How To Teach Your Kid To Surf

Communicating the fundamentals with Tom Curren

| posted on June 27, 2012
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.

  • Greg

    I really enjoyed reading this. Lots of great info. Thank you guys.

  • Judge #3

    Good stuff! Who better to talk about this than Mr. Curren

  • Will

    I’m 40 and wish I had Tom Curren to teach me to surf.

  • jimmy

    Thank you for this. It was terrific. I’m 28 and my girl and i have a kid due in Feb.

  • Nano

    Hi, i live in Spain an Hawaii it´s really far away!!!!! 😉 but i ´give thanks for the advertising! Really.
    I agree with him, good point of wiev to be with our kids in a good way.

  • Larry Cavero

    This is the first time I readed anything about Surfing with your kids!
    Its been already 3years since I introduced my little girls into the surfing ( now 10 and 7 ) and definitely patients are the key, Thanks for sharing some good points and hope to hear /read more about this from Tom C.

  • Chris w.

    Had the pleasure of teaching Tom’s wife a bit about surfing in La Jolla. She’s a very talented sponger who was ready to give surfing a try. Tom was real relaxed and stoked That she was up for the new challenge. He gave us plenty of room but kept a watchful eye on the action from the shoreline. After a few great rides Tom jumped in and took the wheel with his lady- totally seemless transition- full of laughter and perfect style. I was honored to be involved. God bless

  • HB Bazz

    I have 2 boys 7 &10 and I think there are two very important keys to success:

    1. Time in the water (surf lessons while Dad’s at work)
    2. Be comfortable (the right wetsuit for the location, if needed)

    As a surfer dad there is nothing more to get stoked on than when your kid is stoked on surfing!!

    Aloha Mr. Hand!

  • Chick

    Really enjoyed Tom’s advice on teaching your kid how to surf!
    As a humble New Englander thought I’d add a couple of things that has helped my kids.

    – I’ve had a lot of parents ask me when is the best age to teach your kid how to surf? My answer has always been: ” the perfect age is hen they’re tearing the board out of your hands.”

    – The most important thing in surfing to me as a parent is not to get hurt. So I really teach them safety.
    – Cover your head until you know the board(s) is safely away from you.,
    – Don’t get between your board and the beach,,,
    – And Always, Always know where the board is.
    If they weren’t following this advise, they were allowed to watch from the beach for 15 minutes.

    – I used to ask my son Charlie if he wanted to go surfing with me every morning at 5:30 on the weekends at Cape Cod. He always said no and went back to sleep until he was 12 yrs. old then one morning he thought for a few moments and said OK.
    We surfed Perfect waist to chest high rights alone with the seals for two hours before anyone came out. He did great and finally headed in about 10:30am. We stopped at the Beachcomber and I had the bartender make us a couple virgin Miami Vices, we sat there looking out at the ocean not saying much, after a while Charlie looked up at me and asked, “Dad, do you do this every day?”
    Told him I would if he came along. To this day (he’s a hot 17yr old) we surf all the time together and now his 12 yr old sister Katie is begging us to hurry up.
    Every day is a gift.

  • Strealy

    Another reason why Curren will always be my hero. Now, how do I teach my boys to hit a curve ball.

  • Nancy

    Great article by the master. My son is six and he’s been surfing for about two years now. Another tip is to try to find another family to surf with. We’ve had more fun spending time in the water with friends whose kids also surf. A great time in the line up is with two six year olds, a ten year old, and the adults. It’s pure magic.

  • Tracey Black

    Great tips from legend Tom Curren. I think lots of exposure to warm water – like every day – is key to encourage surfing and just an overall love of the beach so that the whole family is there all the time.

  • longboardlover

    Thank you for sharing such a helpful post, although i haven’t much information regarding long boarding but my 10 year child is very found of long boarding and he demanded to have a long board at his coming birthday, i have intended to get a long board form an online shop before this i would like to tech him about, is there any online training regarding long boarding ?

    • Pia

      Hi longboardlover,

  • grifty

    Just to add: Don’t worry about them catching waves. We took my son out and he basically just sat in the (small) break while I caught waves. He had fun. He saw me riding waves (which will probably fill him with bad habits, but whatevers) and that went into his brain.

  • john doe

    ” one of the best things you can do is introduce your children to surfing in warm water”. With all do respect to the author, that is not the first thing to think about when bringing your child into the world of surfing. Cold water, being cold, being numb, cold wind, cold wetsuits, cold mornings, ice on your board, ice on your suit, raining, hail, winds, these are the things surfers deal with at least in Northern Calif. When your child wakes up and its dark, cold, raining and says are we going surfing? There you have a surfer and a partner for life. The last thing you want your children to want is warm, fuzzy, cozy, comfortable surroundings to nurture them into surfing. They should love it for its raw essence . If not, they will never be surfers at heart. To get in the water and first think of how cold it is, is being harnessed by the lust of comfort and easiness. In the beginning there is nothing easy about surfing. Love it with a passion, in spite all the trials, and you will love it like God himself casting a net of love across his people and giving storm spawned waves to them.

  • Papia Sultana

    I also bought a longboard for my kids few days ago. Then I have searched on the google for long period and found some resources those have cleared to my kids. He learned some lessons easily. You can also try these resources to learn your child:

  • shahid

    thank you for sharing this helpful post. Recently i bought a longboard for my kid.