Sam Chilcott is a local Currumbin resident who caught his first wave at the age of four – and he was hooked. Mr Chilcott, who runs Currumbin Alley Surf School, one of the Gold Coast’s most established and popular surf schools, has been teaching kids how to surf for the past 12 years.
The veteran has surfed and taught all over the world, including on the beaches of California, England, Ireland, Indonesia and Morocco. But his heart is still down at Currumbin Beach, where he’s known for his bright smile and shaggy, blond hair.
Mr Chilcott inherited the surf school from his mother, Tracey Chilcott, who founded it 28 years ago. What started off as a hobby because of her passion for the ocean, soon turned into teaching locals how to surf.
The school then expanded into a thriving little business as she taught Japanese tourists, grandmothers, five-year-old kids and national football teams the art, skills and joy of surfing.
In 2009, Mr Chilcott took over the reins from his mother, although she still coaches occasionally. Despite surfing for more than 30 years, Mr Chilcott’s favourite waves are still those on his home turf.
“It still gives me a buzz – being in the water is such a free place to be in, it is liberating,” he says.
And that’s why he loves teaching young kids to surf.
“It’s about having fun, while we teach kids how to be safe in the ocean and respect the water, learning to surf is a fun thing to do.
“While it is not mandatory for kids to know how to swim before they can learn to surf, it helps.”
Today, the school has about 10 instructors. It runs school-holiday surfing programs for kids and offers surfing as part of physical-education classes for local schools. But anyone can simply sign up for lessons. Currumbin Alley teaches surfing all year round to adults and tourists.
Mr Chilcott says that, typically, each lesson starts with some short instructions on land covering surf safety, surfboard handling, paddling, standing, falling techniques and wave selection.
The remainder of the lesson is spent in waist- to chest-deep water with an instructor.
“Everybody progresses at a different rate. We normally recommend four to five sessions before you start to get a grasp of things. We aim to have you standing in the first lesson however, it takes patience and perseverance to become a confident and competent surfer.
“We recommend being able to catch
your own waves before buying a board. This is something that should not be rushed into – it is very common for people to go out and buy a board that isn’t right for them and they become frustrated and eventually give up.”
He says that anyone can learn to surf, even older retirees who are reasonably fit.
“It gives me a buzz when I teach 70 and 80-year-old grandpas and grandmas to surf – even if they only want to do it once so that they can tick off their list.”
His years of experience are reflected in his three essential tips: never turn your back on the ocean; always look out for other surfers; and always watch out for the waves.
When he is not coaching, Mr Chilcott takes his two-year-old son, Sully, out on his surfboard. Sully loves the water, and his father is introducing him to life as a surfer.
“Hopefully, he will eventually take over the family business,” he says.
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Family holiday favourites
Hand-feed a tiger, meet meerkats or become a zookeeper for the day. Kids will love the Close Encounters at the National Zoo & Aquarium, Canberra. Don’t miss the AdventureLand playground where large animal statues are great for photos.
Head to the Shoalhaven, halfway between Sydney and Canberra, and take the kids on a Kangaroo Valley Trike Tour. It’s a thrilling way to explore the area and afterwards, reward them at Kangaroo Valley Fudge House and Ice Creamery.
The Wave Lagoon at the Darwin Waterfront precinct is a family favourite. Here, toddlers can play in the shallow-water areas, while the older kids frolic in the big pool’s artificial waves on boogie boards.
Take the kids to see Outback Queensland’s collection of dinosaur and megafauna fossil deposits. Follow the Australian Dinosaur Trail and come face-to-face with life-sized model dinosaurs at the Age of Dinosaurs museum.
If your family is able to brave an early wake-up call, then take the kids for Breakfast with the Birds at Cleland Conservation Park, Adelaide. You will be taken on an exclusive tour with the bird-keeper before the park opens to the public.
In Richmond, 30 minutes’ drive from Hobart, the Pooseum is the only museum in Australia dedicated to animal droppings. Once the kids get over their giggles, the interactive exhibits will educate them on everything poo. This science museum is guaranteed to be the one kids will tell all their friends about.
Experience one of the tallest treetops walks on this 25-metre-high walkway through the ancient rainforest of Otway National Park in southern Victoria. The bird’s-eye view of the Otway Ranges and the beauty of the flora and fauna will silence any chatterboxes.
Step back in time at Amaze Miniature Park, an hour’s drive south of Perth. The display will keep the kids entertained for hours as they explore the hedge maze, secret garden and chocolate factory.