Confessions Of A Former Surf Instructor
Are we shooting ourselves in the foot?
I once spent a summer teaching surf lessons.
I didn’t think much of it at the time. As far as I was concerned, it was decent money for swimming around and occasionally bodysurfing. Saw a tit once too. That was pretty cool.
I’ve been thinking about those days a lot lately. The people I’d teach. The spiel I’d give. But mostly about the impact surf schools have on our culture.
Right now, I live somewhere with a wild amount of surf schools — picture the most ridiculous amount your logic and imagination can agree on. Then triple it.
There are multiple camps at every beach and a bunch of people who have vans and the license to operate anywhere they please. On a sunny weekend day, some lineups look like a fluorescent foam party in Ibiza (with notably fewer Persians). It’s interesting.
Reflecting on it all: The good. The bad. That titty. Here are some thoughts and confessions from a former surf instructor.
Surf schools give a lot of very good, very core surfers the opportunity to earn a dime doing something they love. Some even make enough to centre their lives around it.
They also give a lot of not very good, not very core surfers the opportunity to make money off of surfing. Ever seen the blind try lead the blind?
There was probably a time when surf schools were thought of as immoral. When people figured it was a direct commoditization of something that had so much soul. I still think there’s something to be said there.
It’s cliché as fuck, but there really is something cool about teaching a kid who gets flat-out into it. Maybe it’s because kids approach everything they do — digging a hole, throwing a rock, anything trivial — with 100 percent enthusiasm. They don’t think about how you should be doing this, or how other people do that, or what might be considered cool. They just do it. That’s the way that surfing is meant to be approached.
None of that happens when you teach an adult. Even if they’re picking it up quick, it feels so fucking dorky. Like they’re trying to solve an algebra problem or something. I’m not saying that adults shouldn’t learn how to surf. I am saying that, without having a good friend to teach you, there’s no smooth way to start.
There’s nothing worse than whoring surfing out to someone who you can tell has no interest in it.
A good lesson will teach you etiquette. I always did. If someone goes through a proper system, they’re going to end up way better off than someone cowboying it on their own. Not all surf schools teach with proper systems.
Wave pools pose no threat to surf schools. They are two separate things. And they will always be two separate things to all levels of surfers.
Lineups are getting more crowded due to surf schools, but not by all that much. Most people want nothing more than an hour to fill during their day at the beach. And the people who take a lesson, fall in love and dedicate themselves to surfing obviously aren’t a problem. People who take a bad lesson and leave with no understanding of how things actually work can be a problem though. So can Ibizan foam parties.
In short: Teaching a surf lesson comes with a lot of responsibility.
Indulge in jokes about my career, face, writing, contributions to society, etc below.
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