From Bondi beach to Bahrain, Cheryl Rodrigues has come a long way trying to conquer small waves and big fears
Australia is a great place for an adventure holiday, especially if you’re a thrill seeker. I took a trip Down Under a few years ago, lazed around on Bondi beach with a few good reads, admiring demi-god like surf warriors battling voluminous, curling waves with ease and panache.
I was so impressed, I wanted to learn to catch a few waves myself. But, as I went to try, the inevitable happened: Dreadful scenes from Spielberg’s cult thriller Jaws flashed before my eyes. My chivalrous face became as white-washed as the imagined great white shark surely lurking in the waters beneath. I certainly didn’t want to be a Happy Meal for Australia’s infamous predators.
So, selachophobia (the fancy way of saying “fear of sharks”) getting the better of me, I have since avoided any similar surfing situations. That is, until now.
Years later, in Bahrain, I’m asked to confront the fear again, as I am invited to Wahooo! Water Park to take a surfing lesson at their surf point aptly called Flowrider. With no sharks and no currents, I feel more positive than I did that fateful afternoon in Oz, although my recently expanded waistline causes me anxiety all
I keep imagining myself beached like a whale (who said shark?!) on Wahooo’s shores, wondering if I would survive the onslaught of the automated waves. Would I simply get tossed around like a sock in a washing machine? There was only one way to find out…
I muster all the courage I can find and head to City Centre Bahrain to face my fears.
Indoor-outdoor waterpark Wahooo! is the only one on the island offering surf lessons for beginners to the more advanced. The surfing arena uses state-of-the art technology which generates impressive waves – trust me, they look the real deal (gulp).
My much-anticipated session begins with a warm-up led by a very fit-looking, professional surf coach Khalil. As I steer my body in different directions, following Khalil, I can almost hear the creaking of my bones. Am I ready?
There’s no time to question it, as Khalil promptly hands me a body-board while sharing, thankfully simple, manageable instructions. As he talks, I try and get in the zone, registering as much as I can, all while repeating: “I’m a newbie. Disasters are bound to happen.”
Once the water pumps start, the waves begin to lash the surface – my throat runs dry and my stomach leaps with fear. Khalil laughs – he can tell I’ve got cold feet already, but he encourages me, saying surfing is magical once you’re in the waters. The most important lessons, he says, is to manoeuvre the surfboard by applying gentle pressure and moving your body weight.
We start at the top of a gentle slope, where I can feel my heart racing faster than famous surfer Laird Hamilton navigating a 30-footer. Khalil guides my position and instructs me to glide down like a child on a slide.
I shut my eyes and push myself down the slope into white, foamy waters, which begin tossing me around. Like Alice in Wonderland, I tumble all over the place before being drawn in by Flowrider’s giant wave and go crashing into the bubbling wave-pool.
Okay, so it wasn’t a great start. But it wasn’t bad either. In fact, I feel a sense of exhilaration, rather than embarrassment, and all of a sudden I have a desire to get better. I stamp back to the start and adhere to Khalil’s guidelines more diligently this time, placing one hand in front of the board and the other extended out slightly at belly-level. I keep my eyes open, look where I want to go and again shift my body weight gently. This time I feel less like a whale and more like a flailing rag doll.
At least this time I know I’m not in the jaws of death.
Khalil continues to motivate and guide me with his tricks and techniques. Each time I try again, I hold on to my surfboard for dear life. I recall Tom Hanks in Castaway clinging onto the football he affectionately calls Wilson. (No, I haven’t named my surfboard. Yet.).
At the end of an hour’s surf training I’m overcome by exhaustion, but I feel incredible emotionally and physically. The experience may well have been rough and trying, but it gives me sense of self-belief. You don’t have to be in Bondi to learn surfing when you can simply do it here.
BD15 per class. Wahooo! Waterpark, City Centre Bahrain, Seef (17 173 000).
Four more Places to try watersports
Al Dar Islands
Play in-water volleyball or take out the pedal boats and kayaks. There are also a range of boat trips you can book – a cruise, dolphin watching, fishing and even pearl diving.
Day passes: BD6 (adults), BD3 (children one to 15), free (kids under one). Prices vary for watersports. Sitra (17 704 600).
The watersports centre offers jet-skiing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, knee-boarding, banana rides and pedal-boating, as well as kayaking (single and double).
From BD10 per hour (non-members). Al Fateh Corniche (17 312 700).
Lagoona Beach Resort
Scuba dive, go fishing, jet-ski, water-ski, wakeboard, kayak, parasail – the list of activities is large here. You can even try the Seabreacher, a Jetovator, the X-Jetpack, flyboards and hoverboards.
Packages and prices vary. Budaiya (16 630 000).
The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa
The team has a dedicated watersports activity
counter, which is open every day from 9am to 5pm, and prices start from BD5 per hour for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and pedal boating.
Day passes: BD20 (weekdays), BD45 (weekends). Seef (17 586 612).