Stab Magazine | Putting Wheels On A Ferrari: How To Raise A Supergrom
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Putting Wheels On A Ferrari: How To Raise A Supergrom

Wisdom for ambitious parents from Rizal Tanjung and Linda Hanneman.

style // Mar 2, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 6 minutes

While some of us can’t even adequately support ourselves, let alone feed, clothe and care for another human being, if the opportunity presents itself then sharing the salt stoke with your offspring can be a thrilling experience. Not only can it be an enjoyable and healthy way to raise a child with respect for the environment, but for some, surfing can become a career that sets them (and you) up for life.

We’re going to assume for the purpose of this article that you have a reasonably coordinated child, who’s interested in becoming a moderate-to-excellent surfer, and you’re fine spending the time coaching, driving or sitting on the shore watching them surf in howling onshore (or worse, perfect) conditions and provide constructive feedback. Approach their introduction to the art of waveriding intelligently and you could rear the next John Florence or Steph Gilmore. 

Behind (nearly) every supergrom is a guardian who gives everything to keep their kids on track for that prestigious world title. Stab recently crossed paths with Indonesian surf royalty, Rizal Tanjung, father of the promising Varun Tanjung, caretaker of upcoming superstar Bronson Meidy, and Eli Hanneman and his mother, Linda, during a Hurley team visit on the Gold Coast. Curious, we wished to share insights from the parental side of the prodigy-raising coin. The squad, ranging from 12 to 15 years of age, were busy proving they’re the best in the world at their age at D’Bah when we sat down to exchange.

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It can be hard for a grom to find their own slice in a hungry D’Bah lineup, but with a bit of direction from Rizal, the boys stood a better chance.

Stab: What advice do you have for parents, helping their young ones realise their surfing potential?

Rizal: Just be a parent. Some people want to live their dreams through their kids. I feel sorry for some of them. Most important thing is to have fun, not become a soccer dad or mum. They’re still young, don’t push too hard, you don’t want them to burn out too early. I know how to do it, how to coach them, but they never listen to me because I’m their parent. They hear what I tell them all the time – what they have to do and get better and stuff like that – but sometimes they listen to other people better. Better you step back a little bit here and there, let someone else influence them, someone they’ll listen to and respect more.

Linda: Early on Eli’s manager, Shaun Ward, told us just to keep him going and keep him in love with the sport. You have to be the one who puts consistency into their surfing. It’s just the same as any other sport that you play. Kids tend to want to stay inside and just play video games and do this (Eli’s throwing sand at 15 year-old Dean Vandewalle a few metres in front of us), so it’s just the same. Just get them out there and help them put in the time. For us it was a family thing, since my husband surfed. If you have someone that played baseball in high school, their son will play baseball in school or college or whatever, the same with surfing.

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If Eli Hanneman is a name you’re unaware of, fret not, you’ll be be seeing a lot more from the highly talented boy from Maui. Eli’s mother, Linda sat on the beach every session in the searing Queensland sun and took note of every ride. (Image: Layne Stratton)

Is travel an important factor in developing an all-round surfer?

Rizal: Well, for Bronson, every day he surfs Lakey Peak or Keramas, then we come here and we’ve been surfing five days of crappy waves. It’s about balance. Not only can you surf good conditions but to be a complete surfer you have to surf these waves too. Australia produces a lot of world champions, you have to deal with this kind of situation – when the waves are pumping it’s good, but 70 percent of the time it’s like this. A lot of Indonesian people are too spoilt. We surf really good waves every day. In surf like this I tell them you have to switch your mind – this is it, show up to blow up.
Sure, in the future they’re going to boost high performance levels in the way of big airs, but I ask them ‘how many air 360s do you need to do?’ You need to have complete surfing. If the waves are overhead or double overhead, you’ll need to draw big lines, start to dance, move your body, like how (Joel) Parko or (Mick) Fanning do it. Look at Kelly Slater, 45 years old and he’s one of the best athletes in the world because he has that kind of mix; small wave, down the line, barrels, J-Bay or here. These days you have to do that to have the standard.

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It was young Bronson Meidy’s first trip to Australia and he promptly got to work on his down-the-line game at Snapper Rocks.

Linda: I think that there are waves that are available for him (Eli) to be a well-rounded surfer – with that being said, he prefers it when it’s bigger, he has a hard time going out when it’s not as big because he has those choices. Our kids in Hawaii are spoilt, then they go to nationals and do the QS in the worst waves in the world – and suffer. Though, kids like Eli have been surfing Pipe for two years and others don’t have that same opportunity. The ones that are really serious, they come and spend some time on the North Shore but it’s not the same. You need both. Eli really needs to surf more crap waves.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/Dfd10TlL9EQ

How about school?

Rizal: Bronson came from Lakey Peak where education is really bad. He moved to Bali and I put him in better education, which has improved his social skills a lot. But I just pulled him out of school for this trip and he’s only 13 years old. In a way it’s good focusing on what he loves to do and hang around with the same people – kids that have the same vision. At age 13 to 15 they have a lot of influences. You’d rather put the kid in the right group. Indonesian schools have a lot of kids with parents that aren’t into surfing, they go play soccer or go out and do drugs and things like that. If the kid gets to hang out with other like-minded kids like this then they can go in a more positive direction, stay focused and push each other.
Definitely school is important because surfing is not forever – what is life after surfing? You might get a broken knee or something and never be the same, what happens then? It’s good to have other ways they can use surfing skills. I’ve been filming movies and Varun edits the whole thing. It’s cool, he’s using the tools that he learns in school.

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Rizal’s blood, Varun Tanjung and a sign of promising form.

Linda: Yeah, I recommend school 100 percent. I think kids should be kids and they should learn how to deal with school life, but the exchange is not being able to take the opportunity of travelling. It’s a decision that will come in time, whether or not to focus on travel – if that’s in your pathway. For us, when the opportunity started coming up we had to make the decision on what way it was going to go.
It’s important to travel though, for the contests, which can come with homeschooling. If you have the opportunity to do that, then it’s kind of silly not to. Kei Kobayashi, he home schools and anywhere in the world I go he’s there. I talked to Griffin Colapinto’s mum who said ‘I had to get his GED (a high school credential equivalent) because the opportunity is now,’ and he wouldn’t have done what he has done in the last two years if he was in school. Now he’s pretty close to getting on the CT.

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Sometimes Rizal prefers to simply lead by example.

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