Socrates shares a lesson for surf schools

Consider the following parable.  One day a youth sauntered up to Socrates and said he had heard of the revered teacher’s reputation for truth and wished Socrates teach him.  Socrates welcomed the youth and asked him to go on a walk.   When they arrived by the water’s edge, Socrates knelt by the bank and indicated the youth should join him.  He asked the youth what he saw in the water.  After the youth’s initial reply, Socrates asked him to look closer. Several such exchanges occurred until the youth’s nose nearly touched the water. Suddenly Socrates grabbed him by the hair and forced his head under water. The more he struggled, the harder Socrates held him down, until, after several flailing minutes, Socrates released the youth, who desperately sucked in the air. Socrates turned to face him the youth and said, ‘When you desire to know as much as you want air, then come to see me.’ 1

There has been an exponential rise in surf schools over the last decade.  Yet didactic surf instructions subtract from the very nature and romanticism of the sport.  Many students are tourists or weekenders who will never become surfers.  Instead, they’re looking for a “surfing experience” that is safe, controlled, and idiot proof.  For those, I have 5 lessons free of charge.

1.       Learn to swim and paddle

2.       Learn your stance (leash goes on back leg)

3.       Watch other surfers closely and learn from them

4.       Reflect on each session

5.        Surf schools are an anathema.   Avoid didactic lessons.

Like the student approaching Socrates, one must first be immersed in surfing in order to grasp it.

1.       Atherton, John. Philosophy, Risk, and Adventure Sports. Chapter 4, Philosophy Outdoors, First person physical. New York, NY  2007. p 43-54

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