Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy 🙂
Teaching my Son to Surf
I don’t really remember when I started surfing. We always went on holiday in the UK and I have always loved the water and, being honest, I can’t remember when jumping about in the waves progressed to body surfing and from there onto a board. I do remember picking up some pretty hellish bruises from an old style wooden plank board my brother and I had found in the cupboard at a holiday home and some pretty brutal fights over who got to use the polystyrene surf board that day (it was his). But when I actually transitioned into really surfing, can’t tell. For well over 20 years now I’ve surfed the English and French coastlines, first on big stand up sticks and then moving on to bodyboarding, my true passion. A family and commitments have meant that gone are the days of shooting down to Croyde Bay for an early November dose of hypothermia but it doesn’t mean I’ve lost the passion. Most years we manage to spend our annual vacation time in reasonable proximity to a surfable break, this isn’t as easy as sounds given the somewhat inhospitable nature of UK surfing beaches but we’ve managed to find a way to make it happen.
Surfing is one of the few activities where I cannot see any downside. It’s great exercise, it’s sociable, it leaves no environmental mess and while it is dangerous, that can be mitigated by staying within your limits and recognising hazards properly. It’s also, unmistakably and undeniably cool. Ever since I first watched Point Break with my brother all those years ago I’ve been entranced with the ethos and attitude of surfing as well as the practise. It’s unsurprising that I have been waiting with baited breath until the kids were old enough to try surfing for themselves.
My daughter is 2 and cannot yet swim so taking her out at this stage would be unfair and counter productive. It would also be dangerous as she can’t get herself back to the surface when she falls off. My son, however, is a different story. For a long time he has been refusing to go anywhere near the sea, content instead to potter in and out of rock pools, but this year something changed, and he asked me if he could go for a surf. He has been doing swimming lessons (a basic life skill that my kids learn as soon as they can) for a little while so I felt confident it was safe to take him out.
The first thing I wanted to do was get him feeling comfortable on the board and in the water. I took him out back and just let him float around, feeling the water and the effect of rolling from side to side. This did mean taking him out of his depth but I needed for him to be calm. What I didn’t want to do was for him to catch a wave straight away and then bale, this would destroy his confidence. Once we had got that down, I figured it was time for him to start catching waves. Luckily for us that day, Harlyn Bay (our beach of choice) was working really smoothly. Nice gentle 2 foot peaks were rolling into shore smoothly and with minimal chop, I gave him a heads up, picked a wave and gave him a shove down the face of the wave.
I expected to be diving in straight away to pick him out of the washing machine, a bit tearful and upset but it was not to be. My heart soared when I saw the wave break and him streaking to shore on the board far faster than I could keep up. I caught up with him in the shallows and saw his eyes lit up, just as mine do when I catch a wave. I knew he was hooked just as I was.
Being the soft touch I am we got him a board the next day. It’s little more than a piece of shaped foam with a basic slip deck, but he loves it dearly. Since then we’ve had a few more surfs, a few of his first wipeouts and a few tears but he’s loved it none the less. I hope it’s something that stays with him as it has with me, not least because everything he does, his little sister wants to copy.
Watch him catching one of his first waves.