Suiting up for a surf on the weekend, a car pulled in beside me and two groms piled out, followed by their old man. The groms were already in their wetties and quickly grabbed their boards before sprinting down the beach. I don’t know how old they were, but at a guess, I doubt either of them were in high school. Both had slick equipment, a DHD and a JS, short and curvy and refined, one of them covered in sponno stickers. My first thought was: ‘little rippers’. My next was: ‘Fuck, there goes my wave count.’ The surf was two foot at most, clean but gutless. Perfect if you weighed as much as a wet chihuahua; shithouse if you were full-grown and surfed any worse than a ‘QS shredder. I had three boards in the car: a standard shorty, a fish, and a 7’2 mid-length I bought for my girlfriend years ago which she’d barely ridden. I chose the mid-length. The kids’ dad—a fit forty-something-year-old—chose a JS, a scaled-up version of what the boys themselves had under their arms.

Out in the water it soon became apparent that the groms weren’t little rippers but rather little kids riding boards way too small and advanced for them. They struggled to catch anything. They got stuck on the inside for five minutes at a time. Whenever one of them did finally crack a wave, they barely got to their feet before their ultra-responsive equipment bucked them off again. It didn’t bother me none. I sat a peak away and picked off cruisy rides on the mid-length. But I did watch on with some interest. See, what was most fascinating about the whole thing was not witnessing two kids struggle to ride pro-level equipment, but the fact that their dad was letting it happen. The guy could surf. He was probably riding the wrong board as well considering the conditions, but he definitely wasn’t a kook.

So what was the deal? Was he one of those sadistic pricks who got a kick out of seeing his kids struggle? Was he so preoccupied with his own performance that he didn’t stop to consider his groms might be riding boards completely unsuited to them? Nah, I reckon he probably loved the little buggers and only wanted the best for them. But in wanting the best for them I suspect he was wanting too much from them, expecting them to be at a standard they just weren’t up to. And he’s not the only parent guilty of it. It seems to be something you see more and more of these days—kids with flash boards who lack the fundamentals to make them work. Kids who’ve been allowed to skip that vital step of learning on something big and buoyant, something that’s about as cool as a fluoro rashie but ultimately introduces you to concepts like trim and flow and that unforgettable sensation of flying across a wave for the first time. That feeling is invaluable to the development of a young surfer. It transforms the act of going surfing from a hard slog to something you can’t get enough of, a feeling you want to experience again and again. And when you’re young, weak and still trying to get your head around things, that sensation is a lot easier to find on a board with some beef in it than it is on a miniature version of what Mick Fanning might ride. But kids don’t know that. They like shiny things that cost a lot of money. Don’t give it to them. Give them a mini mal or one of your old guns and work up from there.

They’ll be better surfers for it in the long run.