I was sitting in a restaurant not long ago, wistfully staring at the beach of my newfound home in St. Agnes, Cornwall, when the mum of one of my oldest and dearest friends looked over at me and said – beaming smile upon her face:
Flashback to a childhood dream of rugged coastlines, golden-sands and salty, tangled hair. And I guess it was true – in many ways, I had kind of made it. To the starting line, at least, and with very tangled hair.
But my story didn’t begin here.
It began a little more inland, not so much on a rugged coastline but – in its own inimitable way – in a truly beautiful place: London. A city constantly humming with excitement; a city with opportunity on every corner; and a city that was for me – for a few years at least – a place I thought I belonged.
Having qualified as a physiotherapist from Oxford Brookes, and subsequently become a certified Pilates instructor, I moved to London to join the ‘Big City Life’. Work opportunities and lifelong friends drew me in; art, music, and nightlife kept me there.
It was all so exhilarating, for a while. But after a few years of burning the candle at both ends, I thought it time to re-evaluate. To think about what I was doing.
I had a great job. Soon to be turning 30. Wedding on the horizon. A number of life’s goals ticked off – but still, somehow, something was missing. Being honest with myself for a second, I realised this was not the place for me, not for the long run.
I was spending every spare moment escaping with my other half, chasing surf or other outdoor experiences, so – after some discussion, much wine and a slightly ‘shall-we-just-do-this’ attitude’ – we decided it was time for a change. Now was the time to leave.
With no jobs, but plenty of dreams – of where we could live, or what we could do – we packed up our things and, in January 2017, we moved to North Cornwall.
‘A cold and wet time to move’ – many said. ‘The beaches will be quiet’, ‘the running trails empty’ and ‘the waves un-populated’ – Sign. Us. Up!!
I have always loved surfing. From a young age, I dreamt of being one of those graceful surf-girls: sun-bleached hair riding waves like a pro – until reality hit. I have spent more time eating white-water than I care to remember, with multiple failed attempts to duck dive and fewer successes actually getting ‘out back’.
Yet thankfully, I have come to appreciate that surfing is about so much more than an image. It’s a part of life. It’s a place where the body and mind connect. It’s a challenge.
Still, I find it so hard! All these inspiring women who make it look effortless, beautiful, where I look more like a seal drowning in the waves. But I am happy, and I will get there.
In no small part thanks to some stoic will-power. But more so, Pilates.
I now understand that to be a good surfer, you need a few things. You need strength – both physical and mental. You need agility, and flexibility. Then – to really appreciate your time in the water – you need cardio fitness.
I have taught Pilates for many years and, since I have been surfing more, I have realised how many Pilates movements complement each aspect of surfing – from paddling to duck diving, popping-up to riding (perhaps one day carving!) waves.
Thoracic exercises have reduced my back-ache when paddling. Planks and push-ups have improved my pop-up. But most of all, Pilates has helped me connect body, mind and breath – to find relaxation in the moment, and a second to regain composure.
Which, as I recently found out, is much-needed now that I have finally made it out back!
Jenny lives in St. Agnes and works throughout Cornwall. Her unique, physio-led method is helping introduce surfers to the benefits of Pilates, tailoring bespoke Pilates repertoires to build strength, agility and flexibility.
Reach her at [email protected] to learn more, or drop by for a coffee at The Sorting Office!