Salute to Our Surf Coaches

by Bev Sanders on March 15, 2012

I’m from a family of educators. My father had a driving school, my brother is a math teacher and ski coach, and my niece and nephew teach art and lead adventure treks. At 16, I taught skiing and later, snowboarding. Decades later, I found myself pushing newbies into their first waves. I learned from dad that regardless the lesson, teaching is satisfying work.

Ever stood in a circle of new friends when everyone shares what they do for a living? I guess it gives perspective when meeting people, a starting point for more conversation. When it’s my turn I timidly say I work at a surf camp for women. Timidly? Sure, because I’ve learned I have an unusual job and revealing it often leads to more questions.

The first thing people guess is that I’m a surf coach. They imagine I’m just back from riding perfect waves and strolling beaches on faraway shores. I’m probably eating fresh fish at every meal and forever laughing out loud. But aren’t surf coaches young and tan? Where’s my bikini and flip flops?

Now I have to make a quick decision- do I reveal that I don’t personally teach surfing or do I just change the subject and let the charade simmer a little longer? Either way, it makes me wonder what our real surf coaches say when asked about their jobs. All of the above is true- they are beautiful, strong women who surf tropical breaks and eat fresh fish, but behind the scenes there’s much more.

When not waxing dozens of boards and cleaning yoga mats, they’re updating their first aid and water safety certifications. They fine tune their teaching presentations and rehearse emergency response. They stock first aid supplies as well as the refrigerator. They chase spiders out of the storage and sweep sand out of the clubhouse.

Then they’re off to surf lessons. Imagine treading water for hours in the line up, hot sun and surf traffic above, squishy who-knows-what below. Our surf coaches are drawn to Las Olas for their love of surfing waves, but they teach for the joy of sharing them.

When not at Las Olas, our coaches travel to places most of us only see in surf magazines. Some chase contests, big waves, and adventure. Globetrotting pros, they seem immune to jet lag and savor the long layover. Others finish their masters degrees, go back to their job as architects or marine biologists, or take extra shifts at the ER.

Over the past fifteen years, Las Olas alumnae tell us how our coaches have profoundly affected their lives. They’re described as caring, sensitive, supportive, generous, professional, and engaging. Oh, and rock stars, too. Compliments for our surf coaches come like warm waves. And who doesn’t love warm waves?

So, I may not be out treading water with them, but I whole-heartedly appreciate what they do. Salute to the Las Olas surf coaches!

Bev Sanders is founder and president of Las Olas Surf Safaris for Women. She started surfing at 44 continuing her lifelong pursuit of introducing women to sports. She remembers her first teacher, her father Bill Farrell- June 7, 1943 – March 27, 1999.

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