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Coach Burns (front left) gathers at the beach with the NHHS surf team.

Surf: Q&A with Coach Burns

Balancing on a board in the unpredictable ocean is far from easy. But when coached under Matt Burns, students will soon become experts. Improving over time under Burns’s supervision, countless athletes have developed into renowned surfers. Surfing at Newport Harbor has earned its reputation as one of the most difficult but welcoming sports on our campus. 

CS: What sport do you coach?

MB: I coach the surf team. 

CS: What is your experience with this sport? 

MB: I’ve been head coach of the surf team for the last 12 years now, and have been surfing since I was like 14. So my experience runs pretty deep; I’m an old guy, so I enjoy doing what I do. 

CS: Why did you decide to coach surf? 

MB: I think to keep myself young, to be honest, to keep myself relevant and close to the most exciting time in my life. Coaching keeps me near to that. 

CS: How can students try out for surf? Do you cut students? 

MB: We do have a cut for the surf team. We do two tryouts in June and August. Anybody that’s cut, though, I put kids in surf class. If you get cut, it’s not like really getting cut. You might work towards the team if you get put into surf class. 

CS: What kind of student would enjoy surf?

MB: Really anybody that likes to do things outside, and for surf it’s like being down by the beach. It is a little early, starts at 7 a.m., which kind of deters some people.  

CS: What is a typical practice like?

MB: We show up at the beach at about 6:45 in the morning to surf. Kids warm up, do a little stretching routine, then we go out and actually run surf heats. It’s about six people in the water surfing against each other from time to time, so we’ll judge them in a 15-minute period. 

CS: What skills are necessary to do well in this sport? 

MB: Surfing, to be quite honest, is water time. Over the course of your surfing career, you really need water time to develop some of the skills. You can’t just go from point A to Z. Some athletes try to go too far too quickly; then you’re not going to be successful. 

CS: What kinds of things are students expected to do outside of practice for surfing? 

MB: They should be out there at the beach on their own. Outside of the surf team, they should be surfing on their own, on the weekends when we don’t have stuff. 

CS: What can a student do to get better at surfing? 

MB: If you want to be on the surf team next year, you need to surf every day this summer. That’s my advice to be competitive and be at level, you have to do that. 

CS: What kinds of feedback do you usually receive from your students?

MB: Usually, seniors run their course for four years and love the experience. It’s pretty unique to do an individual sport, and what I try to bring to it is that team dynamic. Where you are on a team instead of just relying on yourself, you have other people with you as well. 

CS: What benefits can students obtain from playing this sport? 

MB: Good cardiovascular fitness, a lot of sense of pride. They are going to be doing stuff outside of just surfing: obviously taking care of our beach, giving back to the community and the bigger picture. 

CS: How can surfing help students in their future? 

MB: Setting up good life skills, like discipline, being on time. Achieving things based on merit. That’s something you do in any sport, when you work hard and disciplined, you are bound to have good things happen to you. 

CS: Is there anything else you want students to know about surfing?

MB: Don’t think that you can’t do it. If you have any type of athletic ability, come on out and we’ll put you in surf.

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