Often people fall in love with the idea of surfing and being able to surf, the idea of spending the time by the beach, usually in summer, and the rest of the lifestyle attached to it. Usually people will take up this idea when they are adults, when they have freedom to do as they please, and other family members don’t tie them down to other vacation ideas and destinations. And often many of these people will come from areas, that don’t have many ocean currents or from landlocked areas.
Recently an acquaintance remarked about how he tried to go surfing, with a friend who surfed and that he showed him the beach, gave him the board, and the 2 parted company, the surfer went for his waves, the beginner shown where it was good for him to practice. The beginner had a hard time, and was pushed around uncomfortably by the whitewater, which the surfer would consider small and no threat to anyone.
This highlighted to me the fact, of how a surfer starts his life, and that what he knows is not always something that they share, it’s just an instinct, learned without many words, just actions and experience. It’s a zen experience, no words, it just is.
Here’s the difference: a surfer learns to swim, in the pool and also an ocean full of currents; the other, maybe doesn’t often swim, and their swimming muscles must start to build when they are adults. It’s easier to build them up while you are growing up.
When somebody lives by the beach or at least within 2 hours of it, they go to the beach many times in the summer. Kids from the age when they are able to walk are assisted by their parents as the waves approach them. Then as they get older the parents can give them more space; at 4 they can be 1m away. This is ocean experience, something that doesn’t happen in all seas. The waves have power which their legs learn to feel. From 6 you can enter the small waves, with older family members. Feeling the waves. Also when you are young you have a no fear attitude, wanting to get hit hard by a wave, but not to hard to cause you injury.
So the early years a surfer learns to swim in the ocean. These days there are more and more surfcraft available to the children, and usually by the age of 8 a child will take to using a bodyboard. This is where a surfer learns how to float on the water, and move along the wave surface. By the age of 10, a grommet (young surfer) has their own surfboard, and is standing up, and learninghis first steps on a board. Also they have no fear of what is ahead of them. They want to challenge the waves and master them, not be mastered by them.
Let me take a step back here and say that not coming from the ocean, a young surfer has an advantage over someone from a non-surfing background. They already know the ocean, and they already know how to float on the water in a basic sense. They already have swimmers muscles developing. A beginner has to learn to surf, develope swimmers muscles, and learn the ocean at the same time.
By the time we have become young adults pushing the boundaries of fear in a new sport is not comfortable for us. Balance is hard to learn when you haven’t the feel for how ocean water moves, and how waves move. Balance is the most important thing that a surfer has to learn, and it can’t be taught in any manual. It is a feeling, and to be balanced you have to learn to adjust to the rapidly and inconsistently moving water below your feet.
The difference between a good surfer and a bad surfer is usually always the time spent in the water. You can learn in 3 months what someone did in 2 years, but in that time you could have spent the same time in the water as someone with 2 years experience.