When most people think of a surfer’s paradise, Hawaii and California come to mind, not New York City. Nonetheless, aspiring surfers and fearless kids who love water sports can learn how to surf in their own backyard.
“Surfing is a great sport for kids. It helps them develop ocean safety skills, water confidence, social skills, and general physical fitness, all while having a ton of fun,” says Michael Kololyan, co-founder of Locals Surf School located in Rockaway Beach, N.Y. The surf school offers a kids camp for young surfers of all ages and skill levels.
For some parents, the sport may be too adventurous, but Kololyan points out that “surfing can be as exhilarating and challenging as one wants to make it or as mellow, relaxed, and fun as one chooses.” Either way, at the Locals Surf School, the emphasis is on fun. That’s the key for keeping kids “motivated to get better instead of feeling pressured to succeed.”
Besides taking lessons, we picked Kololyan’s brain as to how parents can help their little surfers improve their skills so they spend more time riding the waves and less time wiping out. “Make them feel comfortable. Kids are often out of their comfort zone when in the ocean so it is very important to reassure them constantly and make them feel safe,” says Kololyan. “Give them the right type of board. Kids learn best on foam top boards which are safer and more fun. Then give them a thicker wet suit. Kids often get cold quicker than adults so it’s important that they’re wearing the appropriate wet suit gear so they’re warm, comfortable, and ready to keep trying instead of giving up early because they’re cold.”
Kololyan’s fourth recommendation is centered on keeping kids focused through repetition. “Repeat, repeat, repeat! When learning something new, kids tend to lose focus on new concepts or skills because they are too excited or overwhelmed. Instructors are encouraged to be overly patient and to constantly repeat the goals to the kids so they can stay on task,” says Kololyan. “Make it Fun! Giving kids little games to play while learning or just being silly in between waves helps to remind them that surfing is not suppose to be a chore. This relaxed environment often allows them to learn better.”
So, whether your young surfer is a novice or has some experience, the trek to the Rockaways is well worth it. The Rockaways are well-known for having some of the best waves on the east coast. Surf’s up!
For more information about Locals Surf School, visit localssurfschool.com.