Kris Shannon dons a wettie and heads out to master one of the world's most well-known surfing spots

The best experience at Bondi Beach comes standing atop a surfboard, senses alive to the picture-book surroundings: a gentle breeze caressing the face, the sound of a breaking wave trailing behind, the sight of bronze bodies stretching out on the golden sand.

Until, that is, such a sensory feast is immediately replaced by a rather less pleasant sensation: the tangy taste of a mouthful of salt water.

The latter is unfortunately more common than the former for those of us who, instead of being blessed with Kelly Slater's balance, have all the co-ordination of a newborn foal.

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But that's all part of the fun when spending a couple of hours with Let's Go Surfing, at the north end of one of Australia's most iconic beaches and home to a group of instructors more than willing to help a rookie live out their wave-riding dreams - albeit often temporarily.

Almost anyone can surf, apparently. Surfing well is another thing. But the team at Let's Go Surfing, as friendly as they are patient, seem equipped to handle athletes on any point of the spectrum.

At least that's the way it felt for this particular land-lover, whose previous stint on a surfboard came during a school trip to Raglan, an unsuccessful but enjoyable afternoon.

That lack of practice was explained to my guide, after having shown up on a cool spring morning, more trepidatious than intrepid, still feeling the after-effects of a slightly more enthusiastic evening enjoying Bondi's bars.

But my inexperience mattered little. The chill in the air and the ache in my head were equally inconsequential. We were going surfing. It was, after all, in the name.

Kitted out in a welcomely warm wetsuit and given a board that would soon become my worst enemy, we headed to the beach.

First came surfing on the sand. I was good at that. A little wobbly when my instructor began to simulate waves by wiggling the board, but still pretty damn good.

Surfing as a beginner required memorising an intricate series of steps designed to take one from shark prey to king of the ocean in one smooth move. The dance did, I was told, eventually become instinctual.

But, once belly-deep in the Tasman Sea, those steps were as difficult to master as the tango.

It wasn't all bad: my buddy began every attempt with a good push and ended it with words of encouragement. Also, the temperature seemed to quickly increase from all the exertion.

And I found increasingly impressive ways to fail, from jumping up too early to missing the wave altogether, from falling head over heels to nose-diving into the swell.

After one such misfire I noticed a photographer on the shore, documenting the disasters and undoubtedly having a much better time. Had I become a tourist attraction?

But those fears were allayed after I finally, mercifully, managed to ride a wave as far as its momentum carried me, with the snapper soon departing to prepare her portfolio back at Let's Go Surfing HQ.

By that point I had essentially mastered the waves. Not quite as adeptly as the scores of seemingly professional surfers beyond the breakers. Or, for that matter, the steady procession of kids who spent the morning effortlessly gliding past. But mastered all the same.

Exhausted but possessing a sense of accomplishment, I returned my board and wrestled off my wetsuit, deciding to spend the rest of the morning bathing in my achievement - and attempting to wash the taste of seawater from my mouth.

CHECKLIST

Getting there

Qantas

flies daily between Auckland and Sydney, with Economy Class return flights starting from $563.

Details

For information on surf lessons, go to letsgosurfing.com.au.

Online
sydney.com; visitnsw.com
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