An open letter of apology to all my surf students


I would like to take this opportunity to finally, formally and whole-heartedly apologise to my surf students.  There were failings, there were shenanigans, there was a lot of sweat and tears, and there was an incident with a video camera.

Here I confess all my sins….

  • I insisted that you did the jump style of pop up where both feet land on the board at the same time. It didn’t matter if you were 7 or 70, if you had hips like Shakira’s or hips like an arthritic granny.  I sulked like a pissed off mother-in-law if you attempted any other style of pop up which was more suited to your body type
  • Do you remember the turtle roll? One time me and a colleague were paddling a group of beginners to the outside for their first time.  We’d shown them the turtle roll a few days earlier in a swimming pool, but we’d forgotten to give a turtle roll recap on the day they were actually going to use it.  Suddenly a big set came and, just as a huge wall of white water was about 2 metres away from us, me and my colleague started yelling at their terrified faces “DO YOU REMEMBER THE TURTLE ROLL?”  Of course boards ended up flying everywhere.   For a while that exclamation became my go-to in situations of stress or panic.  For example, if I was in the supermarket and they’d run out of my favourite biscuits, I’d yell at the cashier “DO YOU REMEMBER THE TURTLE ROLL! … DO YOU REMEMBER THE TURTLE ROLL!”  Or my motorbike conks out in the middle of the street, I’d look up to the gods and …”DO YOU REMEMBER THE TURTLE ROLL!!!!”
  • Like a remake of ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’ in sweltering temperatures I forced you to do at least 10 pop ups on boiling hot sand, even though you were dying to get into the ocean
  • “It’s easy”… I trilled, making you feel completely inadequate if you weren’t able to do the pop up straight away
  • “Just paddle harder!” The word ‘just’ is the offending one here because it implies that paddling is something easy and very achievable.  The reality is that paddling can take a long time to get good at
  • “Feel the energy of the wave” … yes I said that one time ….I’m cringing as I write this
  • “Try to balance better”… that was another of my great pieces of advice
  • “You looked down”. Sometimes I mis-judged a wave and it ended up smashing on your head.  Instead of me taking the blame for the situation, I would lay the blame at your door with “you looked down”.  You vaguely remembered seeing a gaping chasm underneath you as your body was catapulted towards the seabed, so you accepted my false accusation.  (Sorry about that Pam!  Did you ever get that nasty blood stain out of your rashguard?)
  • I gave you withering looks if you admitted to me that you’d been out the night before and had a few drinks. Even though it was your vacation!   I forgot that real people have a thing called ‘a life’ outside of surfing
  • I secretly kept the videos of your wipeouts and turned them into an amusing Christmas bloopers tape (amusing for me that is, probably not so amusing for you)
  • I gave surfing some kind of ridiculous white, middle class, yoga spin.  I was always talking about cobra and upward dog, and ‘the core’ and centering and grounding.  I thought I sounded cool and with it, but in reality I just sounded like a total pratt
  • I gave lectures on surf nutrition (usually after I’d just eaten an entire tub of paprika pringles)
  • I threw a hissy fit accompanied with lots of eye-rolling if you let go of your board whilst turtle rolling (actually I still do this one, but minus the eye-rolling)
  • I assumed knowledge, where sometimes there was none.  Kudos though to one student who stood up on her board, whilst we’re were walking out to sea and facing the oncoming waves

So that’s it.  I’m sorry.  I’ve learnt from my mistakes.  I’ve mellowed.  I’m not like an SS officer anymore.  Honest.  I’m more fun.  Forgiven?


I really like this surf lesson scene from the movie ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’, watch it if you need a giggle…

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