HAD I known then what I know now, I’d have been more careful when I told my wife: “I wouldn’t mind having a go at that!”

It was a year or so ago and we were enjoying fish and chips at Saltburn, overlooking a glistening North Sea, where surfers were joyfully riding waves in the afternoon sun.

Little did I know that my far too casual comment had inspired her to make a mental note of what to get me for my approaching 60th birthday: a family lesson with the Saltburn Surf School.

The surprise was duly unveiled when I hit the six-decade mark back in April, and the summer lesson was booked for last weekend.

I admit to being a little anxious. After all, I’ve never been a natural in the water, but I was willing to give it a go, along with my wife, plus our grown-up offspring and their partners.

It was a two-hour lesson, and I swiftly began to sense that surfing wasn’t for me when I spent what seemed like most of the first hour desperately trying to squeeze into a wetsuit.

It reminded me of one of those David Attenborough nature programmes, watching a boa constrictor squeeze an unfeasibly large creature to death before swallowing it whole. Bulges start popping up everywhere as the ingestion progresses agonisingly slowly.

Then, just when all my bits had finally been stuffed inside, I had to start all over again because – contrary to what we’d been told – I’d got the zip at the front, instead of the back.

By the time I’d finally joined the family group on the beach for the start of the lesson with our friendly instructor, Ollie, I was already knackered, with sweat somehow finding a route between rubber and skin to trickle down my back.

Ollie, friendly, wonderfully positive and encouraging throughout, proceeded to show us the techniques needed to stand up on our surfboards. The first was the “pop-up” method – jumping up, more or less in one go, from a starting position of lying on your stomach. This was never going to happen. Not with my knees.

The alternative was to get up in stages. Stage one involved lying flat on our boards and keeping our heads up to look forward. This alone, is hard enough for a 60-year-old grandad. Stage two, requires a press-up to raise the chest. In stage three, one leg has to be brought forward into a half-crouch, followed by the other leg, then you push up into a perfectly balanced standing position.

Conscious of being watched by a beach-full of sunbathers, I did my best. Eventually, after half a dozen goes, I finally clambered to my feet, and tried to look poised.

“Perfect, Pete – perfect,” shouted Ollie.

He decided we were ready to carry our boards into the water, where he did his utmost to turn me into a surfer. The rest of the party enjoyed various levels of success – led by my daughter’s annoyingly good boyfriend, Jamie.

Me? I couldn’t even lie on the board without slipping off and being punished for my incompetence by wave after wave giving me a contemptuous smack. David Hasselhoff? More like Peter Fallingoff.

When I saw an ambulance – blue lights flashing – arrive on the promenade, I assumed a spectator had concluded that I was never going to make it and called 999.

Ollie, bless him, didn’t give up on me. By the last wave, he’d just about managed to get me up onto my knees – but that’s as far as it was ever going to go.

It was a great experience, I’m glad I gave it a try, but that bucket-list item is firmly ticked.

Exhausted, battered, and cramping, I returned to the shore to begin the long, agonising process of regurgitating my aching body from my wetsuit.

It wasn’t a pretty sight.