Working for Moana – Gaby’s story

Working for Moana Surf School for the past 5 years has been like waves themselves … you have the ups, the downs, but no matter what, you keep going, you keep evolving and keep living the dream! It may seem like the ideal job, but when there are 60km winds, freezing cold air, heavy rain and distant thunder storms, it may be an understatement to say we are a little demotivated at times to enter the water. But we go anyways, and whatever our feeling before the class, we (normally) come out the water with big smiles and laughing at what may have seemed like an epic journey through the wild wild west. As we say in surfing, “if you don’t go, you’ll never know!”...
There are so many generic blogs, usually starting with something like “10 reasons why you should learn to surf”, but very infrequently do you get an insight into the mind of the instructor him/herself and the reality of what goes behind giving a class.
Our daily routine, contrary to what many people believe, is far more than what it may appear. We do not just sit our bums on the beach every day staring at the ocean, but rather have to grit our teeth knowing we are missing a firing lineup for the sake of newbies wanting to gain a taste of the “stoke” as surfing so often refers to. This may not seem like a big sacrifice, but when there's a firing line up of solid 4 foot glassy waves, it's like looking at the world's best hamburger and not being able to take a bite…
At Moana Surf School, our days in peak summer season usually start at 8am and finish 9pm. We arrive a good hour before the classes start to take out all the boards, wetsuits and give a good sweep to start each day fresh. When students start flocking in, we dish out all wetsuits, get everybody coloured up with some bright rash vests that help us identify our students in the class, then it's time to head to the beach. Although this may not seem like a lot, we guarantee offloading 20-30 big foam boards daily has a good clench on the old arm muscles!
On the beach we usually separate our students into beginners, intermediates, children and advanced students. We try to evenly separate the groups so there are enough instructors to suit the group size, such that all students are given enough support and instruction in the water, keeping safety at the primary focus of our class.
We then commence a warm up followed by stretches, to loosen up the joints and muscles that will be used during the hour in the water. For anyone that has surfed before, you will know that surfing requires a whole different type of strength, using muscles that would never generally be used otherwise. We then commence the ABC format of instruction of how to walk into the water, turn around, paddle into a wave and stand up to ride the wave into shore. We always go over safety and conditions to make sure all our students are aware of any hazards, in and out the water, and what to look out for when we signal or if an incident were to occur.
This process is repeated on average 5 times a day… 3 lessons back to back, followed by a short break, and then another two. At the end of the day, we wrap all the leashes, pack all the boards and suits back into the shop, and leave things ready for the next day.
So I guess the first question may be, why do surf instructors want to coach? Many reasons can be given. Firstly, yes, living on the beach and having the ocean as our office is by far the best way of spending each day. Being outdoors in the unpredictable elements is definitely a huge plus. But what really gets us tripping is when we have students that are super enthusiastic, giving it their all and experiencing what it is like to stand up on a board for the first time, taking us back to our first steps as a amature surfer.
One of the greatest challenges we face is people who come for a one off class and expect to surf like a pro, when in reality a lot of skill is needed to take that leap of faith to ride from the white foamy water to the shores of the golden sand. From a distance, watching young kids to more senior advocates, surfing may appear effortless and elegant. But from the first step of simply laying down on a big foam board and attempting to paddle into a wave, one will realise that your body may not gel in a way that you had imagined.
We often find frustration can get in the way of an otherwise ‘successful’ surf, and we do all we can to overcome the mental block of a student to rise up again after (sometimes several) discouraging wipeouts. Surfing has a lot to do with patience, respect of the ocean and keeping within one's own limits when it comes to feeling confident in the ocean. One this for sure is that in surfing, much like anything else in life, the only thing that is consistent is inconsistency itself.
We teach people of all ages and abilities, from all different backgrounds and fitness levels. We have people that manage to stand up on their first wave and others that may go an entire week without even being able to get to their knees. But this is what makes surfing so different to most other sports. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, the ocean will either draw you in or spit you out, in whichever way you would like to interpret that. But what one must never do, and what separates the strong from the weak in the ocean, is never give up. Because in surfing, the more you want it and allow it to happen, the more you believe in yourself and have the crave to succeed, the chances of success are endless. Surfing is about learning to let go and let be. So just go with the flow, ride with it.
So, going back to the question, why do we want to teach others how to surf? Because the sport is so stimulating in so many physical and mental ways that passing on our skills and knowledge is like giving a man a fishing rod. It is something that they can take away, whether they choose to use it or not, but having just one class, sharing that slight knowledge of how to handle a board and ride on nature, to feel the stoke and be completely present in that moment on time. This is almost a gift that can open a whole new world to so many people.
For anyone that may like to travel, which in the case of clients at Moana Surf School, it must be of some relevance as most are foreigners, it enables one to think of new global destinations in a whole new way. Instead of cramming a 2 week, hustle and bustle trip to Bangkok, one is given the option to think of leaving the electronic world of ipads, ipods, iphones and all that materialistic nonsense behind to escape to the serene waters of Costa Rica, Brazil, Bali and so much more!
Surfing is empowering. It enables us to test our own minds and push our limits. Our surf can often reflect our mood. When cool, calm and collected, we can make our best turns, get pitted in barrels and fly high to the sky. But enter the water full of anxiety, rage, or any not so ‘happy’ or ‘positive’ emotion, you will see how nature has a way of biting you in the ass! Respect the ocean and she will respect you.

On that note, our message is to live life to the fullest. Put yourself into a lineup of green waves that will enable you to explore whole new, natural territories and place you mentally into a whole new realm of greatness! We want to pass onto you what we have! Surfing is far more than a sport! It is a gift, a window of opportunity and will give you hours of endless smiles if you allow it to!
So from all of us at Moana, we HOPE to see you soon! We HOPE to be able to share our knowledge and skills with you so you too can experience one of the greatest feelings life has to offer… GET STOKED!
Don’t wait until tomorrow, because tomorrow may never come around! We are all super passionate and will guarantee you the most epic time in the water with us! But until then, always remember, if you don’t go you’ll never know!! Keep the stoke alive!!

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