While vacationing in Costa Rica last summer, the Condie family tried surfing on a whim. They had already been boogie boarding and snorkeling and were psyched for a new aquatic adventure.
“It was awesome—it’s more fun to surf with your family than to play soccer with your friends,” says Rain, age eight. “We’re going back this summer to do it again,” adds Vance, her father.
Surfing is a workout for the mind, body and spirit. And, according to the Journal of Sports Medicine, people who practice water safety and respect the ocean experience fewer injuries while surfing than they would while playing soccer.
“Kids are made for surfing—they’re light, flexible and buoyant,” says Jay Wright, surfing enthusiast and co-owner of Peak Performance, a private training facility in New York City. Wright says surfing offers an amazing workout. Laying flat on a board and paddling out works the upper body and core muscles—“It’s incredible for conditioning”—and standing on a board and catching waves helps kids and adults develop agility, balance, coordination and confidence.
Where to Start
Wet suits ($30–$70) work wonders in cold water. Remember to apply sunscreen on your face.
Surf schools usually provide everything beginners need, including properly sized surfboards. Fees run about $70 to $100 for a private lesson. Group classes tend to be cheaper—around $65 a person. Shop around for options within your budget. Visit www.surfline.com—command central for surf information and lessons.
Surf camps supply gear and teach fundamental surf skills, water safety and ocean- and wave-readiness. (www.surfacademy.com)
Once They’re Riding
Most schools start young surfers on soft boards, but kids can grow out of them relatively fast. That’s why Mark Kelly of Global Surf Industries, an international surfboard distributor, recommends a durable epoxy “funboard” from New Surf Project for both beginners and intermediates. With this hybrid board, kids can easily graduate to surfing tricks. Boards start at roughly $200. Go to surf shops or visit www.surfindustries.com, which offers competitive prices along with size suggestions to match a surfer’s height.
Find the best beginner beaches, weather reports and be sure to check wave heights (or the tides) on www.surfline.com.
If you want to “bust an aerial” and avoid “getting worked,” visit www.surfkooks.com to learn surfing lingo and etiquette.
Introducing your kids to the waves will help them stay fit and love the outdoors. As Wright puts it, “Surfing is a great way for people to connect with their athletic nature and Mother Nature at the same time.”
Tips for Tots
Even if your child is too young to surf, you can still help prepare him to become comfortable with the sea. “Get out there and experience the awe,” says Mary Setterholm, a U.S. surfing champion and the founder of Surf Academy in southern California. “The sea is almost like a cardboard box—it will become their favorite toy.” Setterholm offers these tips.
- Let your kids come to the water at their own pace, sticking to knee-high levels to start.
- Show them the rhythm of the sea. Run in and out of the surf, then hold hands and jump over the waves. Finally, dive over and under the waves until you’re completely immersed, teaching them that wipeouts are part of the fun.
- Prime your kids for the board. Encourage them to lie down on boogie boards and practice jumping up on the board in the sand, graduating to the water when they’re ready.