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Pro surf Bali coach’s tips – interview with Mal Gragson

Pro surf Bali coach’s tips

Amazing surfer, pro surf Bali guru and human being, Mal Gregson, kindly found some time to answer our questions, share his great teaching experience and knowledges, that he’s got after years of surfing and his instructor career.

Hi Mal! First of all, tell us your way from your first wave to that point, when you realized, that you’ve succeed in surfing enough for teaching other people?

Pro surf Bali coach

I started surfing in the late 1960’s. Surfing was frowned upon by the establishment back then. We where called lazy drop outs. Equipment was poor, Basically you surfed anything you could get your hands on. No wetsuits and no leg ropes. Even wax was hard to get. There was no coaching at all. We did not even talk to friends about technique, we just paddled out and had fun. I played a lot of different junior sport but was hooked on surfing as soon as I tried it. Once the surfing bug has bitten you then you have no options. It will dictate where you live and probably what job or business you do and whilst it may not alter your choice of life partner, he or she will have to deal with your ocean rhythms which includes swell, wind and tide.

You will know if your hooked if your best friend invites you for a coffee tomorrow at 3pm. If your first thought before answering is, it is high tide and swell so 3pm will be the best time to surf then your are hooked. 

Teaching some one to stand up in the white water is really easy however teaching some one to surf including wave knowledge, ocean awareness, how to behave in the lineup, equipment and biomechanics is difficult and requires many years of experience in different conditions. I enjoy the challenge, i enjoy to be a part of pro surf Bali (and not only Bali of course) world. 

How to fight your fear during your first times of surfing, i think more than half of people, who used to spends more time far away from the ocean and don’t see ocean  feeling unconfident and scared of getting hurt , fail or something like that. What are your surfing tips about how to overcome it? 

surfing couch

How to you overcome fear? You need to have a healthy respect of the ocean and its power. As a coach safety is paramount. Whilst you need to challenge yourself you need to spend time in the ocean where you are comfortable and not a danger to yourself or anyone else. The whole premise of surfing is fun, being dragged over a coral reef by a six foot wave when you are inexperienced isn’t fun and can actually limit your progression. 

Some of people come over here for 2 weeks holidays 2 times a year. What can you advise to them to do during the time between their holidays, so they won’t have to start all over again every time they come here? What other types of sport can help to make progress ?

Surfing requires paddle power, flexibility and core strength. Anything you can do to improve this will help your surfing. If you only have two weeks a year it will be difficult but if you have a regime of swimming, yoga, pilates then ramp these up the month before you intend to go on holidays. Can you improve with only two weeks a year? Probably not. Can you have fun surfing in a two week holiday? Absolutely, just have a go each day on the beach breaks where it is relative safe. Of course you can teach yourself but you only have two weeks holiday then make the most of it and a coach will make sure you safely catch a lot more waves.

Some of australians i know started to learn surfing straight from shortboard. Is it essential to start from longboard or if you’re in the fine form you can skip this step?

I start all my students on a soft board. One of the most obvious problems I see every day (In Bali or here in Australia) is people surfing too shorter board. If you have the right size board you should be able to catch ninny five percent of the waves you paddle for, if this doesn’t happen then your board is too short. 

Is there minimum or maximum times of  trainings in a week to become closer to being called a pro surf Bali rider?

surfing couch

More waves more fun. If you are serious about surfing and want to improve then I believe you need to be catching approximately a thousand waves a year to progress.

What is the most common mistake beginners do?

The most common mistakes internationally are: Board too small, not paddling strong enough especially the last couple of paddles and not popping up correctly with your hands at your lower ribcage and your front foot landing first.

Surfing is more than just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. How to get your mind ready? What personal qualities can help you in surfing?

There are a host of life skills that will assist your surfing. Persistence, patience, creativity, commitment, curiosity, intuition, integrity, courage and self confidence. Healthy living and fitness, clear thinking, sense of achievement, goal setting, planning and purpose along with spacial awareness and respect for other surfers and the environment.  Don’t leave these life skills at the water’s edge; take them out in the ocean with you. Using these life skills will develop your surfing conversely surfing will also develop these life skills. 

What is your pro surf Bali coach life motto?

My coaching mission statement is: “To meet surfers from around the globe to share and increase the “stoke” of our unique surfing life style”.

My personal motto is “Enjoy the Ride”


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