Unlike most sports, surfing has no age limit, no height limit, and no limit to what time of year it takes place. Surfing is for everyone all four seasons of the year. Living out on the coast, our youth are born and bred in the sea – but for those of you pondering whether or not surfing is right for your child, let me convince you.
There are thousands of children taking up surfing every year and the mental well-being benefits are endless. Young people make up over 1/3rd of New Zealand’s population. Sadly, 1 in 5 of those young people will be affected by depression or anxiety by the age of 18. NZ Surf Academy works with hundreds of kids a year from all over the world, and we’ve seen first hand the happiness those children experience when surfing.
Surfing reduces anxiety and stress through the release of endorphins (otherwise known as the ‘happy hormone’) into the brain when exercising; leaving your child with a warm, euphoric feeling post-surf.
There are many studies that show being outside also reduces anxiety levels - we all welcome with open arms the feeling a little fresh air and sunshine can do – so imagine how great surfing feels. Not only will sunshine and salt water improve your child’s mental health, but both of these elements are natural sources of vitamins to aid a healthy growth process.
The ocean is feared by many children, and we don’t blame them. When you’re being asked to step into something unknown that’s much bigger than you, it’s going to be scary! Which is why surfing is the perfect way to overcome that fear. By having a child concentrate on the board and distracting their mind with the task of catching a wave, the element of fear is removed. Also, as we all know, surfing is rewarding. Daily, we
see the pride children feel as they face their fears and catch their first wave (hopefully of many). Although with reward comes risk - aka the inevitable wipe-out - but many kids actually find the experience of being thrown off a surfboard hilarious, and the soft landing is a bonus! What a way to build resilience.
The beauty of surfing is that it doesn’t matter if your child is a book-worm or a social butterfly, they get to choose whether surfing is a real social event – or whether it’s a time to enjoy with themselves. Either way, surfing can be a way to connect with the world, or peacefully disconnect for a while.
Surfing has no rule book, every day is a little different to the last with new challenges making themselv
es known. This teaches children the valuable lesson of patience, and what you can achieve if you put your mind to it and commit. Children getting into surfing at a young age also does wonders for improved self-esteem and confidence, as you cannot ‘lose’ – you merely improve – which always feels like a win.
There is something very spiritual about surfing and the connection with nature it provides. Children’s minds are a busy place that rarely stop, but surfing is the perfect time for their brains to switch off and be at one with the ocean. Mindfulness and being present in the moment are life lessons anybody would love to learn at a young age, so let’s teach our kids today. Jump in your car, introduce them to the ocean, and let them take that first step into the world of surfing – they will thank you for it.