What Your Surf Coach Wishes You Knew: Advice from The Surf Box

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Can you please tell us a little about yourself, your coaching career, and your website, The Surf Box?

Im Ruby, a high performance surf coach from New Zealand. I have been coaching all levels of surfing for years and last year I started up an online platform for females to improve their surfing. The Surf Box assists women to reach their highest potential in the water, for free. I offer free articles and videos on how to do certain maneuvers, how to overcome fear, how to push yourself, workouts, and recipes that help surfers flourish.

I am passionate about the rise of females in the water, and want to encourage ladies to not only get out in the water, but to really push their limits and gain confidence and experience in the sport. I have currently been traveling through Central America this year (Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador and Costa Rica) and am soon returning home to work on a new project (surf related) in which I am excited to launch early next year (keep your eyes peeled).

How can a first-time surf student prepare for their first surf lesson?

A first time surf student should expect a few things:
1. To have fun.
2. To be challenged.
3. To be physically exhausted.
Learning to surf for the first time is an incredibly “in the moment” experience. You can prepare by keeping an open mind, having a positive attitude and of course doing some basic practical things. Eat a good meal before hand, apply a heck of a lot of sunscreen, and find either a wetsuit or bathing suit that will keep all the bits and pieces in nice and tight.

What are some of the most common mistakes you see beginner surfers make?

1. Walking out past the whitewash while holding their board in between them and the wave. When the wave comes, they subsequently get pushed back and the board may hit them in the face

2. Not paddling hard enough, or forgetting those last one or two paddles that will get you onto the wave.

3. Not learning the etiquette rules of surfing. This is very important but a lot of surf schools will miss giving this talk.

What are some of the most common mistakes you see experienced surfers make?

1. Failing to make speed their absolute number one priority.

2. Staying too straight and not using the force of their body and compression to maximize their maneuvers.

3. Continuing to surf with bad habits they developed a long time ago (and not realizing how limiting this is for their surfing!).

If I had a dollar every time a surf student __________, I’d have my dream quiver. 

Put their wetsuit on backwards. I often forget to mention that the zip goes at the back, but its amazing how many people seem to think it would work better at the front.

Also, the amount of people that think they will be ripping after two lessons. Surfing takes time and I think a lot of beginner surfers underestimate how hard it can be to move past the beginner stage.

If every surfer did this exercise every day, they’d be a much better surfer: 

Practiced their pop up. Everybody can benefit from doing this, even if your pop up is sorted. It is such a good physical movement for a surfer. It engages the core and the stabilizer muscles, the triceps and shoulders, and the quads — all essentials for a strong surfer. Practicing this movement just five times a day helps keep those muscles active and firing, as well as building muscle memory that will lead to the consistency of the start of your waves.

I also think visualization is a really powerful tool for everybody, not just with surfing. Visualizing yourself doing certain turns, or overcoming fear — these all help develop positive mental pathways. I think visualization is just so underrated.

What is the best way students can conquer their fear of the ocean?

Simply put, you gotta be in it to win it. Slowly expose yourself to larger and larger surf and you will grow your  capacity. If you avoid surfing outside your comfort zone it will become a bigger and bigger fear. 

What can surfers expect to get from surf coaching?

If you are a beginner, taking a surf lesson will be incredibly helpful (ensuring your instructor is qualified). They will help you get into waves, teach you the proper way to stand, and how to maintain your speed along the wave. They will hopefully give you a spiel about the conditions of the day and allow you to understand rips, winds, swell sizes and directions and give you a bit of an idea of what to look for if you go out on your own.

From video coaching or more advanced coaching, you should expect to improve rapidly! Seeing yourself on film is such a powerful tool because without it you are probably not aware of exactly how you are surfing. Seeing yourself and having somebody analyze how you can maximize a turn from a few simple tweaks is both rewarding and surprising.

Do you think female surfers have it harder than male surfers when it comes to gaining respect in the line-up? If so, how can this be changed?

 I do. We are far and few between and generally don’t have as much of a presence in the line-up. In a crowd there is always the notion, “Oh I will just drop in on her because she is a kook and wont make it.” Often I see girls will be more hesitant to battle in crowds, so to be honest I can see where the male counterpart gets that idea.

However, now there are more and more confident girls in the line-up that are ripping and pushing the bar of female surfing. I think over time men will get used to there being a solid pack of girls who are killing it, and hopefully the respect we deserve will follow that. I think its a time issue. I do think that the media is also to blame. They culture women into thinking they just have to be these cute passive figures in little bikinis out in the water — consequently, it is not really encouraged for us to get out there like the boys and give it our all. As we begin to become more conscious of the media and its influence it has on all parties, we will begin to break down these barriers.

My best surf students have these traits:

Persistence, the ability to listen, learn and take on constructive advice, self-motivation (e.g. they surf because they love it and nothing more), and self-awareness.

My worst surf students have these traits:

The inability to get over their fear of failure, and basically the list above but in reverse.

What’s the best part about being a surf coach?

Traveling and surfing waves all over the world, seeing people overcome their fears and self-limitations, being outdoors and in nature, surrounding myself with people that are amped to just enjoy life and have a good time!

Thank you, Ruby!

You can follow Ruby’s coaching website, The Surf Box on Facebook, where she promotes her content first. She is also planning on releasing a product that will help surfers of all abilities with their pop-up in the near future, so follow her for more updates.