How To Teach Your Kid To Surf

Communicating the fundamentals with Tom Curren

Pat and Tom Curren, 1964
Pat and Tom Curren, 1964

Teaching a human of any age to surf is inherently frustrating. Throw the immaturity and vulnerability of a small child into the mix, and you could end up planting the seeds for some serious teen angst down the line. As a father with kids destined for surf greatness, it’s safe to say that Tom Curren knows a few things when it comes to introducing his offspring to the ocean. We rang the Santa Barbara legend for some advice on the best ways to get your grom out past the shore break and into the lineup, and keep them stoked while you do it.

Teaching someone to surf is never really easy. People get frustrated on both sides of it, but you can’t let it become a negative thing. You’ve got to be really, really patient. It’s got to be natural. You can’t force it. Once your kid gets the hang of it, I think one of the best things you can do is to take them down and let them surf with their friends where they’re comfortable. I think that’s the kind of environment where they’ll start to thrive, get the most out of it, and really take to it.

One of the best things you can do is to introduce your kid to surfing in warm water. I think it’s really important. Kids can be a little moody and less into things when they’re uncomfortable, so really the best advice I can give is to take them surfing in a place where the water is warm. Hawaii is a pretty perfect place to get kids into surfing. So if you can, get your kids to a place like that to get them into their first wave.

I try not to give my kids advice unless they really ask for it. And for the most part, they really don’t ask me about technical stuff—at most they’ll ask about what boards to ride. That’s about as far as it goes. I’m definitely not the type of parent to be critiquing cutbacks or anything. Everyone’s got their own style and own way of doing things; I think that’s what makes surfing so great. So for the most part, I don’t get too involved in really coaching my kids. For me, that seemed to work out pretty well.

Surfing and parenting are both long-lasting relationships, so you want to keep them simple. I think that’s true for a lot of things: the less you complicate them, the better they turn out. That was true when my dad taught me to surf and it’s been pretty accurate with my kids. When it all comes together, it’s a pretty unreal feeling going surfing with your family. It’s amazing and really rewarding thing to share something you love, and to see them love it the same way you do.