Three times each summer the Florida Surfing Association heads up three Super Grom events for kids ten and under. I have had the pleasure of acting as an instructor at their events for the last eight years or so and lo ok forward to being a part of it for many more.
Boy do I wish they had Super Grom events when I was a kid in the sixties. back then there wasn’t any such event on Long Island and we were forced to learn either by ourselves or from friends. It wasn’t until I reached high school that I joined the first surf club at Bay Shore High school and had buddies and an instructor to learn from.
The super grom events are probably the most popular event at Jacksonville Beach for kids in the summer and each event is always run at capacity and could be a lot bigger if all who wanted to sign up could. And why not. Where else could a child go to get not only a free lesson with boards included, get free gifts and a lunch and have the time of their lives.
We have run these events in nearly flat conditions and in waves that are challenging even for an accomplished rider yet I’ve never seen a kid who backed out. Now that’s not to say they aren’t scared because many certainly are.
I am a pretty good reader of facial expressions and can generally tell which ones are intimidated but even so I always ask each student “are you excited, scared or a combination of both”? This way I know how far to take them out and how much TLC they need to become comfortable.
I generally get a god mix of responses and generally get at least one student who is near tears before we head out. This year was no exception. There was one little girl who begged her parents not to force her to go out and it was only after I assured her we would not go out very far and that I would keep a close eye on her, that she finally relented.
During her first stand up ride all of her fears vanished and a huge smile ran across her face, and in that moment it seemed as if her entire life changed before my eyes. It was the miracle of surfing that I have witnessed in my own life and seen many times over not only in the faces of young super groms but also in the faces of Wounded Warriors, Silent (deaf) surfers and Special Olympians that I have taught over time.
In my mind the sport is nothing short of miraculous in the way it builds strength and confidence in those who embrace it and every time I see a new grom smile after their first ride or joyfully announce “now I’m a surfer”, I can’t help but to feel blessed to help them to experience that joy and sense of accomplishment.
Whether or not they ever surf again, which in most cases they certainly will, I am certain the feeling of riding their first wave will stick with them forever. And I hope some day one of them will come up to me and say, ” I just won my first pro contest and I will never forget you were the one who gave me my first lesson and instilled within me the spark to pursue a career as a pro”.
Ah, one can only dream but even if that never happens I feel blessed just to help them to fall in love with the greatest of sports.
Thanks again for dropping in and I’ll catch you again next week. In the interim it would be good to hear from you. Aloha, Paul