Surf Camp with Yonder
Main text by Helen Entwisle
Photos: Tom Bing Photography
Ten years ago, soon after setting up home in Leeds with my then boyfriend and now husband Sam I became friends with a girl named Sally. We shared many interests including baking, sewing, delta blues, and gardening; both having a lot of respect for the natural world. Sally and her boyfriend Tom would often disappear out of the city at the weekend in their camper van, heading out to the coast in search of waves. They were both keen surfers and the draw to the water was getting stronger.
Fast forward a decade and a move to the north east Sally, Tom and baby Billy now live a two minute walk from the beautifully sandy Tynemouth beach and the North Sea. Sally has turned the wealth of surf knowledge she possesses into a new venture: ‘Yonder’, a surf school for women. Yonder involves lessons during the week when the waves are looking good and weekend camps in a variety of locations.
When Sally got in touch to invite us Wonderful Wild Women over for a weekend we jumped at the chance! An adventure in a place most of us hadn’t visited before (or since a chill New Year’s Day swim for me!) and a new challenge for us all having little or no surfing experience.
Here’s how we got on…
I’ve attempted surfing a few times since my first go when I was a teenager. But over the past 20 years I’ve tried a few more times and failed and usually returned to my bodyboard that didn’t scare me as much. The idea of a surf camp has always interested me but thought I’d have to trek down to Cornwall. I never knew the gorgeous place of Tynmouth existed on the east coast. Sally from Yonder was fantastic, her explanations and demos were great, she made the lesson fun and successful. I was up standing on the first lesson and loved it, finally feeling like I was progressing and not getting dumped on with every wave. She gave me tips to improve and move forward and I can’t wait to go back and pick up we’re I left off. Sally and Toms make you feel really welcome and I couldn’t recommend Yonder more.
Never one to turn down the opportunity to try something new, I jumped at the possibility of a surf camp with Yonder. However, like many of the others as the date came around I became nervous and apprehensive. It had been a very busy and rollercoaster of a couple of months and I hadn’t quite had the time to process all that was going on. However, once there the nerves very quickly dissolved! With the warmest of welcomes, chats and brews, for a brief moment I forgot we were there for a surf lesson – could have sat catching up all day!
There was a flurry of activity as we got changed and ready to hit the beach. We started with a warm up then Sally took us through the fundamentals, making sure we understood the foundations of catching the wave. Once in the sea the energy and excitement grew! We spent some time body boarding and learning to watch the swell and spot waves. Then it was time to move on to the pop… and standing up! I had been struggling with a bad lower back in the week leading up and I was feeling pretty protective of my body. Sally was great though, made me feel at ease and encouraged me to knee board if I was feeling any pain. After all, we were there to enjoy ourselves. By the end of the afternoon we were all reading the swell and catching some great waves! The weather conditions seemed perfect and the size of the waves were big enough to keep the adrenaline going but not too big that they were intimidating! It was such a fun afternoon seeing all the others catching the waves and we all had smiles from ear to ear!
I couldn’t recommend Yonder enough! Thank you Sally for your warmth and energy – it was an absolute pleasure to spend the weekend with you.
When presented with an opportunity to head across to Tynemouth to take part in a lady’s only surf camp with some of my best Lakes girl mates, how could I refuse? I’ve been a massive fan of the sea and being near it for many years after being taken to my Grandparents house on the South coast of the UK. It has this calming effect on me, the smell, the sights, being able to just reminisce on the hot summers and cooling off in the water always puts me in a better place.
Tynemouth had never been on my radar as a place to go surfing but as I arrived it became a lot more obvious that this was my kind of place. Even though we were a stone’s throw from Newcastle, there was a super chill vibe. It felt like a welcoming community and somewhere not solely set up for the tourist industry. Sally of Surf Yonder introduced us to her hometown like no other person possibly could. The first morning I was slightly apprehensive. Having set off from Cumbria at 6.30am perhaps my tiredness was the reason why I was nervous but probably more so the thought of spending all day in the North Sea. Sally, however, put us all completely at ease offering us coffee and toast to put a spring in our step and reassuring us that this was actually a very warm time of the year for the sea.
What I loved about our group was that it was very small, only 6 of us. It was easy to concentrate and listen to Sally as she is an absolute hive of information. Throughout the day we were able to pick up the basic principles of surfing, which was surprising and delightful at the same time. It was a super addictive process, as you just wanted to be able to perfect your technique every time. I can see that once you are able to stand up and get your timing dialled on the wave it would be a feeling like no other. Similar to feelings that I get when I snowboard or ride bikes, a state of flow. There were fleeting moments of this, where you think of nothing and experience pure joy and focus. It was also amazing to watch all my lovely friends as they went through the process too. It was cool to see their accomplishments and the smiles on their faces. I couldn’t help but feel grateful for these moments the weekend gave us.
Hanging out with my female friends on this surf camp was an experience that I will remember for years to come. As a girl who sometimes finds it hard to be in female company, it was very easy to be around them this weekend. I feel extremely privileged to have found women that I relate and resonate with and can feel relaxed around them. I also admired Sally’s can do attitude and her passion for women’s surfing and for women to succeed. I’ll hopefully be back at some point in the future as I think it is important to mix things up so as not to burn out completely.
I had the best weekend surfing with Sally. She’s an ace instructor- super fun, relaxed and provided her top tips just at the right time. I learnt heaps. Tom and Sally provided amazing, wholesome, tasty food which was perfect for after an energetic days surfing. I can’t wait to come back for more. Thank you!
When Helen suggested learning to surf I was immediately terrified and stupidly excited, I have always wanted to try surfing but am not a great swimmer and hate getting water up my nose, but the more I heard about Yonder and Sally the more excited and inspired I got.
We received the warmest welcome, almost as though we were part of the family, everything was so calm and supportive that without realising it we were already in the water, jumping through waves and body surfing, grinning like small excited children. The super thick wetsuits prevented that horrid cold shock of the North Sea and before long we were lying on the beach practicing how to stand up on a wave.
That afternoon all of us managed to actually surf waves standing up and the tips Sally gave were all exactly when you needed them, she is so experienced she could spot the tiniest thing which just made you able to surf. No one felt self-consious, even though we knew we were being photographed the whole time, but the slideshow that evening and the amazing pictures are proof that we all learnt to surf – and fell off a lot!
We were also treated to the beautiful film of Sally & Toms travels ‘Santiago to San Francisco’ . I felt inspired to try new things and appreciate the beauty of what is possible by this truly wonderful genuine lady and her family.
In the week leading up to our Yonder surf camp I too had feelings similar to Rosie- a mix of fear and nervous excitement! I’d been out of action for six weeks for health reasons, unable to swim or ride my bike. On the drive over to Tynemouth I felt quite apprehensive about my strength and current fitness level. As soon as we arrived I forgot the nerves and felt so happy to be back in the water and having a good catch up with Sally. It was good to be outside in motion after weeks of stillness and resting at home.
The weekend format of the camp worked so well, a great intro to surfing with plenty of time to practice standing up and learn how to read the waves. No rush, no pressure, just plenty of encouragement and fun! Sally talked us through the basics with time spent on the sand learning how and when to paddle and the process of standing up, followed by plenty of time in the water giving it all a go. The wetsuits, boots and gloves we wore were excellent, I didn’t feel cold in the water at all!
Sally’s husband Tom documented our progress taking photos throughout the day on Saturday. We got to see our attempts and reflect whilst watching the photos as a slideshow that evening in a great local venue. What a useful way to view our progress and see what we needed to improve upon. Such good photos Tom, thank you! I should also mention food at this point; Sally and Tom looked after us really well providing ace veggie food throughout the weekend and plenty of hot drinks and homemade cookies. Big thumbs up!
If surfing is an activity you’d like to try I can’t think of a better way to do so than with Yonder. A lesson or two with Sally and you’ll be well on your way to catching those waves. Look Tynemouth up on a map, its accessible and on a beautiful part of the north east coastline. You can find Yonder on Facebook, Instagram and at www.surfyonder.com
One last thank you from me to Sally for inviting us Wonderful Wild Women to experience a Yonder surf camp. I know we are all itching to get back over for another lesson with you soon! Thank you Sally, you are a true friend and a great teacher.