Catching the Wave: How to teach kids to Surf
Surfing is more than just a sport; it's a way of life that connects us to the power of the ocean. Surfing isn’t just a hobby but a lifestyle, something we live for here at Barefoot & Salty. For many, the thrill of riding a wave is a lifelong passion that begins at a young age, but you are NEVER too old to start. Teaching groms (young kids) to surf not only introduces them to a world of adventure, exercises and rad times but also instils a deep appreciation for the ocean. In this blog, we'll explore how to teach groms (or even adults) to surf safely and with enthusiasm, ensuring they have a positive and memorable experience in the waves.
- Choose the Right Location
Selecting the right surf spot is crucial when teaching young children. Look for beaches with gentle, rolling waves and sandy bottoms, as they are safer for beginners. Popular family-friendly surf destinations often offer lessons and have lifeguards on duty, making them excellent choices for your young surfers. If in doubt head to your local beach and ask a lifeguard where the best spot to learn to surf is, the surfing community are friendly so please don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
- Safety First
Before hitting the waves, make sure your child is equipped with the proper safety gear. This includes a well-fitting, comfortable wetsuit to keep them warm and protect their skin, a soft-top surfboard for added stability, and a leash to keep the board close. Don’t be a kook, always keep a leash on.
If your child isn’t a confident swimmer use a life vest this will help with fast retrieval and prevent them from losing their confidence from wiping out. Better to be safe then sorry.
Wearing sunscreen is a MUST and we personally recommend a natural one that’s reef safe – we get ours from Wotnot https://wotnot.com.au/ (use code barefoot15 for 15% off).
- Start with Land Lessons
Begin the surfing journey on dry land. Teach your child about the surfboard, explaining its different parts and functions. Demonstrate how to paddle, pop up, and maintain balance. Practice these movements on the beach to build muscle memory before entering the water. This is also a great activity to do at home on a rainy day, we look up “how to surf/pop up/stand’ videos on YouTube and let our 4-year-old practice in the lounge room. Not only do they get to practice it’s a way to keep you same when they start to get cabin fever.
We will link our how to pop up & paddle blogs below.
Pop up (currently not posted yet)
Paddle (currently not posted yet)
- Water Confidence
Before venturing into the deeper waters, ensure your child is comfortable in the ocean. Spend time with them in the shallows, allowing them to wade, splash, and float on their board. Encourage them to feel the water's movements and become accustomed to the feeling of being in the ocean.
Our best tip is to take baby steps. Start off taking them swimming and play the ‘wipe out game’ This is where you sit in the shallow and let the wave push you over. Exaggerate you laughs so they will do the same. As they get more confident go deeper but ALWAYS do this in between the red and yellow flags and keep withing arms reach at all times.
If they aren’t taking to being on a surfboard try them out on a boogie board first. This is not only fun but will help boost their confidence.
Do you have a big board? Instead go catch some white-water waves with you. Please only do this if both you are a confident swimmer and you have a spotter present.
- Supervision and Support
When it's time to paddle out, never leave your child unattended in the water. Be right there with them, providing support and guidance. Hold the board steady as they climb on and help them paddle out past the breaking waves. Offer encouragement and reassurance throughout the process.
- Teach Surf Etiquette
Teaching young surfers about wave etiquette is crucial for their safety and the enjoyment of others in the lineup. Explain the concept of taking turns, waiting for the right wave, and respecting other surfers.
We will link our blog on ‘What is surf etiquette’ below.
(Not posted yet)
- Practice Patience
Surfing is a challenging sport, and it may take time for young children to catch their first wave. Be patient and emphasize that it's okay to fall. Encourage them to get back on the board and try again. Celebrate small victories and keep the experience positive and fun.
Remember to not force a child to surf otherwise they will progress backwards and may even start to not like surfing. Slow progress is the best progress. They might just be too young.
- Gradual Progression
As your child becomes more comfortable in the water and gains confidence on the board, introduce them to slightly larger waves. Continue to provide support and supervision as they advance and consider enrolling them in surf lessons with certified instructors to refine their skills.
- Foster a Love for the Ocean
Beyond the technical aspects of surfing, instil a deep respect and love for the ocean in your child. Teach them about the importance of protecting our oceans and marine life. Engage in beach cleanups and environmental activities to connect them with the natural world.
Teaching young children to surf is a wonderful way to introduce them to the joys of the ocean and the thrill of riding the waves. By prioritizing safety, offering guidance and support, and instilling a love for the ocean, you can help your child develop not only valuable surfing skills but also a lifelong appreciation for the natural world. Remember, the most important aspect of teaching kids to surf is to make it a fun and memorable experience that they will cherish for years to come. It’s not about be the best but making the best memories.