Learning to Surf

In early June my family was fortunate enough to go on a trip to Hawaii, I had never been there before so it was a great chance to see the birthplace of the hula and of surfing.

To that end, our family decided to take surfing lessons…a very tourist-in-Hawaii thing to do…it was great! We had a wonderful time. My wife and two boys were surfing in no time and even I eventually got to a point where I was “rid’n” the waves.

The speed at which I was able to learn to surf suprised me. So being a learning-guy at heart, I decided to break down the process to see if we could apply the steps needed to learn to surf to other types of learning.

First we had one instructor for our family of four. A small student to faculty ratio. Rarely is that ratio obtained in other settings (school or work).

Second, we immediately got our boards and learned 4 simple things we had to know about surfing…that was it. We didn’t learn the history of surfing, the surfers who had come before us, beach policy on surfing…nothing but the “Must Know” information, nothing we learned in the first 15 minutes was “nice to know” or historical…it was all applicable to actually surfing.

Third, our surfboards–the equipment–was built for novices. We received very long surf boards…which are easier to work with but still fully functional boards. The equipment had been modified specifically to help us ascend the learning curve.

Fourth, motivation was high. Hey, if my two sons and wife could surf, I’d better at least get one or two good rides (which I eventually did).

Fifth, we practiced over and over again in the ocean, catching wave after wave. We learned to surf by…surfing. The first few waves we had trouble staying up but the instructor provided guidance and improvement suggestions each time. So we stayed up a little longer each time until we were surfing. Practice in a controlled environment is a great way to learn.

I think all of the steps that were used to learn to surf could be applied to many other situations. So go out into the classroom and “hang ten.”


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Posted in: Out and About

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1 Comment

  1. Dixie July 21, 2008

    Wow, Dr. Kapp. I often think of learning so closed minded; meaning, by the e-learning type methods we learn in our MSIT program. But, don’t often consider the learning techniques we use in other aspects of our lives. Great surfing analogy.

    By the way, I have been contacted by the summer freshmen and actually got to meet with them a bit this afternoon. I think all of us are quite unsure of our task, but we’re sharing what we are discovering about second life together, which was quite interesting.

Karl Kapp
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