Introducing your child to surfing is worth more than a katrillion billion birthday presents. However, visions of your little angel paddling out by your side or thanking you when they win a world title can very easily be shattered.
I’ve done a lot of rad stuff in my life, but nothing has come close to learning to surf and the years of absolute quality it has added to my time on this planet. Staying fit and healthy, having rides that I’ll never forget and travelling to places that I otherwise wouldn’t have known existed are some bonuses, but by far the most valuable gift is the relationship I’ve made with the ocean. Many of us live on the fringes of this landmass because of the union that we have with the ocean, be it swimming every day or simply gazing at it for hours.
Many folks have done a cracking job at introducing their tots to surfing, as our coastlines are teeming with whippersnappers busting airs and even surfing ginormous waves. Unfortunately, though, some little girls and guys experience difficult moments, and though they weren’t that different to slipping in the mud or jumping in a pool, they never want to see a surf- or bodyboard again.
For most kids, the transition from playing in the shallows to riding waves is very scary and one badly timed incident can confirm all their fears. Once they’ve had a handful of good surf days with a collection of minor incidents, their stoke about surfing become strong enough to override their concerns.
If you can get your sprouts into the ocean between two to seven years old, you’ll have more chance of getting that “thanks mom and dad” when they’re standing on the world title podium or even just deepening their connection with the ocean.
If your cub is not a chubbalub then they will need a good wetsuit that fits tightly.
While the cold can be a demotivator, it’s the shore break that is sure to break your tadpole’s spirit.
Unlike your usual wave which breaks at least 20 or 30 metres out to sea, shore break – as the name suggests – breaks nice and close to the deceptive safety of dry land, luring in the most inexperienced and wary of us. You can spend hours on Youtube and Instagram watching individuals of all ages getting absolutely demolished in the shore break (See for example @kookslams)
The character of any wave at a specific break is determined by the geology of the seafloor. The deeper and more gradual the seafloor, the gentler the wave. The steeper and shallower the seafloor is before the wave breaks, the more aggressive the wave will be. A one-foot wave breaking on dry land can easily sweep an adult off their feet. If you’re not sure, test the waters yourself first before sending your fledgelings packing to Joburg.
Again, I’m going to recommend Muizenberg on the low/mid-tide, when it looks like a lake. This will allow you to take the tots out to the backline and push them into tiny green waves, teaching them the method I outline in my first article. If it’s not a lake and the whitewash is all you have to work with, be sure to still get them to turn to the left or right while riding, as going straight to the beach will eventually get boring and create bad habits.
For those whose kiddos have already been dealt a beating in the shore break and now don’t ever want to see a board again, don’t worry, all is not lost. The main rule: don’t try to convince them to give it another go. Instead, on your next beach day strategically position your family close to where other kids are learning to surf and be patient. Patience is key as it might even take a couple of years.
Once kids are stoked about surfing, you can rest assured they are well on their way to living a happy, healthy life, with the ocean as their mentor.
To book a group or individual surf lesson with Luc van der Walt, visit The Surf Guru on Facebook