Before the last decade, the idea that intermediate surfers could receive professional coaching was absurd. You only need to look back about 15 years to find a time when there were no coaches or trainers. It’s not a very old history. Even though Mick Fanning and others popularized surfing as a professional sport, it hasn’t made its way to everyday people like you. A punter who wants to improve his golf swing would not hesitate to take lessons from a local pro. However, surfing is still a foreign concept. Some feel that surfing coaching is too severe. I’m afraid I have to disagree. Surf coaching does not mean that you are too harsh. It simply means that you are passionate about your passion. That’s fine.
The problem with surfing is that most of the time, it is best to do the opposite of your instincts—for example, Nose diving during steep takeoffs. Common sense dictates that you should keep your weight down when paddling and your weight on the drop. This is a sure way for you to get sloppy lips. It would help if you did the opposite. Instead, it would help if you drove down the wave with your chest pressing into the board. This is only one example of good surfing. Good surfing has many counterintuitive elements.
Bill is a better example of the benefits of surfing coaching for intermediates. Bill has been a regular guest on our trips over the last two seasons, and I have been impressed by his progress. He shares his thoughts on being an average surfer and lessons learned from our time in the Maldives.
My Battle with Mediocrity
08:30. North Fistral car park, Newquay. It is Friday morning in early December. The water is clear and there’s a groundswell. The wind blows offshore, so head high and keep your eyes on the sets. Charts tell me that the wind will be blowing onshore by mid-morning, so it is essential to act fast. Could you get me out there?
Finally, I managed to get my booties on and ran down to the shore—my hood. Return to the car.
08:45. I have about an hour left to make the most out of it. It is so busy on Friday mornings. Is it not possible for anyone to work?
My toes are in the sand, and I’m doing some stretches with my eyes focused on the horizon. At least, that’s what I am trying to look like. What am I focusing my attention on today? Get up and ride in the top third, compress, rotate, and see where you are going. Don’t you believe me? All that I have said will be lost on me. It’s okay, have fun.
Surfing at these latitudes is characterized by ice cream headaches, numb fingers, and eyeball-blasting winds. It doesn’t take too long before the annoying song in my head tells me that I’m cold and it is time to go in. It would be nice to hear a few more.
It’s time to call it… Katie Perry is on the stage. I wish hypothermia would kill you faster some days—one more wave. Keep your hands up!
One stroke, two strokes, and I’m in. Jump to my feet, and I’ll be down the wave face. The nose of the board will take me to the beach. I lose speed as the wave gets fatter. To keep the wave on, I stomp on my board’s nose. I keep going, phew! Now, breathe. Keep your arms raised. As I reach my shoulder, I start to create the arc for my cutback. We move… and we rotate. I unceremoniously slap my icy water arse before I bog the rail. I don’t care if you squirt or vert, but I do care if you bog and flog. It was a schoolboy mistake. I needed to see where I was going. It’s hot chocolate and poke bowl time, anyway.
I don’t want to compete. I wouldn’t say I like to compete, which is why I lean toward surfing. My friends are mostly not surfers and assume I am making impressions of John John on the beach. It’s easy. There is nothing to prove, edits to make, girls to impress, and judges to uphold. Progress feels good to me because I’m human. Yes, my ego could use a little massage. From my water-based brothers, ‘Nice turn mate’ or sick runner’ would be music in my ears.
Despite the slow progress, I still love it. The early starts, the hunt to find waves, the suspense, and the sick days are all that I enjoy about it. However, I’m frustrated and at an impasse. I can ride waves well and trim the line with occasional foam climbs or cutbacks. I wouldn’t say I like airs or fin blows. I want to surf in the pocket, do some turns, and throw some spray. A barrel every once in a while would be lovely.
I have skated and watched endless edits of Julian, Jordy, and Kelly… all the usual suspects. Sometimes, I even tried LARPing (Live Action Role Play) in front of the mirror. My mind is writing cheques that my body cannot cash, even though I know what to do. Although I’ve thought about coaching, it is too severe for the Griffins Kolohes, Sallys, and Kolohes. The Bills are not the ones to watch. They don’t make waves. Instead, they make up numbers to keep plant-based cafes afloat and throw money at film festivals.
I am not an Instagram’ influencer’ obsessed with showing off. I want the warm fuzzy feeling of satisfaction with a good surf. I want to be a good surfer and have fun. It’s natural.