Unpredictability of Texas surfing teaches valuable life lessons
When most kids hurry home from school on a weekday to chill, Zachary and Kai Spence ask their parents to go to the beach. Zachary, 9, and Kai, 7, love to surf.
“It’s so much better than sitting at home watching cartoons,” their father, David Spence, said.
Zachary won his first surfing trophy at a competition on Aug. 10, which also happened to be his birthday.
Kai, whose name means “ocean” in Hawaiian, said her favorite part of surfing is the time spent with her father.
Spence became a surfer dad when his oldest son, Zane, was 3 years old and decided to take up the sport.
Having lived in Hawaii, Spence was familiar with surfing and loved being able to spend quality time in the ocean with his kids and to teach them, he said.
“Eight times out of 10, they come with me when I go surfing, and I have had some of my best father-kid conversations out in the water,” Spence said as he made sure Zachary was in the right position on his shortboard — legs and feet together, well balanced — before he gave him a push into a wave.
The joy and determination on Zachary’s face was obvious as he gauged the wave’s flow and the right moment to get up and find his balance on the board.
Spence knows what wave conditions his kids are comfortable with, but they also know it themselves and are well educated about water safety, he said.
It was older brother, Zane, now 15, who got Zachary and Kai into surfing. Zane Spence won the Texas State Championship for his age group from 2007-10 and participated in the U10 nationals in San Clemente, Calif., in 2010. Zane’s collection of trophies is impressive, but it isn’t the main motivator for Zachary and Kai.
“I like the medals,” Zachary said. “But it’s just about having fun.”
Because surf conditions aren’t easily predicted on the Texas Coast, and two consecutive days of good conditions are needed for most surfing competitions, David Spence often learned of a contest’s location only within hours before it began. It was tricky to find hotel accommodations on short notice that could also be canceled without a fee. Because of the time commitment, Zane has taken a break from competitive surfing, but not from the sport.
Zachary and Kai often are accompanied in the water by their Australian sheepdog, Bear, who loves to swim, and who occasionally climbs on a surfboard as well. At times, Zachary and Kai share a board and try to balance out a ride together.
Because waves aren’t easily predicted, Galveston surfing requires a lot of paddling, Spence said. Surfers must wait and then put themselves in the right position, which could change, Spence said. Because of such conditions, surfers of all ages learn endurance and increase their fitness levels quickly out on the water, he said.
But surfing in Galveston also teaches children life lessons, Spence said.
“It’s all about quality over quantity,” he said. “You have to pick the right wave, the one that’s worth waiting for.”
Beach time equals quality time, their mother, Sara Spence, said.
Zachary also is keen on fishing. But he’s been bitten by the surfing bug.
“When you’re standing upright on the board, it feels like no one can stop you,” Zachary said.
Kai, meanwhile, used a stick to write her message into the sand: “I love surfing!”