5 Coaches Surfing Needs

The best coaches in history don't know surfing, but they do know winning

Taj Burrow

Johnny Gannon is an imposing board caddy for Taj Burrow, but can you imagine if he had Ditka on the beach? Photo: Joli

Sure, successful ex-pro surfers know how to make heats. But do they really know how to coach? As competitive as the World Tour can be, surf coaches are still pretty new to the sports coaching landscape. While some of the most famous non-surfing coaches in history may not know the intricacies of tuberiding or air reverses, surely they'd have a lot to offer hungry, competitive surfers. Here's a list of five past and present sports gurus from outside the surf world who we’d love to have as surf coaches:


No nonsense, no bullshit. Da coach dragged the 1985 Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl victory solely on the strength of his iron will, his mustache, and his incredible Bears sweater vest. Oh, also Walter Payton and Mike Singletary. Many people don't remember this, but the '85 Bears actually consisted only of Payton and Singletary playing all 11 positions with Ditka manipulating the two’s movements through sheer force of anger. It wouldn't matter which surfer Ditka coached, they’d rip out the hearts of their heat competition right from the opening horn. Maybe literally. Are coaches allowed to be board caddies? If so, just imagine him floating around the channel at Sunset, whistle in his mouth, glaring his surfer into position. How could they lose?


Jackson was like a basketball shaman. He won 11 NBA titles using any kind of eastern religion he could wrap his consciousness around, in the process calming some of the biggest egos the sports world has ever seen. He glided around practice in a trance, imposing team rituals, dropping little nuggets of Buddhist philosophy, and organizing his players into complicated offensive formations that nobody else has ever really understood. Jackson only works with winners, so he would of course coach only Slater, Fanning, and maybe Parko, but he’d draw another three titles out of each of them, all the while murmuring about forming triangles in the lineup and trying to force them into reading Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. If there is a soul out there on this planet, or any other, who could coax Dane into claiming his birthright as world champion, it’s the Zen Master.


If Mr. Miyagi could coach Daniel LaRusso--a whip-thin mama’s boy who’d taken a week’s worth of Karate at the YMCA--to victory over the Cobra Kai boys at the All Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament, imagine what he could have done with somebody with real ability. Hell, Miyagi could probably have taken your average bow-legged Wavestorm-riding surf school student and had them in an NSSA final in just a few weeks time. All because of a grueling workout consisting of nothing but household chores. Come to think of it, any mildly compulsive neat freak surfer is already following Miyagi’s training regimen; maybe it was the fly-catching that was the secret to Daniel’s success. Miyagi would’ve had any ‘CT underdog taking down the entitled Johnny Lawrences of the Top 5 in no time.


Don’t be fooled by his disheveled appearance and the ill-fitting short-sleeved hoodie; Belichick is every bit the hard-ass Ditka was, and with massive hard drives full of technical analysis to unleash on opponents. That information has been installed directly in his brain, because he is a coaching cyborg. He was constructed by a mysterious force to coach any team to success. Belichick is the Damien Hardman of football coaches; no mistakes, not ever. Sure he’d force his surfers into tackle dummy drills they may not understand, but come finals day, he’d be there on the beach, wearing his headset, scowling away while his client ascended the podium.


An alcoholic washed-up ballplayer who cleaned pools for a living, he nevertheless guided his ragtag Little League team, the Bad News Bears, to the city championship game. Along the way he taught them all sorts of life lessons, none of them good. But that’s beside the point. He was a brilliant motivator who got the most out of his crew of rebellious Southern California adolescents--the perfect man to coach your petulant grom to a high school surf championship. Plus, it would be great to see him wandering around the contest scaffolding toting an ice chest full of Budweiser, drunkenly bickering with his own clients.