20 February, 2015 20 February, 2015

Raising a Super-Grom

Meet the Venters, the Williams and the Mares – three families with one common thread; they’ve all got groms who rip and are leading surf-orientated lives. And as each family gives their testimony of the highs and lows of raising little shredders, perhaps there is something other parents (or parents to be) can glean from their experiences.

10 year-old Christian Venter is already oozing style.

Family 1: The VENTERS

Homebreak: Melkbosstrand
Super-grom: Christian (plus future champs, Anastasia and Jasmine)

Nikki (mom): After Christian made the Boland team for the SA Grom Games and got a second in the Under 8 division in Port Elizabeth, that is when we made a decision to support him and try and make it to every stop on the South African Junior tour. We usually do it on a shoestring budget but we’ve somehow managed to get to all the junior events since 2013 and it has been really fun for us as a family. My husband is a good surfer and coached Christian when he was younger, however, we decided that it was better to separate the role of “coach” and “dad,” so Christian has been coached by Llewellyn Whittaker in Mossel Bay for the past few years and his progress has been remarkable.

Christian, poised and ready to wind a Mossel Bay lip.

Now my husband is onto the next two – teaching Anastasia and Jasmine in the same way he started off teaching Christian, just standing in the water and pushing them into waves. Anastasia is eight and can surf the backline on her own, but she still likes to have her dad standing in the water with her. And Jasmine, who is four, surfs a big foam board with her little water-wings on and needs her dad to push her into waves. As a self-employed building contractor my husband’s work hours are quite flexible, so a typical afternoon for us consists of the kids arriving home at around 2:00pm, having lunch, suiting up and running down to the beach. We live about 50 metres from the beach, which has been a huge help.

CHALLENGES: There is definitely quite a few sacrifices to be made when you’ve got a child who is aiming high in surfing. Our weekends go to training, our holidays to events, and our cashflow goes to kit, coaching and travelling. It’s quite all-consuming if you want to do it properly, but the payback is the countless adventures we have together each year. Another challenging part is the fact that they are all at different stages and all want their dad’s attention all of the time! Christian will be at backline shouting, “dad, did you see that,” while Anastasia is worried about kelp, mermaids and other scary stuff. All the while Jasmine, the feisty four year old, is furious that she is standing in the breakers and not getting her turn.

Young Anastasia (8) is already out surfing backline by herself.

REWARDS: The friends they have made of all ages in Jeffreys Bay, Durban, PE, Port Alfred, Mossel Bay, East London and Kommetjie, whilst travelling on the South African Junior tour. Through travelling we have also met so many fun, interesting and like-minded families. We also get a lot of quality family time together because the tour stops are like ‘forced vacations’ for us.

ADVICE: We are united in our support of the kids’ surfing and I think that makes a difference. There is no way that it could work if one parent wasn’t totally for it, because it just requires too much of a family to have one person that’s not all in. We also put character above results, so the huge high fives from us are always for having a good attitude, being grateful and being a good winner or a good loser. We use surfing a lot to teach them about how to handle different situations and it has been great for them in that way. Christian especially has developed a maturity beyond his years and it’s great to see.

Water-wings and softtops for feisty little four year-old, Jasmine.


Family 2: The MARE’s

Homebreak: Nahoon
Super-grom: Riley

Toby (dad): The whole family surfs, including mom and sister, Ruby. As a family we do the occasional dawnie together. Some wise mom once said that families who play together, stay together – also useful when planning a holiday destination.


CHALLENGES: Getting him or his sister to take advice from me. Fortunately, Greg Emslie is his coach.

REWARDS: Watching him jolling in the bay at Queensberry, where we have a spot, with close friends Gabriel Kriel and Mitch du Preez – two local Q Bay hotties.

ADVICE: Don’t try to live your own life through your children. It’s tempting to get too involved in their progress and I learned the hard way. It was only when Riley said that he’ll only go surfing if I do ‘x’ for him that I realised I’d pushed him too far and that he was surfing for the wrong reasons. The consequences were obvious. Fortunately, through bringing back the fun element – thanks to his friends and some hot summer days – he got himself back on the horse.

Riley, back on the horse and ripping it up at Glen Eden.


Family 3: The WILLIAMS’

Homebreak: Jeffreys Bay
Super-grom: Sebastian Williams

Tim (Dad): I realised his talent early and told him at ten years old that if he ever got famous that he would have to deal with fame, and that’s not always something one enjoys dealing with. So it’s important that he understands that while some people might be impressed with his talent, he needs to be humble with them about a God given gift that he has. It doesn’t make him a better person than anyone else is.

The future is bright for Sebastian Williams, one of the world’s hottest groms.

CHALLENGES: I love the dawn patrol and he likes sleeping late, so we often surf to different schedules when I’d love to be surfing with him. But the most difficult thing is when I’m on the beach filming him in perfect surf, just wanting to be out there so bad but also wanting to capture that crazy move for him. I’m not sure if he knows how much surfing has always meant to me.

REWARDS: Watching him surfing. Seeing the enjoyment that he gets out of having a good surf and making new friends around the world makes me happy. Surfing has given me so much, I couldn’t wish for a better life for me or for Sebastian. It’s all about having fun and being happy. If we’re not having fun or being happy in or out of the water, then we need to stop what we are doing and go do something else.

ADVICE: Surfing is an unconditional gift I gave Sebastian before he could remember. I’ve never told him to go surfing or forced him to paddle out. I’ve never forbidden him to surf, even when he might have been on a ‘time-out’ for something, or had tasks to do, or if I thought it might be a bit heavy for him. It’s his gift from me to do with as he wishes. He surfs when he wants to.

Sebastian focusses his eyes on the prize at the 2014 Hurley SA Junior Champs.


  1. Trogan Fan
    21 February, 2015 at 5:51 pm · Reply

    good surfing, but terrible use of apostrophes by the author. Come now.

  2. Surfing families are cool
    24 February, 2015 at 8:05 am · Reply

    Surfing families are super cool…..but there needs to be a concerted effort to bring about balance as the parents mention above ….so kids are not so one dimensional and can put their energy into other stuff besides being in the water.

    Also the prospects to go pro for SA kids is not good at all .

    Unless you are at a Jordy or a Bianca level,….and your talent gets people queing at the door to back you with much $$$$. The bling can also dilute the fun.

    For sharing good times nothing better than a surf road trip with the family.

    Also cool to include those that don’t have parents who show the same interest in the sport etc.

  3. Louisa Lightfoot
    24 February, 2015 at 11:18 am · Reply

    Surfing has given my kids the most stunning life but its hard to see the young SA adults now on the QS battle away, lack of funds is a big issue. It would be great if someone could take our QS surfers under their wing and give them the support some of the other countries QS surfers get. High performance training camps and a trainer paid to travel with them to give advice.

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