Surfing is one of those things I’ve always really wanted to do, but not really if you know what I mean? A kind of vague fantasy – I mean riding waves and spending all day floating about shouting cowabunga sounds awesome, but growing up in South London it was never really on the cards without some serious effort. And like I say, I was never actually that bothered. But with my trip down the Brazilian coast heading towards the surf paradise of Santa Catarina and Florianopolis, it seemed like a great opportunity to realise this half-baked fantasy. Gnarly dude.

By the time we actually made it to Barra de Lagoa I was pretty psyched about the whole thing. Levon, the Scottish friend I’d made on Ilha Grande, was talking himself up as a natural which had got me thinking about the challenge and how exciting it would be to surf.  Barra de Lagoa is a sleepy little town on the east of the island and it was where we’d chosen to spend the first few days of our stay in Florianopolis. The beach at Barra is also the perfect spot for learning to surf and there are several surf schools, so as soon as we arrived I was sorting out lessons. In fact within two hours of checking into our hostel I was pulling on a wet suit and waxing my HUGE foam surf board, it felt right – undoubtedly I’d be a natural at this.

The course I booked myself on to was the beginners surf course which gave me three hour long lessons for $115 (Reals) – roughly £45. This included all the tuition as well as the board and wetsuit hire, so didn’t seem like a bad deal. They also let me use the board for an hour or so after each lesson too.

Once we’d got passed the basics on the beach – timing, posture, how to jump up – it was time to hit the waves. My Brazilian instructor, his name escapes me now, was quite complimentary about my technique, so I was confident. I floated around on the board, doing my best to look like a surfer and waited my turn. For the first wave, our instructor gave each of the five people taking the lesson a push – meaning all we had to concentrate on was the jumping up bit, not the frantic paddling that normally proceeds it. My turn came second, a wave closed in and I was poised and focussed… I felt a push and the word ‘NOW’ being shouted at me and I was up! Standing first time, riding a wave all the way into the shore. I was ecstatic, it was truly exhilarating and being able to stand first time took me completely by surprise – I’d imagined needing a couple of days before being able to get to that stage, so when the adrenalin faded I felt pretty smug.

As it turned out being pushed into a small wave on a 9ft board makes standing a relatively easy challenge and the majority of us managed it. Paddling yourself and timing the jump makes the whole thing much more difficult. After a couple more goes with my instructor acting as my stabilizers, I was determined to do it properly and I spent about two hours wearing myself out paddling erratically and swallowing water. A natural I was not.

I approached the second lesson with huge determination and an even bigger hangover. As you might imagine, 4 hours sleep and a lot of alcohol aren’t what’s needed if you’re trying to find the totally bodacious surfer lurking within. I came out of the water, still not having managed to stand up un-aided, exhausted and with a new found complex about my upper body strength. It was not going to plan and the foam surf board had given me nasty little burns on my elbows and knees, I was almost beaten.

As well as being know for it’s surf, Floripa is also a real party island and that is an activity I’m much more accomplished at. I still had one more lesson to cash in, but having learned how futile surfing hung over is it took me quite a while to go back and claim it. In fact I’d basically given up. After moving hostels however (which we did once we’d located the aforementioned crazy Scot at a place called Backpackers Sunset by Praia Mole – but that’s another story altogether) I’d met up with a guy from Jersey called Joe, who just happened to be a surf instructor (and a ridiculously bad ass surfer). Lev still hadn’t surfed  – for all his talk of teaching himself and standing up within a couple of hours – and right at the end of our time in Floripa we finally all went back to Barra de Lagoa to give it a final go.

As the cheapest way of getting the gear I actually had my final lesson. The other guys – Joe, his girlfriend Laura, Lev and Anish (an amazingly cool Texan who was running events at the hostel) went off a little way down the beach and Joe went into teacher mode. And I went at it with a clear head, trying my best to follow the broken English instructions I was being given in my lesson further down the beach. The clear head seemed to be doing the trick as after a bit of flapping about I actually managed to get up and ride a wave for a few seconds all by myself. That filled me with a whole new level of enthusiasm and by the time I drifted over to where Lev and the rest of the gang were surfing I’d been up 3-4 more times.

Joe turned out to be a fantastic teacher and Lev and Anish were already managing to get themselves up when I caught up with them after a couple of hours. Joe gave me a few pointers which instantly made it easier – the 1-2-3 power arm pumps just before you spring up tip transformed my technique. Just before we gave up there was an amazing moment when Lev, Anish and me all caught the same wave and rode it to shore in formation. It was radical (it really was actually pretty cool).

I never made a big enough fuss about anyone taking pictures, so I don’t actually have any of me doing it. There is one out there, a really great guy I met at the first hostel called Gaz (who already surfed a bit) got one with his water proof camera which I’ll upload if I can get hold of it. Until then you’ll have to make do with my shot of the beach at Barra de Lagoa and the creative commons image I found online (below) – which is basically the level we were at…