We speak with possibly the fastest advancing adult learner on the planet

“Adult Learner” can be a pejorative term in the surf world. The comments thread for salt-focused publications is rife with kook-calling and the unrealistic expectation that everyone should know how to surf before they even, uh, learn to surf. If surfing was that easy, there would be no Kookslams insta page or Novice-shaming threads on BeachGrit.

Fortunately, this hostile climate doesn’t exist in wave pools. Hooray for us!

Back in the day adult learners were usually, say, a middle manager from Ohio on vacation in Maui. So the cluelessness could be excused to some extent. But not today. Today the adult learner has top-shelf tools to help them improve. Rapidly.

Coaches, training videos, gear advice and wave pools – basically it’s like an online shopping cart full of surf-improvement tools. Becoming a proficient surfer has never been easier. Wave pools are helping this excelleration.

This month we got an Instagram message from 41-year-old adult learner Maria Allebring who, like other enthusiastic intermediates, is utilising wave pools to improve. It’s not a new story, (in fact check Edward Pong’s trajectory here or Valeska Schneider’s here). What’s different about 41-year-old Maria is her mercurial rise in performance and how good she got in just 18 months. Here’s her story in her own words.

I was born on the Swedish west coast by the beach. I always loved the ocean but we had no waves, so wakeboarding was our water sport. When I was 11 we went to visit my cousin who was born and raised on Maui. He took me boogieboarding and a seed was planted that some day I would also become a surfer. But I realised surfing was hard and I had to give myself a lot of time if I wanted to learn how to do it well. Now 29 years later I decide to take a year off to learn how to surf.  

Surfing is complicated, especially when you start later in life. But I like to believe that it’s not too late to become a good surfer even if you don’t start young. When the pandemic hit the world and basically destroyed my business over night and I decided to pull the plug early on and close down and go fulfil my dream of learning how to surf rather then bleeding out all of the money my business ever made. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made. So I packed my bags and went to Brasil and started taking some lessons at the local beachbreak.

Now one-and-a-half years, many scars, bruises, wipeouts and amazing waves later I had the opportunity of surfing in the wave pool at Waco Surf with my coach Marcelo Castellano from Puro Surf.

adult learner Maria Allebring
Part of the reason for Maria’s rapid advancement is her above-average ability to focus on the task at hand.

Marcelo put together a holistic methodology, a program that develops surfers in complete way. I love training with Marcelo because of his capacity of breaking everything down and making it super simple to understand. And the biomechanics that we train on the surf skate is just phenomenal because it allows you a much higher amount of repetition than in the ocean. We did surf skate training every day before and after each pool session and it helped tremendously.

I have surfed in Waco before but having my coach there and being able to get instant feedback after every wave completely changed my experience. We set goals for every session, did drills on the surfskate and I could not believe the progression I was making. Taking away so much of the unpredictability of the ocean makes it so much easier to focus on details and the number of repetitions you can get in a pool is just insane. Being quite the beginner it would easily take me a week in the ocean to get the same amount of repetition I get in one day at the wave pool.

For anyone wanting to train in the pool I would advise to set clear goals for each session. Make sure they are filmed (even if it’s just with your phone) and if possible bring a coach with you. I would much rather do a surf camp in the pool than in the ocean because of the instant feedback you can get. I know that’s not possible for everyone but to me it’s the dream scenario. 

I can’t wait for more wave pools to open near the ocean so we get the opportunity to alternate between the pool and the ocean more frequently. I think that’s the perfect set up for surf progression.

adult learner Maria Allebring
Eyes on the prize: Maria Allebring shows us how to learn to surf.