Surf Coaches – They aren’t all the same
As the sport of surfing matures, one of the things that will occur is that more surfers will look for surf coaches to help to better their performances. As a result of this, experienced surfers are seeing an opportunity and setting-up shop and calling themself surf coaches. But it is my experience that some of these people will not provide a professional service, and by doing so, give the profession of surf coaching a bad name.
Often, surfer’s performances are hampered by little issues in their performances. It may be simply they stop paddling too early when catching waves, or that they look down the line too much making for flatter and slower surfing manoeuvres. Or, they may not hold a body position long enough to utilize the wave’s power effectively. Whatever the issue is, most people cannot self-diagnose what the problems are, making the surf coach a vital part of any self-improvement attempt.
There are probably thousands of surf schools around the world right now. Primarily, these schools are working with the beginner surfer, who just wants to experience the thrill of riding waves, or to have a head-start into the sport. Most of these schools do a great job by being professional, using safe and functional soft boards, running their classes in small and non-threatening wave locations, making for an enjoyable experience for their clients.
The issue I see, is at the next level up where coaches are working with surfers who can surf, but just want to get better, or become a better competitor.
Now with surf coaching accreditation courses available, and the incentive to make an income from the profession, the quality of the coaching is beginning to grow. But on the reverse side of things, many see becoming a surf coach as a way to surf more themselves and have a cruiser life. The reality is however, that coaching surfing is a difficult and time consuming profession if the coach is serious about helping their clients.
To help surfers differentiate between different coaches and to hook-up with a coach who is interested in helping you become a better surfer, below are some of the qualities of a professional coach as I see it.
1. The coach is always punctual, and is at the beach before their clients turn up. This gives the coach an opportunity to assess the surf conditions and make decisions as to what training is possible, considering the surf conditions faced. It indicates to the client that the coach is reliable and is trying to maximize the training time available.
2. Quality coaches look for any risks that their clients may face and communicate these risks to them. They also have a risk management strategy in place, in the unforeseen event of someone getting hurt or ending up in a dangerous situation.
3. They run their programs in a planned and organised manner. There is structure in their programs, so the training program runs smoothly and efficiently, maximising the training time available.
4. Every client is welcomed and spoken to equally, especially in group situations. I have witnessed training programs, where the better surfers are favoured over the surfers who struggle to perform well. In my opinion, this weakens the bond between coach and surfer, as you never know how good a surfer will become, given time and effort.
5. Quality coaches only surf with their clients for a few specific reasons. These being:
- Helping a surfer select and position themselves for waves
- Provides the coach an in-water view of a performance when they are have difficulty spotting the issues of a surfer
- When teaching tactics and thought patterns after waves ridden for the competitive surfer.
To see what is a surfer is doing, the coach should be primarily on the beach taking notes or videoing the performance. Any coach who suggests that they go surfing with their clients should be questioned as to what they are trying to achieve, as often the coach is really only going for a free-surf, which the client is paying for.
I’m sure there are other qualities not mentioned, but these are the main ones as I see them. If you are not satisfied with the service and support you are currently receiving, look for another coach who cares about how you surf, and wants to help you achieve better surfing performances.
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