A year ago, Libby Reilly was determined to begin her surf school – Ryder – to teach locals, holiday makers and tourists how to become one with the waves. “I found surfing very helpful when I was going through hard times. I wanted to provide the opportunity for more kids, teens and adults to enjoy surfing like I do.” “Another reason I began teaching surfing again is that when I was learning to surf, I didn’t have many local female role models. When I went surfing I went with my Dad and brother and every so often I would see a female out surfing.
Libby’s surf school provides local families with more options to learn a new hobby and enables their children to build their ocean confidence and ocean safety knowledge. Ryder Surf School has regular classes at Buffalo Beach, Whitianga and are trialling after school surf coaching at Hahei and Sailors Grave. “Children and families choose the location that is more convenient to them. Our Tuesday afternoons at Buffalo Beach are pretty full with kids classes, sometimes we manage to fit in a teens or adults class alongside these classes if the waves are right. Friday afternoons are more casual and not limited to children. We understand that families go away some Fridays and that kids get sick! “Any age and any ability are welcome to come for a lesson or surf coaching,” says Libby. “We have plenty of softboards and wetsuits.” During school holidays, Ryder Surf School provides group surf lessons, one on one coaching, surf camps, and one-day retreats at various locations on the Coromandel, mainly along the east coast from Pauanui to Whitianga, depending on the demand.
On Tuesday afternoon, when Libby was interviewed by The Informer at Buffalo Beach, she was preparing the ‘Mini Groms’ class for kids from 4 to 6. Libby is well prepared for them. “They are younger and smaller and new to surfing. Some kids feel very nervous in the ocean and need a lot of support. When students first start with us they will normally have a surf coach helping them one on one until they become more confident.” We guide students to get used to the ocean and waves.” Following the ‘Mini Groms’ surf lesson was the ‘Little Rippers’, who are a bit older and have more confidence in the water. “They are improving quickly with their surfing skills, and they are keen to go out a bit deeper and catch bigger waves,” Libby added. Libby previously worked as a primary school teacher at the local schools and said that she is enjoying teaching some of her ex-students to surf.
Ryder Surf School has an experienced team helping Libby. Ross Liggins, who has been teaching surfing for 20 years; Aliza Niclas, a coach at Ryder Surf School from the beginning who is in her final year at Mercury Bay Area School and who is a fully qualified lifeguard; Cybele Anderson, who coached with the team right through the summer holidays, Dave Mcgehan, another local teenager who enjoys surfing and teaching children and Charles Scobie, a new recruit in training. She also has her “Darkside” surf coaches, Ngaire Couper and Rose Muir, who are loving teaching the local kids to surf.
Libby completed her Level One Surfing New Zealand Certificate and started teaching surfing when she was 18 at Hot Water Beach. She ended up teaching surfing at Wellington surf schools while she completed a Psychology degree and also worked at Surf Camp Australia during her overseas travel. She completed her Level Two Surf Instructors Course with Surfing New Zealand, last year. This may explain why Libby is passionate about helping teenagers out and training them as surf coaches. Aliza is going to complete the Level One Surfing New Zealand certificate this year! “Local kids and teens need positive role models. It’s good to have teenagers teaching the younger students to surf, they look up to them and are inspired,” Libby said.
Another class Libby is passionate about is providing kids’ group lessons simultaneously with their parents. “Kids can learn with other children; meanwhile, parents have a chance to learn something and don’t need a babysitter! It is nice for parents to share an outdoor hobby with their children.”
Kahu and Huia definitely have the same hobby as their mother. Kahu, who is seven-years-old, began surfing two years ago. When he began learning to surf at Cooks Beach, it inspired her to start hunting out waves suitable for local kids. “Kahu is a very good surfer for his age. He can jump straight to his feet and catch his own whitewash. He’s building his ocean and wave confidence with lots of swimming! He is becoming a strong swimmer which will help a lot for when he is keen to catch bigger waves. Huia is only four and loves to swim and never feels nervous in the sea.”
It’s hard work beginning a new career, especially with two young children. Libby recalls her Dad teaching her to stand on the board for the first time and the support of family. “My Dad, in fact my whole family, has supported me. Dad bought me the trailer which I have now paid off. Before that, I was strapping sometimes nine surfboards to the car’s roof. Mum sponsored us with the wetsuits, and my brothers partner offered Sol Goods Sunblock and Zinc which we use for every lesson, a brand from local Kuaotunu that is reef safe and chemical-free.”
‘We live on the Peninsula, we have beautiful beaches, that’s why we need to learn to surf’. “That’s what Dad told me when I was 13.” That was the age Libby was when she wrote an essay describing her first surf on a ‘dungas’ board. “I have my own board now and no longer have to surf on big water-logged ‘dungas’. Although I am a lot better than that summer afternoon when I was 13, I still get a huge rush from the very smallest waves I catch.” Libby’s passion for surfing has never wavered in those years since she was 13 and that passion shows in the children and parents she teaches.
Caption: Kids at the end of a school holiday surf session on Cooks Beach.