Graduating from the Kiddie Pool

Contributor: Chris Wirth

My kids, Adrian and Avery, and I sit on our boards farther out from the beach than in our three previous days of surf lessons. As we watch the sets roll in, I enjoy the scenery. The expanse of Playa Grande extends beyond the estuary to my left while Playa Tamarindo rolls off to my right into the horizon. It’s a pretty sweet office.

We were beyond the break where we’d seen the locals surfing in previous days. From this vantage point, bobbing with our instructors, we could see my wife and other WRSC students in the shallower break closer to the beach — what my still newbie kids called the “kiddy pool”. To the boys, we were salty old watermen at this point. With our three whole days of instruction and more giddiness than skill, we happily kept hurling ourselves into the swells of that beautiful morning.

Adrian rode the first big wave of our morning, Avery followed but with a smack as he positioned himself a bit too far forward on his board. I followed with several spectacular ditches of my own. I paddled back out to Ricardo, where he was waiting to tell me how to fix my feet, how to stay more centered, and to keep my eyes up once I popped up.

There is beauty in humility. If you don’t believe me, go surfing. As I struggled to paddle back out through the impact zone, I wondered if the sport should’ve been called “paddling” instead of surfing. I wondered if my desk jockeying and beer curls back in Boston maybe, just maybe, weren’t entirely the right preparation for this.

I looked up and saw Ricardo in the distance watching me and pointing to his shoulder. I remembered before the lesson he said to paddle out beyond the shoulder of the break and then to position yourself where you want to be. Ah yes, there’s a reason he was the teacher and I was the student.

Once I got back out to the group again, my kids were hitting me with rapid-fire questions: “Dad, did you just see me?” “Dad, did you see my front-side turn?” “Dad, did you just see that wipe out!” “Dad, dad, dad!” For a moment I forgot about my own experience and simply embraced the chorus of their joy.

“1-2-3 UP!”… Ricardo called to me as he guided my board into a breaking wave. This was the day. this was the wave! My first ride all the way to the beach! Along the way, exhilarated by the accomplishment of the ride, and to the unique sound of slipping over water, my kids and wife cheered. Better still was the little bit of love I got when the lifeguards shot me a nod. For those 5 seconds I was Kelly Slater.

There are some firsts for parents that are pretty memorable, pretty important. Birth obviously. First words, first steps, or the one I am still waiting for: a teenager’s bedroom cleaned without threat. Few things, however, compare with seeing the look on your kiddos face as they ride their first wave or as they learn a new skill they realize they love.
One of my favorite things about my family’s week at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp was that in a world of relentless distraction, WRSC creates an experience where only two things matter: surfing and being together. My wife and I didn’t watch from the beach while our boys surfed, we surfed right next to them. They didn’t go to workshops or video sessions separate from us, we shared in everything together… that’s the point.

“Together” is the key; not only for a great family vacation but also for how to best describe what makes WRSC so special. I realize now, just about a year exactly from our first visit to WRSC, why we had such a great time and why we will return. It’s because WRSC is a family.

From the other guests you share your journey with, to a staff that provides amazing coaching and a memorable experience, the week is amazing. Age, gender, ability… it truly doesn’t matter. You are about to discover something really cool about yourself and your family and WRSC knows exactly how to guide you there.

*Learn more about our active family vacations here.


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