When In Doubt, Dive In.

Dive In
What the first British woman to surf the world famous 60ft wave can teach us about conquering our fears, quelling our inner doubts and proving the world wrong.

With Dorset Adventure Park reopening for the summer season this May, it was just this April that Laura Crane provided the biggest inspiration to dive right back into the action and adventure. In early April, Laura Crane made history by becoming the first UK woman to have surfed the world famous Nazare 60-ft waves. “I just had such imposter syndrome that I didn’t deserve to be there,” Laura explained in an interview with SurfGirl magazine, “at that moment it was so important to know the difference between my gut saying no, this isn’t a good idea and fear”. Laura felt this way despite being a professional surfer from the age of twelve to twenty one. From a young age Laura received professional sponsorship from global brand Billabong and became a UK surf champion at just 14 years old. Laura spoke of that period of time travelling the world surfing professionally and the early sponsorship with Billabong was, “the craziest dream ever for me because that was my life goal.” So why did Laura retire from professional surfing at twenty one? Why was it that eight years later when Laura was training to conquer Nazare she “doubted that I belonged in that space”? How did Laura lose her joy and love of the water and her confidence in herself? 

Laura revealed that as she grew up in the surf industry as a teenager and young woman, she lost her sense of self and suppressed her inner spark and athlete. The surf industry and sponsors focused on using the young surfer to sell bikinis and promote clothing lines without realising, “the impact that had on us as young girls. To just feel totally disregarded as athletes because of how we looked.” This formative time growing up in front of a camera, with focus not on how her body could best swim and surf but instead how it looked in a bikini, had a deeply destructive effect. Laura felt far away from the young girl she used to be who surfed for the pure joy, thrill and power of riding the waves. Looking back on her younger self Laura told SurfGirl magazine, “I feel sad that I deprived that girl for so many years, of who she really was and didn’t allow the powerful side of me as an athlete to really shine through. But, I also have to believe that it’s part of the journey. That’s what makes me now have this fire inside me to just inspire. To prove to myself that it was always what I was meant to do.” 

It was not the lure of competitive surfing that reignited Laura’s fire or drive but her younger brother’s simple enjoyment and playful passion for learning to surf. Through the pure pleasure and fun he was finding in learning to surf, Laura got back into the sport through his enthusiasm and the enjoyment of surfing together. When he suggested they try big wave surfing, the siblings decided to try to surf the UK’s only big wave surf, The Cribbar. Big wave surfing involved being towed out to sea on a jet ski in order to reach these monster waves. Known as ‘the sleeping giant’ or more ominously as ‘the widow-maker’, this elusive wave emerges off a Cornish headland and “the Cribbar only makes an appearance a few times each year, because the weather and swell conditions need to be just right. When they are, they create the famous wall of water, rising up to 30ft high.” For Laura, in the adrenaline, challenge and excitement she felt in the water that day she “fell back in love with surfing again.”

I argue it is why days spent at the waterpark with friends or family are key to keeping your own passions alive and recharging your self-esteem. As adults we forget the value of play. We tell ourselves that playing and having fun isn’t essential. For school children we know that they need literal playtime to let off steam and find release from the stress and pressure of school. As adults we don’t give ourselves the permission to do the same despite increased levels of pressure, stress and people ‘burning out.’ Often this leaves us more checked out and disconnected from ourselves and from each other. We then can so easily numb and distract ourselves from this by bingeing Netflix and scrolling endlessly, mindlessly on our phones watching social media clips of other peoples shinier looking lives. As much fun as a really good TV series can be and as pretty as Pinterest is or as funny as a pithy TikTok might be, the real remedy and the best cure is always waiting for you in the water. 

Dorset Adventure Park has over 200m of inflatable obstacles across the two lakes as well as the mud trail obstacle assault course. Every course is designed to not just be a challenge but to be fun. To laugh together as you conquer and to have a soft, safe place to fall and fail so that you can get back up and try again! We know that science supports the bonding experience of overcoming challenges together and the resilience that is fed and fuelled in children when they are permitted to explore, adventure, fail, strive and achieve. The same is true for adults. We can be more cautious and hesitant to throw ourselves into a situation that is silly or we think could be scary. Our minds tell us all the reasons why we shouldn’t take the risk, pick up the challenge or even make time to play around.

When Eric Rebiere, a former elite world tour surfer, european pro champ, Nazaré tow challenge surfer, saw the footage of Laura Crane surf The Cribbar, he got in touch within 24 hours. The big wave Laura rode with her sibling and friends just for fun, the wave that re-baptised Laura with the sport she loved, set her on the path to her true calling. Eric treated Laura as an elite athlete she is and one capable of conquering the world’s biggest wave.  After months training together, when Eric first towed Laura out in Nazare, Laura admitted that, “I was nervous. I had a lot of self-doubt.” Laura describes how on the back of the jet ski that morning her doubts started to take hold and “I really started to get into this negative spiral”. On seeing the doubt in her eyes Eric simply told Laura, “stop thinking, get on the rope and go.” Laura stopped thinking, let go and conquered the world. What will you conquer when you dive into your next challenge at Dorset Adventure Park? 

Words by Olivia Lowry. 

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