somebody successfully stood up and rode into the shore.  

Dan spent his time in the water dividing his attention between us with an enthusiasm that quickly rubbed off on those taking part.  When he wasn’t giving us tips and shouts of encouragement he was taking footage on the schools Go-Pro camera.  This latest technology allows those priceless moments that are normally restricted to memory and forgotten with time to be captured for friends and family to see.  For the more serious surfers hoping to progress their skills this technology is also a great tool for analysing technique. Unfortunately I think the only thing any footage of me will be useful for is to serve as a reminder of what not to do.  Well, either that or for blackmail purposes!

Before I knew it Dan was giving the signal for one more go and I was reminded of my younger days when I would stubbornly object to such calls from my mum and dad however having realised this was not quite appropriate I headed in with the others.  To be honest my arms where pretty knackered anyway! Back at the cabin Dan put on some chilled music and we all got changed.  Throughout the whole session Long Line’s Surf School’s aim to ‘encourage a lifestyle... not just a sport’ was put into practice with an emphasis on having fun in a beautiful, stress free environment.  This was perfect for someone like me who doesn’t have a competitive bone in their body when it comes to sport (which is probably a good thing given my ‘surfing’ performance).  Saying that, there was still plenty of opportunity for those with a competitive nature to set their own personal challenges.

All in all it was a fantastic afternoon - if I had this much fun only getting half way there, then imagine what it will be like when I finally manage to stand up!  I will most definitely be rounding up a few mates and heading back for another lesson– even if it is in the hope that they will take the bad look of me!

Activity Provider:

Long Line Surf School 

Long Line Surf School is open all year round





From £25 per person – all specialist equipment provided

Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson  Marketing Officer

Sarah joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in 2011. A firm believer in giving anything a go at least once (unless it involves jumping out of a plane at 6,000ft!) she is always looking for new adventures in the outdoors and can often be found wandering the Mournes or Glens of Antrim attempting not to get lost!

2 comments have been posted in reply to this article

Posted by mccall gilfillan on May 9, 2012 @ 6:52 PM

yeah! go Dan! Long Lines Surf School is our new neighbour and Dan is a super instructor for all ages and abilities, a real assest to Downhill/Benone. -McCall, from Downhill Hostel aka THE beach house. www.downhillhostel.com

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