We get a lot of surf-stoked parents that ask us, “How do I get my kid to learn to surf?” Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of families and taught tons of kids to surf.
Here’s our advice:
1. Take your kiddo everywhere. Unless you have a particularly cranky little person, go on surf trips, go to the beach. You may have to trade off surfing with your significant other, but it’s a small price to pay for getting out in the waves.
2. When your kids become toddlers, brace yourself for some rough years. Toddlers are the toughest humans to travel with. Scale your adventures back a bit. Take day trips to your local beach and just play together. Let them smell the sea air and get sandy and wet. Build sand castles, explore tide pools, fly a kite. Be prepared for very short surf sessions, or to surf crappy waves because your only window to get out happens to be at peak ebb in onshore wind (go anyway).
3. Get your kid a decent wetsuit. If you live in a cold climate, this goes without saying. But even in warm climates like Southern California or even Hawaii, little ones get cold. Have you ever tried to learn something when you’re uncomfortable? It sucks. Don’t force your kid to tough out being cold. Of course, if you are teaching your kids to surf in Costa Rica, there’s no need for this piece of equipment!
4. Get swimming lessons. Swimming is a prerequisite for any ocean sport and can also save your child’s life. Invest in swim lessons and lots of pool time when you can to strengthen these skills.
5. Make (or bring) friends. If you can travel or meet up with another family that has water-loving kids, your kids will spend twice as much time in the water playing with them. It’s also good for peer pressure. No kid wants to be building sand castles on the beach when everyone else is playing in the water.
6. When you travel, get a place with a pool. A lot of beaches are too hot and exposed for kids, especially little ones. Or unsafe due to giant surf. A warm, quiet pool is a great place for your kids to play while you and your spouse trade off surfing. It’s also a great way for your kids to log more swim time.
7. Go surfing. Yes, play with your kids, let them quit when they want, take off their wetsuit when they want (even if it’s only after 10 minutes), eat when they want, and listen to them when they want to call it a day. Somewhere in between all of that, go surfing. Catch some waves, commune with the sea. This is not just for your soul, but for the impression you’ll make when you come in. Your kids will see your smile and feel your aura of joy and think, “I want to do that, too!”
8. Don’t push them (unless they ask). One of the biggest mistakes parents make is pushing their kids too hard. Don’t be that parent forcing her kid to surf. For some kids, it takes them years to want to get in the big, loud, scary ocean. Keep in mind that a 2-foot wave is almost head-high to a 3 foot-tall person. Let them watch, let them try things on their own (with you close by to rescue them). Of course, if you’re in the surf helping your child catch a wave, then by all means give them a push!
9. Leave the kids at home every now and then. I know, you work so hard to get them to love surfing and then you leave them behind? But every parent needs a break from double-checking if the pull-ups are packed and that there’s extra socks and raingear in the bin and from pre-planning all the meals. And parents need time to be together, whether you both surf or one of you surfs and the other reads a stack of books.
10. When your kids are ready, take them someplace warm, preferably with a surf school. Taking your kids to surf in Hawaii when they’re five years old is a waste of money. Wait until all the pieces are in place. Can they swim? Do they feel comfortable in waist-high surf? Can they manage a surfboard safely? Do they have experience with timing? Are they stoked? If you answer, “Yes,” to these questions, then they’re ready. Of course, we want you to consider coming to Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. There are other surf schools, but none with our record for getting kids stoked on surfing, all while providing families with a fun, safe and worry-free vacation.
Wherever you go, take your patience and flexibility. It’s all about having fun. If it’s not, why do it?
Check out these notes from our guest book:
“Had the best time with my family. I can’t wait to come back. Highly recommend it. We’ve traveled to a lot of places and stayed at fancy hotels, but this place is absolutely the best!” – Geraldine C.
“We are a family of four from Boston with two early teen boys and a wife who wanted to surf for her big milestone birthday. All I can say is THANK YOU!!! It was a wonderful and magical week. I will say one of the best surprises is that Joe Walsh the founder has created a family at WRSC . . . and you feel it.” – Troy M.
“Wanted to express our deep appreciation and gratitude for a fabulous stay!! You all are super organized and took really good care of each and every one of us in our family! We can’t wait to continue surfing here at home in Montauk this summer . . . together.” – Julie, Jay, Magda and Ruben Stone