We are very excited indeed to announce a new addition to the IndieGoGo Perks lineup for our campaign.
We've teamed up with our friend philosophy teacher and surf coach, Dion Mattison of Conatus Surf Club. If you buy the perk, Dion will be offering 3 hours of personal tuition AND you'll get a copy of our book beautiful book!
We wanted to let you in on Dion's radical, holistic teaching method, so we asked him a few questions to introduce himself.
Tell us how you came to surfing in the first place?
“My dad is a surfer and I grew up on a sailboat. My mom is an avid swimmer, sailor, kayaker and body surfer. My grandparents are underwater photographers. Being an ocean person is in my DNA. I liked the water from the start.”
What got you interested in teaching?
“I believe people have callings in life. If you attune yourself in a certain way you can be in a position to understand what your calling is. Perhaps more than surfing, my calling is to be a teacher. And like surfing, I started to be aware of this from a very young age. I enjoy sharing ideas and ways of seeing and being with people. I love to ask questions about why things are the way they are and finding appropriate ways to describe complex phenomena. I believe that the practice of philosophy in an original sense, as a dialectical process, is an attempt to unlock the highest potential of the human species. I believe that education is the key to unlocking our highest potential in every field of knowledge. Surfing is such a field."
"How I feel about the push-in-style surfing schools is no secret: I think they’re an ethical disaster. So I dreamed up a teaching practice where the end goal was to populate the lineup with respectful, graceful, efficient, and proficient surfers. This idea was in its infancy around 2003 in San Francisco. I was finishing up my BA in religious studies at UC Berkeley, already knowing that I planned to become a professor. I worked in a surf shop and just decided to give the idea a go. It took off and I operated through word of mouth for basically the next ten years.”
How do you see your experience of life in New York as connected to surfing?
“I moved to New York to pursue my PhD in philosophy at the New School for Social Research. I knew there were waves in New York and New Jersey, and I like the cultural upshots of city life, so it was a logical destination for me. I drove across the country in my 1975 BMW 2002 with three surfboards on the roof: a shortboard, a fish, and a log for giving lessons. I went surfing in Long Beach on my first day in New York: July 3, 2009. It was 1-3 feet, offshore, and kind of firing (I rode the fish). I knew from that first session that New York, academia, and surfing were going to be a nice combination for me."
"My surf coaching business, which I officially named Conatus Surf Club in 2013, has taken off here. I facilitate many people’s practices, having created something of an intentional surfing community on the way. So for example, I teach a course on ancient philosophy on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:00am - 9:40am, which gives me plenty of time to surf after class. Tuesdays and Thurs-Sun are all open for surfing and coaching, if the forecast is right. I have found that our waves are great for learning surfing because they’re mostly small and gentle, and then when they’re big they are quite perfect.”
You have quite a unique approach to teaching people to surf. How does it work?
“My approach is holistic - it is both intentional and reflective. I use Ludwig Wittgenstein’s theory of language games to inform my definition of surfing as a form of life with a specific set of changing grammatical structures. My goal is to guide students in understanding various ways of being in and around the ocean. I teach them how to be surfers — to describe waves, bathymetry, wind and swell forecasts, rip currents, ability levels and riding styles of other surfers, board shapes, etc. This empowers people to assess where to paddle out and position themselves in the lineup. Physiologically speaking, my method is based upon paddling form and breath."
"You know a proficient surfer when you see one paddle, so it makes sense to focus on this first before focusing on standing up and riding down the line. You cannot even work on that if you cannot catch waves on your own. I match this with wave judgment. A lot of this is me being a kind of meditation teacher and enforcing patience, which leads to better judgment. I also start filming students from early on in the practice. It can be hard to watch oneself struggle ungracefully but ultimately going through that honest reflection with yourself catapults you further faster in your practice. It’s like writing rough drafts and having the guts to revise them. You see things differently and you can learn from your mistakes. This component obviously becomes crucial for advanced intermediates looking to enhance their repertoire and style.”
What can the person who gets our surf coaching perk on IndieGoGo expect in their sessions with you?
“It depends on ability level. If you are a complete beginner you will get two basics lessons where you’ll learn how to check the surf, where to paddle out and why, proper paddling form, and lineup etiquette. Every person is different so I don’t promise anything in two beginning sessions other than perhaps the most difficult and rewarding 1.5 hours of your life (3 total). Some people get it right away and are catching waves in the first session, others are wrestling the board like it’s a bucking bronco learning to do the “sit turn”. We tailor it to your pace and comfort level."
"For advanced beginners and intermediates we’ll assess the strengths and weaknesses in your surfing, help you with wave judgment and paddling form, and get some video for you to reflect on your body and wave positioning. We’ll also take a look at your quiver and make suggestions based on our sessions together. If need be, we’ll put you on 1 or 2 different boards from our quiver so you can try out shapes that might be ideal for you. For beginners we provide all equipment.”
Our IngieGoGo supporters can buy a lesson for NY or CA. Who teaches out in California?
"Conatus Surf Club also offers our brand of holistic and intentional surf coaching in southern California. Our point man out there is Mike Siordia. Mike is a genuinely awesome guy with tons of knowledge about all southern CA surf spots, surfing culture and board design history. He is a longboard ace but also a well rounded surfer proficient on any chunk of foam. Mike has worked with young aspiring professionals, adult beginners and intermediates. He can get you paddling through any lineup with ease, increase your ability to glide and trim, and help you understand lineup dynamics and etiquette."
What do you love about surfing in NY?
“When it’s perfect here it’s really perfect. Plenty of space to spread out and find your own peak. Plenty of locations to explore. If you’re respectful the locals notice it and don’t hassle you. The flat spells make time to get other stuff done.”