Just a little push…

Are you ready? Let's do this! (photo courtesy of http://flickr.bairdphotos.com/)

Are you ready? Let’s do this! (photo courtesy of http://flickr.bairdphotos.com/)

As long as we remember that too much of anything might turn out to be detrimental to whatever goal we aim to achieve, it is okay to help surfing beginners enter a wave or two by giving them that little initial push. BE CAREFUL, though: it doesn’t take much to spoil the apprentices with such practice…

In surfing, everything starts from our ability to read the environment, interpret its clues and be one step ahead of what’s going to happen next. And that requires lots and lots of hours of spontaneous contemplation, careful observation and – preferably supervised – training.

But many people who are driven into surfing hold some serious imminent expectations, right? Specially if we think of children, it is important to keep them motivated by giving them a little taste of what the sport feels like (or, at least, what they think the sport should feel like). And in this sense, pushing them on a few waves might sound like the perfect call.

And why might pushing be bad for the learning? Considering that surfing is a typical eye-hand coordination sport (we respond to what we see), first of all we need to make sure we know what we are looking for. If we watch experienced surfers in action, we will eventually notice that they tend to present an incredibly similar pattern of behavior. And that is because they all understand very precisely what’s going on in the peak, and what they need to do to catch the next wave in its optimal timing and positioning.

“Pushing lessons” can easily deviate students’ attention from that more organic perspective, making it harder to bring it back to its true expected direction later on.

So before giving the pushes, talk to the parents and explain them what your strategy is (our chances of succeeding will dramatically depend on whether they agree or not with our approach). Next, it would be necessary to observe how the kids behave on the beach, unattended (if they can’t wait to get their feet wet, our work will be much easier). Give them simple instructions, as if they were your own kids and, for a start, you wanted them to just play in the shallow water, under your close supervision.

This initial observation will provide us with the most noticeable weak points the kids hold under such environment, in terms of what restrains them the most from having the necessary autonomy to deal with the surf on their own (take note of those points!).

By now we should also have an idea of their temper. Truth is we are going to push them a little as we can (perfect world: we don’t push, they don’t miss it). Our intervention should be as smooth and imperceptible as possible. Let them delve into what is catching their attention at that time. Seek to anticipate the timing and interrupt them just before they start loosing interest in what they are doing, and then propose a slight modification to that initial task.

Maintaining that low-key posture throughout the remainder of the lesson, see if you can come up with a customized set of proposed tasks that will address the students’ weak points without jeopardizing that more instinctive experience we are looking for to deliver them.

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