Jersey is an idyllic place to call home. Surrounded by some of the world’s most beautiful waters, islanders take every advantage to embrace the outdoors through a variety of water sports. But if you’re like me the idea of swimming in any sea, let alone Jersey, fills you with paralyzing fear. We may be rare, but ah bah crie, we land lubbers do exist in Jersey! It’s been close to 20 years since I ventured into the sea, so for my own good and the sake of my young son I booked onto a yoga and surf retreat to overcome my greatest fear.
The idea of the sea is very appealing; health benefits from swimming, spirituality from connecting with the ocean and, of course, who isn’t trying to recreate minimal effort surfer girl hair in the summer? I also hate to be beaten and consider myself Wonderwoman when it comes to most sporting challenges but the sea is definitely my kryptonite and perhaps in surfing I have finally met my match!
A fear of the sea is like any other and can be managed yourself through conditioning (associating the experience with a feel-good event to calm you in times of panic). Thinking of sex to overcome fear comes highly recommended. Doesn’t it always?! With experienced instructors at hand and sex therapy in mind, I was ready to take the plunge in the choppy waters of surf haven Ericeira, in Portugal.
A strong swell met us at our first session allowing some time to consider the task in hand. It was easy to conjure images of semi-naked men with exactly that parading before me; bronzed, toned, ruggedly handsome and dripping in sea water. When the waves finally died down, we took to the sea and after getting comfortable with the sensation of waves hitting me (a feeling as foreign as the language) I started to climatise and was ready for my board, thinking sexy thoughts!
Surfing itself was not the scary part. Good balance and a strong core enabled me to pop up on the board easily after a couple of attempts and having a skill to master distracted me from the elements. I found comfort in numbers, with a gaggle of girls flailing in the waters beside me who supported and cheered me on during our lesson. It was a rush when I emerged from the water thrilled that I’d finally conquered my fear.
By comparison, Stand Up Paddle-boarding was a much scarier beast. Deeper, murkier waters took away any kind of sense of achievement I thought I had earned and meant that I only made it onto my knees on the board after much persuasion not to turn around and head onshore after the first two minutes. Think sex! In a bed!! On dry land!!! At the end of a short session which seemed like an eternity I felt the tension melt away as we hit the shore and had to do my best to hold back from kissing the sand.
Following this knock back, further attempts to enter the surf were futile. With a stronger swell and talk of a pulling current, I felt an overwhelming sense of disappointment as I watched my friends tackle the waves through teary eyes clutching my board. Suddenly no amount of impure thoughts could coax me back into the sea.
SUP yoga was on the agenda the following day. “You do realise it’s only waist deep?” questioned the SUP instructor who sympathetically offered me a life jacket perhaps not quite understanding that my fear was not of drowning in clear shallow waters, but was just quite irrational. With terror grounding me to my board, my love of yoga allowed me to slowly relax and try some of the more difficult moves without worry of diving and in little time I found myself inverted and converted to the wonder of SUP yoga! My fears drifted away with the retreating tide, and I felt a sense of calm without even a thought of any carnal pleasures.
After a week of water based activities I’ve not returned to Jersey a mermaid and doubt that any prolonged period of exposure is going to make me a water babe. But I now know getting in the sea is manageable, something that requires work and what my limits are. You are unlikely to see me paddle-boarding across our shores, although I’m keen to hone my surf skills in calmer Jersey waves and would highly recommend the combination of yoga with sea to all long suffering thalassophobes. It was a fantastic, action-packed trip but I was ready to return home to the familiar beaches of Jersey and to my husband, feeling for some explicable reason extremely horny!