Teaching Your Child To Surf

How to get your child surfing, without any pressure.

When your child wants to surf. Getty Images

There is nothing quite as joyful as seeing the pleasure in your child's eyes when he or she starts riding those first few foamies to shore, with a huge smile on his or her face. It's a momentous experience to see the stoke and the absolute wide-eyes pleasure when it happens. However, there are many pitfalls along the way that sometimes slow down the learning process, and sometimes the learning process can actually turn a grom away from the sea.

We would like to describe these pitfalls, and make sure that you don't make any of them.

See also A Fresh Approach To Learning Part 1

The first step is to make your child at ease with the ocean. This is an ongoing process that includes going swimming in the sea, playing in rock-pools and generally hanging out at the beach. The more you do this with your child, the more knowledge is acquired regarding tidal movements, ocean currents and the power of the ocean. This sort of knowledge makes a child a little bit more confident and comfortable around the sea.

The second step is to ensure that your child is a confident swimmer. Swim lessons and time spent in the pool is massively advantageous when your child eventually gets on a board and gets ready to head out among those whitewater waves. If your child knows that he or she can swim should there be a wipe-out, then there will be less fear of the unknown, because going surfing for the first time is just that -a venture into the unknown.

 

See also A Fresh Approach To Surfing Part 2

One of the biggest mistakes that a parent can make is to apply pressure of any sort onto a child when starting surfing. Some parents try to live vicariously through the child's sport progress. This is possibly due to the fact that the parent is trying to redeem an unsuccessful sporting career, or to make themselves look good.

Many very successful sportspeople are products of top sporting parents, but these parents all have one thing in common, the knowledge that their kid does not need any pressure, and instead needs to fall in love with a sport and do it for fun more than anything else. If your child doesn't feel like surfing, or is getting cold and tired, then it is time to call it a day until he or she is keen to go again.

See also The Unwritten Rules Of Surfing

While teaching your child to surf, it is also important that this does not in any way deprive him or her from other sports. There is no need to specialize at a young age. They must be allowed to play soccer, cricket, athletics or anything else that is available. Surfing is an individual sport, but team sports are imperative in a child's learning processes, and the ability to play within a team structure is a massive aspect in social learning and normal cognitive behavior. 

Your child also needs to be comfortable. Going into the ocean can sometimes be unsettling, with cold water, wind, spray and people. Make sure your child has a wet suit if cold, has sunscreen on if the sun is out, and has a rash vest on if needed. A leash is also advisable. to ensure that your child is not worried about possibly falling off.

A beginner's board needs to adhere to a few simple design elements. It needs to be able to float your child with ease, it needs to be safe with no sharp or pointy noses or tails, and it needs to be able to turn a little bit. A first surfboard is all about being able to catch a wave, and feel stable underfoot. It also needs to have enough rocker (board curve) so that it doesn't nose-dive. A board that nose-dives is a potential hazard and can shoot back up and possibly hit your child after a wipe-out. 

See also New Tech Surfboards And Their Increasing Relevance

Finally, you need a good learning venue. A few gentle waves that roll slowly to shore is ideal. Bigger waves are not suitable, and waves that slam into the sand and 'dump' are also not ideal and pose possible dangers and threats to a learner.

Should a beginner surfer suffer a painful wipe-out in the learning phase, it is possible that he or she will never want to paddle out again - no-one likes getting hurt. 

The best method is to walk out with your child, with one hand on the rail of the board and one hand resting gently on his or her back for support and reassurance. Walk out about waist deep, and wait for good looking and uniform wave with no chance of it doubling up or dumping. When you see the right wave, and you'll know it when you see it, turn the board around so that it is pointing to the shore, and give the board a gentle push into the wave at about the same speed as the wave, with as little jerking as possible. This smooth process will see your child riding the white water lying down, and then standing up is all about the individual. Left foot forward and your child is a natural-footer, right-foot forward and your prince or princess is a goofy-footer. Run behind them so that if and when they fall, you're right behind them.

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When they do stand, and they will, plenty of encouragement goes a long way. Some high fives, and a little bit of praise will do wonders, and when your child is up and riding the whole world suddenly becomes a very nice place for both of you.

Finally, be prepared for when the surfing bug bites. Before you know it, he or she will be waking you up by standing next to your bed in the morning, in a wet-suit, insisting on a quick surf check. Even if it's raining, and onshore outside.