Stab Magazine | Confessions Of A Former Surf Instructor

And The Winners Of The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Are... Watch The Pick-Up Episode 5, Presented by Vans, To Find Out


Confessions Of A Former Surf Instructor

Are we shooting ourselves in the foot? 

style // May 13, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

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.


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

Carissa Moore And Finn McGill Are Your 2023 Vans Triple Crown Of Surfing Champions 

They both pocket $50k and tickets to this year’s Vans Pipe Masters.

Jan 27, 2023

The Pick-Up, Presented By Vans, Episode 5

Mason Ho helps us ring in our final week on the North Shore.

Jan 27, 2023

Goofyfoot Brazilian World Champion Stars In Stab’s Biggest Board-Testing Franchise

Can you guess who?

Jan 26, 2023

Surf Community Rallies To Raise Funds For Eddie Winner And On-Duty Hawaiian Lifeguard Luke Shepardson

Because it's the right thing to do, of course.

Jan 26, 2023

Interview: Caity Simmers On Machete Wars, Rihanna, Personal Project Problems, And The Rise Of Female Surf Content. 

A toast to ‘Toasted.’

Jan 25, 2023

Stab Surfer of the Year: Creed McTaggart, Albee Layer, Laura Enever, Dane Guduaskas, and Selema Masekela

Day 8: "65 years young and charging just as hard as ever at Pipe, Backdoor,…

Jan 25, 2023

“I’m Not A Big Wave Guy”

How Kai Paula accidentally made his mark at Jaws three weeks after surfing it for…

Jan 24, 2023

Everyone Went.

A toes in the sand, phone in the lagoon account of the 10th Eddie Aikau…

Jan 24, 2023

Breaking: Another CT Rookie Injured Before First Event

Sophie McCulloch pulls out of Pipeline due to Snapper Rocks snafu.

Jan 23, 2023


Watch: ‘Toasted,’ By Caity Simmers

Your favorite surfer directs, edits, and stars in her first feature film. 

Jan 23, 2023

On-Duty North Shore Lifeguard Luke Shepardson Wins The Eddie Aikau

Local man prevails over 39 big-wave heavyweights at 29ft @ 19 seconds Waimea.

Jan 23, 2023

The Eddie Aikau Invitational Is On

Grab a beverage and enjoy surfing's Super Bowl Sunday

Jan 22, 2023

The Women’s CT Is About To See A Generational Shift 

Only three women have won a Title in the past 15 years. Here's why that's…

Jan 22, 2023


“One For Marcio” – Albee Layer’s Tribute To Mad Dog

Imagine treating 30ft Jaws like Backdoor.

Jan 22, 2023

Stab Surfer of the Year: Noa Deane, Jamie O’Brien, Parker Coffin, Cliff Kapono, and Brendan Buckley

Day 7: "It's like he feels more comfortable when it’s as gnarly as it gets."…

Jan 21, 2023

Five Reasons Why The Eddie Still Matters

With better waves around the world and likely no prize money, why is The Eddie…

Jan 20, 2023


The Pick-Up, Presented By Vans, Episode 4

The science behind morning sickness, Sunset sliding with Noa Deane, and bailing on a President…

Jan 20, 2023

Which 2023 CT Rookies Will Make The Mid-Year Cut?

Just 10 days out from the start of the 2023 season, Mikey C and Stace…

Jan 19, 2023