Will Skudin Interviews His Mom, Beth Skudin

We asked the professional surfer to interview the person he admires most and…awwwwwww

@whitewaterwilly x Mom

Beth Skudin grew up surfing her days away at the beach and passed down her love of the water to her son, Will. With multiple organizations aimed at sharing that love with all around them—Skudin Swim, Skudin Surf and Surf for All—the family stays in the swim of things. As the Aquatic Director of Skudin Swim, Beth’s passion is to have everyone feel comfortable and safe while submerged. Following swim lessons, the kids often then learn to surf from her sons, continuing their growth as little groms. Will has been standing up on boards basically since he’s been old enough to stand at all. His mom had a little something to do with it.

Will Skudin: Hi Mom. So I’m just going to ask you a couple of questions. Question one: what year was it when you were 10 years old?

Beth Skudin: 1965.

Will: 1965. So like ’65 to ’75. What was it like growing up on the beaches in New York, through your teens? What was the vibe like?

Beth: For me, it was a real family affair. Brothers and sisters, mom and dad, close family, friends, just hanging out from early morning breakfast, all the way through till dinner, sunset on the beach.

Will: That’s cool. It seemed like there were a lot of people surfing then, right?

Beth: Yeah. We went to Gilgo Beach. We just went to surf. We didn’t go there without surfboards.

Will: That’s cool. So it was a really rad kind of upbringing, just like a little beach community, beach days.

Beth: Yeah. You didn’t go to the beach to surf and leave. You went to the beach and you stayed there for hours, like 15 hours.

Will: You’ve been teaching swimming—or water activity in itself—for basically your whole life. Since you were a teenager, you’ve been teaching other people how to be safe and how to swim. What’s your advice to someone that didn’t grow up how we grew up that might be reading this? If you could tell somebody one thing to do and one thing not to do when taking their kid into a pool for the first time, what would it be?

Beth: Don’t tell your kid that they’re afraid of the water. I hear that too often. Parents sometimes will say that out loud in front of their child. It’s hard for me to correct the parent in front of the kid, but it always bothers me that a parent would literally tell their kid they’re scared of something, out loud. I love to point out to the parents that they should be one with the water up to their neck and face-to-face with their child. Eye-level so that their child isn’t staring at their belly button when they’re holding them in the water. And if they’re a good enough swimmer, the parent should swim holding the child, because the child feels that feeling.

If you can witness someone really become one with the water in 30 minutes, you just created an environment where they were able to blossom.

Will: And where would you put the child if you were swimming and holding them?

Beth: You could actually let go of a baby on your belly or your chest. And the baby will stay and keep itself there, even as young as six months. You’d be surprised how easy it is to take your hands off the child. It’s almost like a mommy whale and a baby whale. They stay close to you.

Will: So getting your feet off the ground will allow for the child to feel what it’s like to actually swim. Even though they’re not swimming, it’s kind of like the training wheels kind of can come off.

Beth: Well, they liked the feeling of it. It’s a different feel. So they’re going to want to reproduce that feeling on their own. So they’re going to want to glide through the water as opposed to stepping through the water.

Will: You had four boys—maniacs for the most part. Advice for that? New young family, groms running around.

Beth: I guess people would say that I was lenient. And I think it was because I have such a strong faith and belief in what I cannot see. So I just believe everything is going to work out for good. Even if it’s really, really bad, I believe it’s going to work out. And I would rather not be a cop all the time, telling you boys what not to do. I believe that you have to learn from your mistakes.

Will: Yes, you raised us in that aspect, but I was the third son and I couldn’t help but feel like I was a little bit more of a science experiment. I’m really flexible, you’ve been stretching me my whole life. you had me visualizing things a lot earlier, you did some different things with me than the other boys. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but what was up with that?

Beth: Well, I was always a swim coach, so there was a lot of material that we were being fed about visualization and the psychology of coaching. So, I read a few books about it and it said to visualize your race before the race. And I was going to a lot of world coaching conferences and meeting coaches from all over the world. There was a thread that ran between all of us when we would discuss something about a really good performance. And so, I was experimenting with you on that to get the best performance.