Learning new sports as a family: girls go family surfing near Auckland


I am going to be totally honest. I have always had NO DESIRE to surf. None!

I put it down to 3 things:

  1. I grew up in landlocked, rainy northern England and “summer” (i use that word loosely) brings memories of freezing our butts off in the Irish Sea off the coast of Wales. The sea does not beckon to me – ever! Even when I am on a tropical island.
  2. I shared a 2 bedroom flat with 8 Poms in Bondi Beach on my O.E. and most evenings i endured long and (to my mind) boring, endless talk of surfing.
  3. I would watch these roomies from the beach and would always think to myself “that’s not a proper sport, they are just faffing around suntanning themselves onboard at sea”.

Well, I must confess I was wrong (it doesn’t often happen – so mark it down now). I LOVED it. We had an absolute blast.

Myself and Miss 8 joined Aotearoa Surf School up in Te Arai Point, about an hour and a half north of Auckland. To be honest I had to bribe her with the promise of hot chocolate at the nearby Bennetts of Mangawhai. A couple of weeks before i took 3 kids for an intro to family surfing with another company and it was a bit of a fail and my daughter spent more time building sandcastles than surfing. With 2 instructors to 18 people including 7 kids and a large group of tourists with little English, it turned to custard pretty quickly the minute they were all over the place in the sea. 

So there I am trying to be “Miss Positive, not Pushy Parent” which as we all know meets a very tough audience in any kid. Rewards work though! So when she was given her “Wave Warriors” surf programme book on arrival at the school her interest perked up. A quiet, little achiever she instantly liked being able to read through the structure and concepts behind what she was learning. But the proof would be in the pudding during the family surfing group lesson….

We were quite an eclectic group and again quite a lot of families with kids under 10. But this time there were 4 instructors which is exactly what you need to be helping the kids (and the grown-ups!) catch the right waves and know when to stand up (or try to…….lets not go there!).  We were in and out of the water a couple of times for group instruction gradually building up in baby steps and it was just the right balance of instruction vs “get in there and give it a go”.

I chatted to quite a few of the parents on the beach and the feedback was great from all of them – the kids enjoyed it and the parents felt reassured they were in safe hands. One mum told me that her 2 boys under 10 had had a lesson that had not gone so well the week before – they had struggled in dumping waves and got demoralised. Aotearoa Surf School promises a “satisfaction guaranteed or your money back” policy. How many times do we hear that? It always sounds so tokenistic. This mum, however, was incredibly impressed that the owner, Che, had taken her feedback very seriously and straight away organised another lesson at no cost.  I was also slightly relieved to hear she had bribed the kids with a promise of McDonald’s – so it’s not just me with the bribery!! Don’t think we will need it now that they had a fabulous time this time.

I know my daughter was very chuffed that I was the one parent who was in there, down and dirty doing it with her. And so was I. To be honest parents spend their lives these days taxi-ing the kids around to sports and then complaining that they never have enough time to keep fit themselves. So guess what? How about joining them in the sport and do it as a family? Why should they have all the fun and the workout? Besides research shows that in sport, as in life in general, “parents above all remain the enduring role models that their children use as a basis for their own development”  (Christine May, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport).

So, what of my 3 reasons why surfing was not for me?

  1. Firstly it was beautifully warm bobbing around in there in the wetsuit (all equipment is included). Even 1.5 hours in I didn’t notice that it was not the sunniest of our beautiful summer days. And hanging out in Te Arai Point Reserve would be enough to distract you from even the coldest water – it’s a beautiful spot.
  2. Yes, my flatmates may have continually talked surfing but hey, now I am the one going around telling everyone to give it a go!
  3. And I have a newfound respect for surfers. I consider myself pretty fit and I certainly felt like I had a good workout! In fact also in the group was a triathlon coach I knew from my former Ironman life and we both agreed it was a good replacement for the hours we used to spend on a bike on Sunday mornings – and way more family-friendly!

At the end of the day it is rejuvenating for the soul to get out and learn something new (and rejuvenating for the nasal passages if it’s surfing I found!).  Will my daughter now become a fully-fledged surfer chick? Maybe, maybe not. The main thing is she was encouraged to just give it a go and try something a bit different. Mum being at her side (and regularly submerged) taught her that valuable life lesson.

Aotearoa Surf School provides family-friendly group surfing lessons, school kids’ holiday programmes, and even a women’s only surf programme so Mums can do it just for themselves!! Heck i am quite tempted by their Bali retreat!  They operate out of several locations close to Auckland. More details can be found here or on their Facebook page: https://www.aotearoasurf.co.nz/

What are you waiting for?