Today’s surfing culture is light years away from the one in which the sport began. Although it has gone through several bursts in popularity and acceptance over the past century, the “Sport of Kings” has never been truly accepted as status quo in completeness and totality as it has by the present generation. Even the Hawaiians had the missionaries on their back nagging them to drop wave sliding and get a life. Okay, so they did more than nag the natives to quit being free and happy. They were downright abusive.
But I think that interaction between rebellious islanders and uptight, straight-laced zealots set the stage for surfing’s place in our culture (in America in particular). There was one notable surge in the post-Gidget era, but for the most part, even though wave riders organized and competed and became entrepreneurs and inventors and even politicians, surfing remained dangerous and edgy: hanging on the beach all day with a surfboard was the last thing your mom and dad wanted to see. Today, the moms and dads who pushed their kids to tears on the baseball diamond are now coaching and filming their kids with hopes of snatching a couple crumbs from the surf industry bread machine. That said, the next few paragraphs are meant to inspire you and your kid to ride waves and have fun in a healthy way. Don’t go crazy. Stay cool and see if your kid likes it. He/she might not, and that’s cool too. So here are some ideas to take into consideration as you prepare to teach your kid to surf.
Weight and the Power of Water
Kids are small and the ocean is huge. If you kid is super skinny and light, he will have a hard time handling a board, paddling for waves, and even getting past the whitewater, no matter how small the surf might be. Understand how overwhelming that can be to a little kid. He may need time to develop some muscle and put on some weight before he feels comfortable.
Also, he needs to spend time learning how the ocean moves and behaves takes time. Kids who grow up on the beach have that sense as second nature, but those who don’t will take a while to tune into Mother Nature. There is no way a kid can learn to ride waves if he doesn’t understand them. So you best bet is to just spend time letting your little one jump around in the shore break and swimming under waves. Maybe through him a body board mess around on. Most of the great surfers of our age started on body boards. They are a way to learn about waves without the danger of getting whacked by a rail or cut by fins. There’s no nose diving and no stress.
Surfing is not like Tennis
Sorry, ASP. Tennis and surfing are different. The difference is the drowning factor. In tennis, you get tired and can sit down right where you are, sip a drink, and even take a nap. When you get tired of surfing, you still have to get to the beach. That means, you have to be a very strong swimmer. Therefore, before your kid will learn how to surf, he will have to learn to swim. Without that basic skill, he’ll be scared to death and more importantly, in danger of drowning. That means, you cannot approach surfing like you do other sports. Take it slow and don’t push.
Surfing is First an Art
Remember, there are countless ways to express yourself in the water, and your kid might find his own way to ride a wave. That includes inflatables like surf mats, body boards, long boards, and body surfing. They are all really awesome ways to ride. Be careful not to limit your kid’s exposure to the wide variety of wave riding possibilities. If he doesn’t want to ride a short board, he may flourish on a long board. Bring all your boards down to the beach and let him experiment.
Friendly Competition is Key
The gentle (or not so gentle) urging of a parent will only go so far. It will take peer pressure to really push your kid into waves for real. I’m talking about the positive kind of peer pressure – friendly competition. Sure, you don’t want your kid jumping off a bridge because his friend did, but good peer pressure can also push your kid to take a challenging class, join a team, or paddle into a wave on his own. It’s just human nature. So be too bummed if your little “buddy” is more receptive to another kid in the water. Let it flow. You’ll be surprised at what he can achieve when you step back.
The outside world is fast encroaching on the soul of surfing in the form of surf schools and resorts and websites (oops!). You can’t force it on someone. Like religion or love, it has to be accepted and felt naturally, so let your kid find it for himself.