Surfing Cocoa Beach
By: John McNamara
going surfing…surfing USA”, as the famous Beach
Boys song proclaims. But in this case it should be, “Everybody
is surfing…surfing Cocoa Beach,” because that’s
where I had an adventure of a life time. I grew up on the beach
and never had the opportunity to surf. Today, at 44 years old,
I took my 16 year old nephew for surfing lessons with Nex Generation
Surf School. I couldn’t let my nephew have all the fun,
so I joined in.
We meet Brian Gale, the
owner of Nex Generation Surf School, in Cocoa Beach, on 8th
Street, behind the famous Ron Jon’s surf store. Brian
met us under a tent set up on the beach, where he had all the
surf boards ready for us. I got to meet my fellow students,
ranging in ages from 6 to 16 years old. I was by far the oldest
student. Brian had a way of communicating well with each of
his students. There was another professional surfer with him
who assisted with the class.
While we all stood anxiously
in the warm sand, Brian taught the basics on surfing. He explained
how to paddle out, catch a wave, read the waves, what to do
during a wipe out, and the “rules of the road” in
the water. He also warned us that we would all wipe out. You
should expect to have many of them. They take many forms, and
can be fun. It’s most important to look out for your board
when you crash. It may bounce back towards you. After Brian’s
lessons and words of wisdom we took to the water to try our
newly attained skills.
In paddling out to the
waves, Brian encouraged us to try nice, even, alternating strokes.
When its time to get through the whitewater you need to gain
speed and raise your chest up with your arms so that the water
passes between you and the board, Brian explained. He also emphasized
that the biggest mistake new surfers make is not paddling hard
enough. They stop paddling as soon as they think the wave has
them, only to miss it. On your first try, take a few more paddles
even though you think you have it. Paddle and let the white
water catch you. Once the wave takes you, for the first couple
of rides just enjoy and don't even try to stand up. The speed
will provide enough fun.
Catching my first wave
was totally exhilarating. It took quit a few tries but I did
manage to get up. In catching a wave we had the benefit of the
instructor pushing us forward at the appropriate moment of the
wave break. There is a real science in learning to surf, as
we discovered. Knowledge of the waves is complex and comes from
experience. You have to learn which wave to paddle for and which
to let pass, when to start paddling and how fast, how much to
arch your back, and when to jump to your feet. These are things
that no one can teach you. One lesson may not be enough.
When you begin to catch
waves consistently, you're going to want to try riding them
standing up. The key to getting up on a surfboard is making
one fluid motion from the paddle position to standing. As you
paddle and feel the wave start to take you, put both hands on
the rails, pushing down hard so the board stays in the wave.
Allow the motion to propel you to a crouched standing position
as the board falls away. Make sure to keep your knees bent and
your butt way down to give your stance more stability.
Foot placement is crucial.
It's really worth it to practice jumping from prone to your
feet on land first. Rehearse it well before doing it on a moving
board in the water. I wished we had more time to practice this
on the beach, it would have helped. Keeping your feet apart
and knees bent will automatically put you in the right position.
Your front foot should then push the board down the face of
the wave. You'll want your back foot near the tail of the board
and your front foot somewhere near the middle of the board.
By the time you get your foot position right, your arms should
be out in front of you ready to help with balance and correcting.
Get to know your board and the perfect "spot" for
your weight to be. If you are too far forward, you will pearl
straight down into the water and fly off the board. If you're
back too much, you will never catch the wave.
Once you’re up its
time to ride the wave in. Depending on the size of the board
either balance on it (bigger) or move it to stay underneath
you (smaller). I had a nice, long, soft board that was perfect
for my first experience.
Surfing the waves gives
the appearance of looking fairly easy. You would think you just
need to paddle out, turn around, and wait for the perfect wave
to surf. Appearances, in this sport, are very deceptive. It
takes a fair amount of strength, agility, and balance to surf
From what I understand,
there are a number of different breaks where surf transpires,
depending on the shape of the ocean floor or the type of obstruction
that might be causing the waves to break. There are pier, reef,
shore, point, and peak breaks. Each individual wave is transformed
into the face, shoulder, lip, trough, and if your lucky, a tube.
Each wave has a specific story, told via the dynamics of the
wave. It helps if you know this lingo in communicating with
your fellow surfer while out on the water.
Brian also explained
the ”rules of the road” in surfing. You need to
know that on a breaking wave, the inside surfer has the right
of way. The inside person is defined as the one closest to the
peak of the wave. On a right breaking wave this means anybody
to your left. On a left breaking wave it means anybody to your
right. If there is a surfer inside you, they have the right
of way. You should back paddle and pull out of the wave, making
sure you are holding on to your board.
is taking off on a wave in front of someone who is already up
and riding. You should NEVER do this. There are no exceptions
to this rule. When paddling out, if you must get over a wave
that someone is riding, paddle behind them, on the white water
After two hours on the
surf, I was exhausted. As I paddled in slowly I thought to myself,
“Now, at 44 years old, I can say…I’ve surfed!
What a feeling!” My nephew and I finished the day with
a one on one with Brian and thanked him tremendously for a great
time. I would recommend Brian’s services to anyone interested
in learning to surf. Brian gives private and semi- private lessons.
For the young at heart, Nex Generation Surf School is a must.
Remember, surfing is all
about fun and self-expression. It’s important not to get
too stressed about making mistakes. As the surfers say, “be
mellow man, life's too precious.”
Generation Surf School