An Eye-opening Student Surf Session

Imagine arriving at school in your board shorts and paddling out on your surfboard for your first class of the day.

Sound like a dream come true?

It’s actually very real for students at Honolulu Waldorf School in Niu Valley. In fact, the surf class is part of the school’s curriculum and its “morning movement choice,” where students are given the option of three activities to get their blood flowing.

“Our whole high school chooses one of three options to get their day started,” explains fine arts teacher Lynn Liverton. “Depending on the time of the year, there’s yoga, field games, a P90X class, canoe paddling when paddling is in season, and surfing during the spring and summer months.”

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Exchange student Anton Mauz from Germany waxes his surfboard in preparation for an early morning surf session

As you can imagine, surfing is a very popular choice with many students. The surf class starts at 7:55 a.m. and lasts about 40 minutes. Students hit the surf outside the East Honolulu campus four days a week, Tuesday through Friday.

“We ask that the students who participate have some surf experience and have their own equipment, if possible,” says Liverton. “It’s not for the faint of heart, but at the same time we don’t send them out when conditions are too big, no matter how experienced they are. If there’s a high-surf advisory, we won’t let them in the ocean or any dangerous situation.”

Liverton and humanities teacher Greg Stock join the students in the water. For safety reasons, only 15 students are allowed to paddle out for the morning session. If there are fewer than 10 students, then one teacher will monitor activity from shore.

“Our priority is always to make sure the students get in and out safely,” says Liverton, who has been teaching at Honolulu Waldorf School since 1996. “Sometimes we allow them to paddle out early so they can have a longer session, but everyone shares waves and looks out for each other.”

The sport of surfing is not new to Honolulu Waldorf School. For several years, the school has had a surf club, which is open to all students, faculty and the Waldorf community.

Liverton says the school is fortunate to have several quality reef breaks in its backyard. “There aren’t many schools that are on the ocean, and where students can hop over a wall, climb down a ladder and jump in,” she chuckles. “Of course, they’re not allowed to do so unless they’re in surf club or in surf class. It’s such a beautiful setting.”

Besides getting their day off to a healthy start, the students also form strong bonds and healthy relationships by being out in the ocean together.

“We have foreign exchange students with us, and we hope our students can get those kids involved too,” says Liverton, who also teaches yoga. “Because surfing is seasonal, we notice there’s a big difference when we don’t have this. It’s like they just need it, they need to move to wake up!”

Liverton says teachers have noticed a shift in energy with all students ever since they moved P.E. to the morning.

“The kids are definitely more engaged for their longest academic class of the day once they get the blood going,” says Liverton. “We know there are a bunch of studies that say that, but it’s a sure thing when we see it firsthand.”

She and others are grateful that school officials had the vision to allow such a program to exist. “The water is the best, it really calms everybody,” says Liverton.

“There’s a definite excitement with the students when they come out of the ocean!”