JESSICA TUCKMAN - SURFING JOURNEY.

I left school at 16 with mostly A grades and my parents expected me to go to college, but I wanted to start earning. I took a job at a call centre and they trained me up as a loans officer. At first I enjoyed it; I was earning enough to buy my first apartment when I was 18. But when the financial crisis hit the industry became gloomier and I started to wonder if there might be something else.

One weekend my cousin invited me to go surfing in Scarborough. It was freezing cold and windy – nothing like the vision in my mind of blue skies and white sand. The water was brown and my wetsuit was too small. I didn’t even manage to stand up on the board – I just clung to it as I hurtled towards the shore. But it was a great feeling. I was 20 and had never surfed before, but after that day I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Surfing made my office job feel boring. I joined a surf club and went on trips every few weekends. I stuck a photo of a wave above my desk and my bosses joked they were going to lose me to surfing – which they did. At 23, I quit my job, took a three month surf trip abroad and then with £150 in my account and no job or accommodation lined up, moved to Newquay. I got a bed in a bunk room above a pub. The window didn’t close, but it only cost £60 a week including breakfast.

All I had were my clothes, my guitar and my surfboard. I thought: “What else do I need?”

That first winter was tough. I earned £65 a week in a nightclub and lived on noodles and bread and butter. The town was cold and quiet, and I felt lonely – I’d left behind all my home comforts and my friends. But by the summer the atmosphere changed – everyone seemed happy and spent more and more time outdoors.

That was three years ago; now I call Newquay home. I work as a cleaner in a pizza restaurant on Fistral beach for two and a half hours every morning. Then I rush to the surf club, get into my gear and I’m in the sea. I spend four to six hours a day surfing, six days a week; I’m in the open air and I’m healthier. I’ve got sponsors behind me which means I can afford coaching which is helping me to catch up the other surfers. Last year I finished 13th in the UK pro surf tour rankings which is pretty good for someone who didn’t touch a surfboard until they were 20.

I still don’t earn much. Some weeks my fiance and I only have £40 to spend on food, but we survive. The locals thought I was mad when I moved here. They couldn’t believe I would leave behind a stable job and good income. But even though I’d had the money, I didn’t have my freedom – or the sea, which is my favourite thing in the world.