Didn't manage to book that all-inclusive holiday to Fiji this year? Neither did our Instagram editor Amy Strode. But never fear, as she argues a Saturday morning in Farringdon is the next best thing, with new class, Surfset.
Last time I went surfing, I think I was approximately 12-years-old and probably a lot more spritely than a post-Friday night me nowadays. I learnt this within the first five minutes of the class.
To start, we were briefed on the different parts of our simulated surfboards by instructor Pierre, who has the air and hair (great beard) of someone who has just paddled into Gymbox straight from the Pacific. If gym equipment that doesn't resemble weights or treadmills seems odd or perhaps easy to you, think again! This class is as functional as any other workout and, despite being the breath of much-needed fresh air away from city smog, is far from a breeze.
The main trick to Surfset is maintaining steady balance – if you were to suddenly find yourself in the sea, would you be strong enough to compete with tides? This is much harder than you'd think. Once we'd limbered up with stretches – to, of course, a glorious, upbeat, beach soundtrack – the class got to grips with positioning. Turns out lying down, belly flat on a surfboard, was not an alternative for a lie-in that morning, as it takes a lot of effort to keep yourself from wobbling, which would have you tossed into the sea if you were really in water.
Positioned securely, not too close to nose or tail (front or back. Lingo-tick!), we worked on paddling, with long strokes and strength in the core (pretend swimming without wobbling – almost tick!). But, in the world of surfing, as relaxing as frolicking on a sandy beach can look, complacency is a no-no if you want good form. So onto the next stage of what would turn into a sequence to replicate real surfing movements.
At this point, it's fair to say, if you're about to go actual surfing in the actual ocean for the first time, this class is great, as you will get to learn your personal preferences and limits of your body before ending up more Jaws victim than Baywatch, when you hit the waves. Personally, I discovered that I was, as Pierre put it, "one of those weirdo surfers" who, when transitioning from lying to standing in one swift lunge-type manoeuvre, drives with the left leg at the nose end. On mastering standing (sort of), I suddenly had flashbacks of 12-year-old me battling North Devon tides, wind in my hair, the smell of saltwater in my nostrils... and a distinctive burning in my quads. Holding a squat on these boards is no mean feat, and we rock back and forth a little in this position before lowering back down onto the boards, paddling and repeating on our other, less dominant leg (a difficult test of co-ordination if you're a little groggy on a Saturday morning).
Between sections of the class, we worked on stretching and improving core strength, two significant factors in ensuring you stay afloat. This is where the class got tricky, if you thought you'd nailed a side plank in your Vinyasa yoga class, try doing the same on an uneven surface. Admittedly, I managed to lose balance quite ungracefully, but this is supposed to be a challenge, after all, the sea wouldn't wait for your abs to start working!
Despite the fact that the class had made me feel, like, totally groovy man (I don't think I qualify as cool enough to say that yet), by the end of it, I realised I was really breaking a sweat, which is obviously a good thing as a) it's a sign of hard work and an effective workout and, b) it tastes almost like the sea if you imagine hard enough.
Personally, I think everyone's a winner with this one – as with your body weight classes, Surfset targets strength throughout all the major muscle groups and, for those with more holistic-based preferences, there is focus on stretching and breathing- an obvious must if you do decide to mount a real surfboard. Also, structure of the session enabled the class to build confidence, stability and agility, as the sequence of transitional moves, were repeated in intervals, sort of like a sun salutation (but a more gnarly one of course).
I would really recommend the class for those seeking a new challenge in their workouts or between hardcore cardio as a refreshing pick-me-up. Or, if you just need a break from dull British summertime, get to your nearest class. On leaving Surfset, through the slight thigh and ab burn, I felt so renewed I was tempted to don my bikini on the Hammersmith and City line home with a coconut in hand.