[Ride a Wave - Creating Special Days for Kids With Special Needs]
  Volunteer  -  Tandem Surfer Guidelines

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It is important that you read and understand ALL the information on this page AND the Introduction to Volunteering page before committing yourself as a Ride a Wave volunteer.

Contact:  Tandem Surfer Coordinator (Mike Gerhardt)
Role: A Tandem Surf Escort is teamed with three other escorts and a Tandem Surfer to ensure that each child has the safest and most fun experience possible when out surfing.

It takes 6 things to be RAW Tandem Surfer:

  1. Experience: You need to be an accomplished surfer with at least ten years of surfing experience before you can be a tandem surfer. Long board and tandem experience is a plus.
  2. Physical strength: Strong shoulders and back are a must to be able to continually pick up participants throughout the day. In order to paddle a tandem surfboard between 12 - 15 feet long, with a tandem participant weighing in between 60 and 210 lbs (who probably can't help paddle), you need to have strength and endurance. It's a long paddle from the beach to the break, have to jockey for position, actually catch something (hopefully 3 waves for a participant), and paddle all the way back in. And then do it all day.
  3. Technique: The single most important thing to remember is how to surf with the participant. The participant must be kept in contact with you when standing. Don't reach forward allowing them to move away from you, rather, keep them against you. This allows for better safety and better maneuverability of the surfboard. When falling, which will happen, fall off the back of the board with an arm around the participant. Never lose contact with the participant. Judgment for a RAW surfer is not just wave judgment; all of us surfers can do that. But you can't just whip it around and drop in with a stroke. Pick the wave you want and plan to be in position with enough momentum to catch it. Judgment also takes into account the limitations of your participant, both physical and mental. It's supposed to be fun; we don't want to scare anybody. This takes communication with the participant and the escort paddlers to make sure everybody is on the same wave(length). Judgment also considers the crowd, the shore break, and your own limitations - you will get tired.
  4. Courage: It takes courage and confidence in your own ability to be able to have a participant put their life in your hands. Cowell's is extremely difficult to surf because of the crowd, and it is imperative that your concentration remains unbroken by the challenges you will face.
  5. Commitment: You must show when you say you will. Upwards of fifty people, participants and volunteers work together to make RAW an incredible experience. Every individual must be committed to their word and the program for RAW to remain a success. If you say you are going to show and help, please do so!!!!!
  6. Common Sense: Enough said.

    Remember: It's all about the participant. We're here to give them an amazing experience that so many of us take for granted. Their safety is paramount. You need to concentrate on your participant, the board, and the wave all at once. You will know long before a participant when you're in trouble, and must keep the board from hitting them, keep them above water, hang on to them, always be calm and reassuring. If in doubt, kick out early or prone out, for the participant it's just as fun. The RAW Escort Team is a huge help to take the crowd out of the way, and to assist with the participants, but when you're riding, they're in your hands.

What to expect as a RAW Tandem Surfer:

  1. Squirming participants with poor limb control
  2. To wipe out
  3. Lots of hugs
  4. Participants to get cold or uncomfortable
  5. Long lulls - and a participant with a potential short attention span - get creative: escort board rafts, kelp chewing, splash fights, even the dreaded in-the-lineup-sing-along (can you imagine doing that at the Lane?)
  6. To drink lots of water
  7. Many smiles and much laughter
  8. Noodle arms
  9. To get kicked in the head while paddling
  10. To have the participant put total trust in you with no questions asked - very humbling
  11. To have the participant swallow some sea water and throw up on your board
  12. To help clean up
  13. To become part of a community
  14. To get some of the best waves you've ever had!

Safety Policy for Tandem Guides

The following guidelines are for the safety of our guests and for RAW members. Remember that above all, common sense will ensure that everybody has a safe and wonderful day at the beach.

  1. The Tandem launching area will be set up away from the Bodyboard area, while staying close to the RAW camp.
  2. Tandem riders can paddle if able.
  3. The guest MUST have a life vest and helmet.
  4. For each launch of a Tandem board, the following procedure is followed:

    a. The Tandem Coordinator of the day determines the launch position, depending on the size and break of the waves.

    b. The Tandem guide holds the board, and provides direction on any incoming waves, or other action in the water as necessary.

    c. Up to five volunteers in the water load the guest, depending on guest mobility and size. The most assistance is required for a guest confined to a wheelchair that must be floated out to the Tandem board OR a guest preloaded on the Tandem cart on the beach. In both cases, volunteers are required to get the chair/cart into the water at the appropriate buoyancy depth past the shore break.

    d. The Tandem guide ensures that the guest is comfortable, and mounts up to paddle out, with the escort team.

    e. Upon return of the Tandem, the volunteers meet the board in the water, getting into position to load the board onto the rolling cart, lift the guest to the floating chair, or carry the guest to dry land.

  5. One guest at a time.
  6. When more then one Tandem is in use, do not launch or return at the same time, a Tandem in the water must circle safely beyond the break and wait for the shore Tandem to clear.
  7. If a board is not in use, it must be pulled well past high water mark on beach.
  8. No one that is not with RAW is allowed to use the boards.
  9. Be very aware of wave conditions when paddling to the lineup. Always paddle around the break.
  10. When the guide and the guest both fall off, first priority is to keep the board from hitting the guest. The escort team will take care of the board; the guide should stay with the guest at all times. The escort team will also help hold the guest up over oncoming waves or reload onto the board.
  11. When you fall off, be careful about your first instinct to grab the guest, you may pull them underwater with you. If you're going under, keep close or a hand on the guest - they float. But, they also float FACE DOWN. Be aware.
  12. Ride waves safely. Take off on the shoulder, avoid sections, kick out early, direct your escort team. Communicate! Bear in mind that the guest is likely to be nervous, especially if this is their first Tandem ride. (It might be their first day at a beach!) Be sure to talk to the guest, telling them what you will be doing, before you do it. Be ready to be grabbed at any moment. If the guest becomes agitated, or unruly, return to shore immediately.

    Remember to do what you can to be safe, and have fun!

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