Do you want to go surfing this summer, but you’re a bit scared of the ocean? Well, it’s time to meet
Alison O’Halloran, from Salty Seas Surf School, a local woman who takes your breath away with her love of the ocean. You won’t be afraid of the sea after this.
WHEN DID YOU DEVELOP YOUR PASSION FOR THE OCEAN AND SURFING?
I grew up on a farm with three brothers seven kilometres out of Inverloch. As a young girl, I went to the beach every day in the summer from morning to night. Now I am extremely lucky to have my passion as a day job, teaching children, men and women to surf and connect to the ocean.
IF SOMEONE IS INTERESTED IN TAKING SURFING LESSONS, HOW DOES IT WORK?
First, first you make contact and book in. Then we arrange a time and place to meet. It’s easy to spot my Salty Seas van and know you’re at the right beach. The surfing lessons go for an hour and a half. I supply everything needed unless you have your own gear. You’re more than welcome to use your own equipment and board. I cover safety awareness along with the basic skills. It’s a fun and relaxing time as you acquire different techniques for the best success.
LET’S TALK ABOUT SURF SAFETY
The most important thing for me is sun protection. Following that it’s is important to go to places suitable for your capability. The choice of beach should cater to the youngest member in the family. For example, if you need a patrolled beach, then you must go to one with flags, indicating a lifeguard. You can always ask the locals where it is safe to have a fun day with your kids. If you’re under the guidance of a surf school, it’s their job to look after you.
HOW CAN ONE SPOT A RIP IN THE OCEAN?
The main thing I pass on to students is to know that a rip (current) is a specific kind of water current which can occur on any beaches with breaking waves. The rip area is where water is on its way out -via deeper channels and often appears flat. Its a myth that rips can drag you underwater but they can pull you out. Rips can happen in a flash at any time, the best thing to know is you can get out.
Swim towards the waves and let the wave take you in towards the beach. Even children can learn this rule, simply put; swim towards the waves and they will pull you in. For young families it is best to surf at a patrolled beach for that extra safety and support.
WHAT ARE THE SAFE LOCAL BEACHES?
Within our Bass Coast Shire zone, the safest surfing beach is definitely Inverloch, because it’s quite shallow. While it goes out quite far, it’s not rip prone. This makes it safe for kids to learn. Of course, any patrolled beach is best, but avoid large waves in the beginning. They can be dangerous. I recommend Cape Patterson as extremely safe. It is well patrolled and then you’ve got that lovely little rock pool. It goes from shallow to a little bit deeper so beginners can gradually get more confident. Mums can sit on the side of the rock pool and relax....
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SURFING?
It’s good for the body and mind. A day of surfing will lift you up. You learn to use the equipment and adjust to the wind. The sun is powerful, and you feel empowered. Think of what makes for a great day; surfing ticks all the boxes.
Navigating the ocean is unlike any other sport. While surfing, you use many different muscles to stay afloat. You’re trying to get your body moving, and sometimes it's not in your control. It depends on how fast you are going. When you finish, you feel amazing.
Beyond the physical, there is the benefit to the soul. Surfing gives you a spiritual connection to the sea. It is like you came from the ocean and now are going back to a place of freedom. I feel a sense of healing just walking into the water. I am in love with the ocean: it’s my happy place.
WHAT IF SOMEONE WANTS TO SURF BUT HAS A FEAR OF SURFING OR TAKING THAT FIRST CLASS?
So, you are taking a leap of faith and taking your first surf class. I have a lot of people who are looking to do something for themselves and their kids. Once they set a toe in the water, the fear is gone. Surfboard in hand, apprehension falls away. It is something about that need for survival and conquering the elements. Once in the ocean, you have stepped over that line. I make sure you feel that you are in a save zone in surf school. Beginners are the most scared and also those who have the most fun. They have no expectations of themselves...they think they are going to fail, and when they succeed, they just love it.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE BASS COAST BOARD RIDERS?
The Bass Coast Boardriders Club (BCBC) is a family-orientated club whose activities include surf days for all ages, competitions for the more serious surfers and a mother’s group. They aim to promote a sense of community among surfers in the Bass Coast area, setting up positive role models and a safe and supportive environment. Eight to ten years ago, it was a bit quiet, so the club was rejuvenated and took on a group of juniors, who are now seniors. These kids are now mentoring the younger Grom Squad (8+ years). Training is every second week, weather and surf conditions permitting. They have a buy, swap and sell meet event, a movie night and a junior and senior surf camp during the season. I get a lot of fulfillment watching the kids grow and develop in their surfing. Members have the opportunity to gain skills and qualifications and attend training courses with Surfing Victoria and Life Saving Victoria.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LOVE FOR THE INVERLOCH REGION
The reason Inverloch is my favourite beach is the energy of the surf. I think that’s what I like about it. And then you have a part of you that feels strong when you manage yourself in the water. The whole coastline is magnificent. We are so blessed. There are lots of nooks and crannies to get out of the wind. It is beautiful and you can still have a really nice quiet time. Here I can enjoy my passion. I hope it doesn’t get over developed; people need to respect it. It could use a few more bins and parking…
ANY EXCITING PROJECTS IN THE MIX?
Together with Max Wells we have created SUP programs for women in our region to be connect and be active in the water. A lot of women who join in come along solo not knowing many in the group and before they know it friendships blossom as they share the goal of keeping fit and healthy.
Together with Liz Donohue we have developed a Yoga Surf Camp. Liz focuses on the Yoga practice, particularly Yin Yoga; it's about slow movements and stretching and a great way to complete a day in the surf. It’s been really successful so far, we'l l be commencing more camps again after Christmas. Both Liz and I share the common goal of supporting women to joint in the adventure and embrace the ocean. You're never to old to learn how to surf and the benefits on body, mind and soul are endless.
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