I bumped into Dog Marsh in JBay during the JBay Open, and we were chatting about life, the universe and coaching, and his student Ryan Callinan. He’s a great surfer, rookie, and destined for greatness is young Ryan. Being a Championship Tour Freshman, I expected to hear that Dog was the new recruit, that he had been employed to help Ryan get through the first, tough year on tour without any of the dramas that tend to happen to the inexperienced kids ready to live life to the fullest.

Callinan lets the rail sing in Fiji. Photo: WSL/Cestari

It turns out that Dog has been with Ryan for five years. It was a great little bit of knowledge that Dog imparted, and it also made me feel pretty good about the fact that there is history there, as well as future. One of the most important things in coaching, and what has been coming through in the many essays on the Olympic Games right now, is that it takes time – years and years – for coaches to understand their students enough to be able to impart the correct knowledge in the correct manner in order to build them up, to get them to the next level and to see them competing to the best of their abilities.

Remember Taj and Johnny Gannon? There was a partnership that went on forever. Some ups and some down, but a steadfast professional relationship, as well as friendship, in which both parties benefitted. For seven years Johnny taught Taj some of the most important things in his career, like eating correctly, keeping injury-free and allowing himself to blow off steam when needed. Traveling for 7 years together on the Championship Tour is a lifetime together. Much like Kelly and Belly, when they were still travel-mates under the Quik label. Still good mates, there’s was a partnership that worked.

Taj & Johnny Gannon were a team for seven years. Photo: WSL/Shultz

Snips has been with Kolohe for a long time as well. These days he is less visible, preferring to be a little bit more low key, but he’s always around, watching and analyzing, advising, and keeping Kolohe in a comfortable place around the competitive zone. It has obviously helped that Kolohe has grown up fairly quickly and is ready to step up as well, but Snips has been a solid and steadfast guiding hand in the process and his mentorship and coaching skills are unsurpassed.

The coaching relationship of Micro and Matty Wilkinson is another that does not appear to be a flash in the pan. Even though the incredible results that were garnered out of the relation ship in the first couple of months seems to have sizzled a little, they have tasted greatness and still know what to do as a team and what is required to get the wins. It’s the sort of marriage that is going to stick together for a long time, as Matty continues on the road to victory, and as Glenn travels along that road with him.  

It’s not all that simple though. Some surfer/coach relationships don’t work for long, and at times this can prove to be very unsettling to the athletes, and can garner negative publicity and the added pressure at a time when those surfers are desperately striving for less pressure. These top-tier surfers need someone to tell it like it is, and to have their best interests at heart. If this isn’t coming through, and there is not enough stability, then the relationship is destructive, and no one wants that.

Glenn Hall & WIlko the current coaching poster couple. Photo: WSL/Cestari

Sometimes a surfer needs more space, and sometimes those athlete/coach marriages are going to lead towards divorce, and it can be challenging to regroup afterwards.

Rumour has it that there are about to be a couple of changes in the Championship Tour coaching paradigm. Apparently some managers are apparently going be firing coaches and hiring new trainers. One or two managers might be moved on as well. Surprises all around. Watch this space. When contracts are cleared people are going to talk. 

Main Article Image: Steve Sherman