Surf's up. School's out. (Out on the beach.)

Novices head to Kahuna Bob's Surf School to learn how to get up on a'face wave.'

By , Staff photographer of The Christian Science Monitor

It's another perfect day at Beacons Beach. Surf's up, and Kahuna Bob is doing what he does best: putting smiles on the faces of student surfers.

"I've got the greatest job in the world. It's almost impossible to have a dissatisfied customer," says Bob Edwards as he looks out at some new students gleefully negotiating the surf on boards he has provided.

"People seem to become nicer as they leave all their troubles on the beach. It keeps you in touch with what's real," Mr. Edwards adds.

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Edwards and his wife, Peggy, have been running Kahuna Bob's Surf School since 1985. During that time, Bob coached the 1990-'91 University of California, San Diego, surf team to a championship year. Edwards has gained notice outside the region as well, attracting students from as far away as New Jersey and Virginia.

Though there are five other schools in the area, Kahuna Bob's is popular because of his personable approach and long teaching experience.

"There's so much technique involved," muses Edwards as he watches students topple and get swallowed by a wave. "You can either spend a couple of months on your own or a couple of lessons [to learn how to surf].... It's really helpful to have someone spot the problems and help overcome them right there...."

Edwards teaches up to four classes per day during the busy months of June, July, and August. A lesson costs $50.

As students begin to gather for Edwards's second class of the day, it's time to get down to business.

"Doyle" boards, made of a soft, spongy material that is easier and less painful for students to use (sometimes boards can fly up and hit the surfer), are laid out in a row on the sandy beach. Edwards begins his class by demonstrating the basics of moving from lying flat in the paddling position to a standing position on the board. After some practice and repetition, the students head for the surf to test their knowledge.

On the beach, several video cameras begin to roll as family members show up to document the event.

"I was really proud to see him get up," says Tom Dufon, father of eight-year-old Cody. Mr. Dufon took time off from work to see his son on his second day of lessons.

Mr. Dufon spent much of the session out in the surf recording the event with his video camera. All the student surfers manage to stand up on their boards, though some are a little wobbly.

Edwards and his assistant, Tim Casinelli, stand chest deep in the water, helping beginners get their legs under them (stand up in one motion) on smaller waves. Some make it all the way into the beach standing, some flop and start again. By session's end, many in the group have made it out of the "soup," or broken waves, and are farther out in the big waves 100 yards offshore.

The waves that haven't broken yet are called "face waves." About half the class is getting up on their boards on the face waves, which means they are truly surfing. At the end of class, most are exhausted but still exuberant about their accomplishments.

"It got easier," says Alexis Johnson, who is visiting from New Jersey. "I could go out and do it on my own."

Says Jack Manning, another fast learner, "It's great. I learned how to catch a face wave."

Edwards, who learned surfing on his own in the 1960s, has seen many changes in surfing over the years, both technological and social.

"There are many, many more women who surf than there were before," he says. "Also, there are more people who have [full-time] professions who also surf."

Much of the reason, Edwards says, is that technology has made surfing easier (see "New surfboards making waves" at right).

"Boards are made of lighter materials and are more maneuverable; wet suits are not as bulky and far more comfortable," he says. "There are wet suits and other surf attire made especially for women, and there is even a women's surfing magazine. Thirty percent of surfers are now women. That's huge."

Bob claims to have gotten some flak from the part of the surfing world that wants to keep surfing to itself and feels that teaching people will overcrowd the beaches. "I think that's a pretty small view," he replies.

"There's never enough surfers," he says as he looks up the Pacific coastline. "It's a big ocean."

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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