In retrospect, sending someone with dual fears of deep water and waves to a surf camp may not have sounded like the best idea. In reality, it was the best thing that could have possibly happened.
The person in question is me. When I found out that I was heading to Star Surf Camps in Moliets, on the western coast of France, I was immediately filled with excitement – and with anxiety. I had gone for only one surf lesson before, and it had not been terribly successful, with me standing paralysed before the rolling waves, terrified for no easily grasped explanation at all.
The excitement overrode the fear and, soon, my departure day arrived. After a short flight from London Stansted, we emerged at Biarritz Airport.
The Moliets campsite is a short drive away from the airport; while we were making our way there, we passed small towns, forests and fields filled with lavender. I’d been to France before, but this part of the country felt more rural and more peaceful.
We soon arrived in Moliets. For most of the year, Moliets is a sleepy seaside town, bringing in only an inconsistent trickle of visitors. This, however, doesn’t extend to the peak summer season or to the nearby beach.
|The surf shops reign on the main drag in Moliets.|
|The waves roll in at Moliets beach.|
As soon as you get to the beach entrance, you’ll notice the steady sets of waves coming into shore, ranging from larger waves in the back to the white water breaking on the shoreline. Spaced out between all of these waves, you’ll see the surfers with their boards.
It’s because of these consistently good waves that many surfing schools have set up shop in the Moliets area.
To be specific, the kinds of waves you get here are particularly good for absolute beginners, and that’s where Star Surf Camps steps into the picture. With five surf camps situated in top surfing spots around the world (Moliets – France, Carcans – France, Taghazout – Morocco, Fuerteventura – Canary Islands, Nusa Lembongan – Bali), surfing enthusiasts can take advantage of all-inclusive packages in a bid to master the sport.
Eager to begin our own Star Surf experience, we arrived at camp, and I couldn’t help but instantly love everything I saw. Beyond the entrance, where the banner and surfboard bearing hand-drawn ‘welcomes’ in different languages drew me in, lay rows and rows of tents. Beyond these tents for sleeping, there’s the dining space, surfing equipment area and the party tent. Scattered throughout the campsite are several chill zones, complete with swings and hammocks. Being a camping enthusiast, I couldn’t wait to spend the next seven days here.
|Precisely what the chill-out zone should be used for!|
Students form a major part of the camp’s clientele, and surfing societies from four British universities joined us for our week at Star Surf. So, after everyone settled in, it was time for the first surfing lesson.
The camp provides boards and wetsuits. Getting both of these, we made our way down to the beach. The surfing classes tend to be small; we had eight people in ours, with two dedicated surf instructors for the week. Classes last for two hours each, although campgoers can pay for additional class time. If they’re feeling brave, people can grab boards and go surfing on their own.
We met Jamie and George, our instructors, on the beach. After some theory, where the structure of the longboards was explained to us, as well as some tips for paddling to get onto the waves, we were led into a warm up. From there, it was straight into the waves.
I’ll admit it, I was nervous. Even the smallest waves freak me out, but, with Jamie and George’s encouragement, it was hard not to get in there and try my best. We were taught how to stand on the board and begin to direct it while on the waves. The instructors provide endless tips and, once one of their students gets up on the board, they genuinely celebrate along with them after the ride. It’s an infectiously positive environment, and I loved the fact that there was absolutely zero judgment for how quickly/slowly you managed to pick up on the techniques.
By the end of that first two-hour session, I felt exhausted, but elated at having spent that much time in the water. Star Surf sets up a little area on the beach, along with umbrellas and a volleyball net, where people can chill out before and after their lessons. Flopping down ungracefully onto my towel, this is exactly what I planned to do. That, and to start my valiant attempt into coaxing some colour onto my London-appropriate ghostly white skin.
Beyond the daily surf lessons, there are twice-daily yoga classes, perfect for loosening up sore muscles. Run by the talented Jacquie, these sessions became a favourite with me.
|Yoga on the beach.|
It wasn’t all surf and meditation, though. The Moliets crew keeps the campgoers entertained with something different happening each evening. From drinking games to a sunset surf session followed by cheese and wine to tarp surfing (a game that involves, yes, a tarp as well as a skateboard) to a day trip out to nearby San Sebastian in Spain – it was a packed week of good times. After almost all of these, we would venture out to the bars just outside the campsite.
|Flunkyball, where good hand-eye coordination and quick drinking are the most desirable skills.|
|The sunset surf.|
|Fun and shenanigans at San Sebastian, Spain.|
Although our food was covered as part of the standard Star Surf package, we did take the time out to venture into Moliets, which is home to some excellent restaurants. Our favourite, which enticed us over not once, but twice, is La Cave Aux Moules, located on the main thoroughfare leading to the beach.
Perhaps an odd combination, but the next statement is entirely true: this restaurant serves some of the best mussels and the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. Washed down with some wine, we had two excellent evenings here.
As the end of the week drew closer and closer, I tried to pin down why I was dreading to leave.
Yes, I loved having the classes and I was definitely becoming smitten with Moliets itself, but that wasn’t quite it. Unsurprisingly, the answer came to me after yet another session in the water, when I was up at the camp laying in one of the rainbow-coloured hammocks.
Staring up at the tree canopies above me, I realised that what I loved most about the camp was the change of pace forced upon me. My normal life back home, full of errands to run and tasks to complete, just felt so very far away. Yes, we had stuff to do at camp every day, what with classes and evening fun, but there was so much time to just relax, to chat to people having the same experience – and misadventures – as you, and to simply take in the surroundings, from the pine forest of the camp to the beach, which is intersected by a fast-flowing river.
|The view from the hammock.|
|The river leading to Moliets beach.|
I have walked away from Star Surf Camps with so many happy memories, a sense of pride at having done the surf lessons and a number of people I’m privileged to now call my friends. I can’t recommend the Moliets camp enough; I’m already seriously considering my return visit.
As for the progress on my surfing – will I ever be a pro surfer? I can safely answer that in the negative. Did I get over my fears? Perhaps it wasn’t a complete conquering that went on, but I do know that I spent more time in water like that than I ever have before, and, towards the end of my stay there, this activity was accompanied by the biggest, goofiest grin you could ever see on my face.
I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.