What is your surf instructor really thinking? What is really going behind the salty shock of hair, the bloodshot eyes and the thick layers of sunscreen? Is he or she living the dream, or simply trying to make a buck? Are they in it for the kicks or the chicks? Are they on the pathway to a life lived in the ocean, or a just bitter, wind-battered surfer with no better job prospects?
We canvassed a host of surf instructors from around the world to find out what they really think…

Credit: iStock/MichaelSvoboda

1) I can tell in three seconds whether you’ll ever stand up

You know that bit where we go down to the beach and everyone lies on the sand on their boards and pretend paddles to catch a wave and then jumps to their feet? Well, in those very first moments, I can tell if you will ever, in your whole life, stand up on a surfboard.
If you can’t get up at all, or if you get up on your knees, or if you do stand, but your feet are facing forward up the board, well I already know it’s not meant to be. Sure I will tell you that it’s early days, and that with practice things will turn around and that by the end of the lesson you might be like, actually, surfing.
But I know that’s not true, and in those first few seconds, I’ve marked your surfing card, forever.

Credit: iStock/Nisangha
Credit: iStock/Nisangha

2) No, I don’t want to carry your board

I get that surfboards are heavy, awkward and cumbersome. And I get that you’re tired and cold. But that doesn’t mean I can carry your board up the beach. I’m a surf instructor, not a board carrier. That means I’m paid to instruct you to surf, not to be a glorified pack horse.

iStock/ Nisangha

iStock/ Nisangha

3) No, I’m not living the dream

This was supposed to a short term summer gig. A paid job that involved surfing, I mean, what can be better? Except it’s kinda gone on a while now and the irony is, it gets in the way of my surfing. I’m often forced to watch pumping waves, while pushing 10 hungover staggers into three-foot foamies. It’s tiring, and cold and exhausting. I’ve discovered that the joy of surfing, and the joy of teaching surfing, are very, very different beasts indeed.

4) Wetsuits worn inside out, or back the front, still make me laugh

Yep, you gotta get your kicks somewhere and there is still something inherently humorous about someone trying to tackle their first attempt at surfing with the zip of a wetsuit scarred down the front rather than the back, knee pads the wrong way around and the saggy bottom covering the groin. Sometimes I tell the punter and sometimes I figure it just isn’t worth the hassle of making them change.

5) I try to share my time equally amongst all the students in the class, but I don’t…

Can I help that often the most talented members of the group happen to be the most attractive? And at ten bucks an hour, surely there has to be some perks of the job? And call me unprofessional, but when I have to choose between wrestling a 17 stone, 37-year-old accountant with the dexterity and coordination of a three legged mule on to a wave, or the lithe 20 year-old Scandinavian who only last year scored bronze in the national Gymnastic championships, it’s a bit of a no brainer. What can I say? Cut me, I bleed.

Credit: iStock/Jenny Bonner
Credit: iStock/Jenny Bonner

6) There is still nothing like seeing someone getting hooked on surfing

In most lessons at some stage amongst the nose dives, sand flaps, kneerides and wipeouts a student will stand up and ride a wave. He or she is effectively surfing for the very first time, and the smiles and the hoots reflect the pure joy that surfing can provide. I see the seeds of addiction starting and it makes me both stoked and proud to have played a small part in someone discovering surfing.

7) Having said that, I know for most this isn’t the start of a life long love affair with surfing

Only a tiny percentage of my students will go on to have surfing become a major part of their lives. For most it’s simply filling in a morning of a holiday, or getting an Instagram shot or a forced part of hen or stag do. The lesson might become an anecdote where you can say, “I went surfing once.”

Credit: iStock/ChuviPro

Credit: iStock/ChuviPro

8) Enough with the questions already…

No I haven’t met Kelly Slater, and yes I have been to Hawaii, and yes I think I would try and surf Teahupoo, and no you don’t look fat in that, and yes I think you might stand up, and no we don’t say Cowabunga, and yes it will be cold and no you can’t be allergic to saltwater and no this this isn’t a 50-year storm and enough already, just listen to what I’m saying and start surfing already…