“Family Surfing Lessons – Why you should try it” by Vivienne Pearson
If you live anywhere from Brisbane to Ballina, you know that you are near some of the best surf spots in the world. But have you, and your kids, tried surfing?
Surf schools are a great way to put a toe in the water (pun intended). They have all the gear, including beginner-friendly boards, and they know how to teach as well as surf.
Hanging (Ten) with the family
There are surf schools dotted all along the coast. I would like to say that I did thorough research before choosing one to entrust my family to. But I didn’t. My son won a family surfing lesson in his school’s raffle, so my research amounted to celebrating the fact that we would get to try this iconic activity for free and then booking in.
The surf school which had generously donated the lesson was Lets Go Surfing, Byron Bay. Somewhat coincidently, but very fittingly, we booked our lesson for Australia Day.
Blake Whittaker, from Lets Go Surfing, inspired confidence even before we got in the water, thanks to giving us the best lesson on rips that I have ever heard. Complete with sand-drawing diagrams, he showed us the theory of how to spot a rip (look for calmer water where waves are not breaking) and what to do if you are caught in one (don’t panic, swim sideways if you can, otherwise allow the rip to take you out past the break and use the waves to help you get back in).
He demystified rips by saying that there is almost always a rip at any beach, that they can be small, and that surfers (ones better than us anyway!) use them like an escalator to get out beyond the break.
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Sand-diagrams about rips. Image: Vivienne Pearson
Surfing Lessons are an Awesome Family Activity
Blake taught us how to ride a wave lying down on our boards and then helped us have a go. Doing this – basically boogie boarding on a giant board – before teaching us how to stand up helped us build our confidence and encouraged us not to get ahead of ourselves.
We then learned how to stand. I now have complete admiration for ‘proper surfers’ who are out there in the big waves – standing up on a moving board supported only by a wave, even when the water is no deeper than your knees, is HARD.
Out of our party of six (two adults, four kids from eight-14 years), all but one of us managed to stand up (some very briefly) and three managed to do the whole process of catching a wave and standing up without help.
‘Peace man’. Image: Matthew Wakefield
Give Family Surfing Lessons a Go!
Surfing might have a relaxed vibe to it, and Blake certainly imbued our lesson with a relaxed air, but learning to surf is not something you can do in a completely relaxed manner – it takes a lot of energy. Firstly, you need to clamber into wetsuits and help carry the boards to the sea.
Once in the water, it’s not necessarily all smooth sailing; we had one kid who took on a few mouthfuls of seawater and another who found handling the board (which are much bigger than you) overwhelming but was helped by Blake to find her confidence.
By the end we were all proud of ourselves, whether having simply survived, having learned to ride a surfboard boogie-board style, having stood up or having got skilled enough to head out to some larger waves.
As we headed in from the water with our boards, surrounded by Australia Day flags and BBQs, we were happy to have given surfing a go. We also gave a big shout out to Lets Go Surfing for generous supporting a local school, and giving our family the chance to hang ten (or at least try to!) together.
Surfing with help from Blake. Image: Matthew Wakefield
- Everyone will be starving straight after the lesson. Take food or be prepared to find a shop pronto!
- Take water not just for drinking but for rinsing out salty eyes and mouths during or after your lesson.
- Schedule your lesson for when you know you can have a quiet arvo/evening – learning to surf takes some serious energy.
- Taking photos is not easy when you are part of the lesson too. If you have someone who is keen to come along but not surf, give them the role of photographer.