‘Wouldn’t you have liked to have son’, my father’s friend asked him. ‘It would have been good for you to have a mate to do things with, right?’.
My father was puzzled. My mother was indignantly furious. He loved his two daughters. Why would he wish for a boy? His eldest (me) came out surfing with him anyway. He’d wake me up at dawn and force me to paddle out with him, not that I needed much forcing. I quickly adopted his philosophy that ‘saltwater cures everything’, and considerably older now, I’m still paddling out with my old man, in absolute gratitude for the love of the ocean imprinted on me as a young girl.
My father’s illness last year caused me to reflect a lot on what he’d given me. Facing the possibility of his death, I floated about in the ocean and thought about mortality, and what’s passed on. What stays behind when you die? What will be left of my father when he is gone? How will I cope without this compass point to define my place in the world?
The answer, every time, was inexorably entwined with surfing. Out there, in the waves, I was one with the infinite, and all worries dropped away. What a gift my father had given me. Hence, I am sharing with you ten reasons why I think it’s important that men teach daughters to surf.
You achieve immortality.
Not only will you build memories that will become part of the fabric of your own life, you achieve a kind of immortality as your daughter will always remember that it was you that begun her surfing life. ‘My Dad taught me to surf’, she will say fondly, even when you are dead and gone. This story will become part of the fabric of your existence — somewhere, there will be a photograph of you pushing your little one onto her first wave, and your great grandchildren will point and say — ‘How sweet is that! He taught Great Grandma to surf!’ before they grab their hover surf boards and launch into virtual reality waves.
You will support her mental health — for life.
The quotable Jon Kabat Zinn said wisely that ‘you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.’ Life is going to throw all kinds of things at your beloved daughter, from illness to loss, anxiety to bad relationships. If you’ve given her a love of the ocean, she’s going to ride those waves of life experience like a boss.
If you’re a surfer, you know that time stands still when you’re on a wave. There is no past, no future — only the delicious moment. One of the reasons that we return to the ocean again and again is that it makes us feel better. The worries of the world fade away and the technicolor aquamarine becomes the focal point of her existence. There’s not a worry in the world she can’t paddle away from, returning to shore renewed.
She will choose a healthy lifestyle
Surfing is better than drugs. Despite stereotypical views of surfer dudes being dope smoking losers, this is far from the truth in this decade at least — surfers want to be in prime fitness because it makes them more focussed and sharper out in the line-up. Social media at least promotes the surfing lifestyle as a healthier one — picture sun kissed skin and pineapples. Yeah that. And when there’s no waves, she’ll need the endorphin rush that they provided, so she’ll turn to yoga, gym, snowboarding and other sports.
Surfing allows her to connect to nature
It’s not only the waves that will help support her mental health. It’s the sunsets that rise like molten gold on soft horizons. It’s the turtles and stingrays floating below the surface. It’s flocks of birds — kestrels and gulls, cormorants and penguins — and silver flashes of fishes. It’s dolphins sliding in and out of the deep blue, whales and sharks. It’s the forest that leads down to the sea, the cliffs that glow red in the late afternoon light, the moon setting in one direction whilst the sun rises in the other. If you’d like to give your little one such joy, then teach her to be a water baby.
The world needs woman like your daughter to protect it and to fight for the environment that gives us the pleasure it does. Raise a girl to surf, and she’ll protest about drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight and organise beach clean ups with friends. She’ll sign petitions and write letters, and buy ethical products that won’t destroy the environment. The future is in her hands. We’ll thank you for it.
She will think surfing is better than sex.
Ouch. You don’t want to think of your daughter having sex, do you? Place your fingers in your ears and say la la la all you like, but she will fall in love with surfer boys, and get her heart broken more than once. However, if she surfs, she’s more likely to have those conversations with her girlfriends that query whether investment in boys is worth it when they hurt you, and that screaming down a green face at sunrise is infinitely more fun, and decidedly less messy. She will know that boys will come and go, but surfing never breaks your heart.
She will never be a beach bunny.
I read an article the other day by a guy who recommended teaching girlfriends to surf because otherwise she’ll be left to her own devices and likely get chatted up by the bartender. If this wasn’t enough to make me gag, the article went on to say that surf trips can be the worse to bring a girlfriend because they won’t be comfortable and they’d lose their mind. He joked it was probably better to not bring a girlfriend on a surf trip whilst saying he wasn’t being sexist at the same time.
The thing is, teach a girl to surf and she’ll be booking surf trips on her own, and I’d hope she’d dismiss such condescending stereotypes about girlfriends not hacking the surfing life or at least throw cold water surf wax at their foreheads for even suggesting that they ‘can’t handle it’. You’ll make her tougher and stronger and more capable than the other girls who can’t bear to get sand between their toes for fear of destroying their nail varnish.
Besides, if you teach your girl to surf and she happens to be with a surfer, they’ll always have something that brings them together and unites them. I got my non surfing husband in the water, and there’s nothing more special to do with your loved one than paddle out into beautiful waves together.
Because it’s 2019, dude.
If you teach your son to surf, you should teach your daughter. In doing so, you teach her she is just as valuable and just as worth investing time in as a boy might be. This gives her a value as a woman that will carry through her entire life. If her father thinks she’s valuable enough to invest time in, then she will accept nothing less in the workplace and in all other relationships.