Teaching kids to surf all about timing

For reasons only they know, parents are putting their kids on surfboards at younger and younger ages. Some even wear kid-carrying devices, paddling junior out with them at around 2 years old.
Tosh Tudor, Joel and Maya’s firstborn, rode some well-overheard (for him) waves before his 3rd birthday. The waves were mushy little outside high tide lefts that roll into Cardiff between swells all summer long. Neither Joel nor Tosh were ever in any danger here and Tosh has grown up to ride on his own. He now reigns as the king of the spinner in his age group.
Another parent I observed surfing with his child did not seem so safe — the man holding onto his infant, caught a hollow little inside grinder, grabbed a rail and rode tightly near the hook of a small, inside tube. One bad move or unexpected warble in the wave could have pinned the helpless baby to the sand, and … I hate to think of it. Thankfully, there was no such mishap.
In the early ‘60s, most parents waited at least until their kids’ 6th birthday to launch them into the surf. As the oldest brother I was forced to wait until I was 10. My middle brother was 8 and my youngest I took out at 6. Had there been a brother younger than these, he probably would have been born on a surfboard.
With soft surfboards, leashes and helmets, surfing is far safer than it used to be. When somebody asks how young is too young I tell them that it depends on your child. Some, like my youngest brother, are forced into the surf before they are ready and never return again. Others can’t wait to paddle out and ride the biggest waves they can find.
Just as there is no lower age limit in surfing there is also no upper limit. Senior and junior surfers seem to appreciate the same sorts of waves, many of which are found in North County between bigger swells. While most older surfers have ridden since their youth and are able to gauge their abilities accurately, juniors do not have the same experience.
If you are taking your kid surfing for the first time, there are several things to look out for: sharp rocks, crowds and the power of the wave. The best waves to learn on are generally the slow rolling variety that break out far enough to ride for a long ways. It is also best to allow your child to let you know what they are comfortable with. Too much too soon can lead a traumatized kid away from the ocean, into field sports.
If that happens you can only blame yourself as you sit in the bleachers pretending to cheer, wondering how the surf is.


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