When it’s time for physical education in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD), there are various sports that can be played. Football, basketball, baseball, and soccer take coordination, stamina, speed, and a competitive drive. A game of ultimate frisbee takes timing, finesse, and that little extra burst to try catching the frisbee that is just a little too far.
But members of the John Adams Middle School (JAMS) surf team wondered why they couldn’t surf for P.E.
“It’s a great sport,” said surf team member Kenta Elwell. “It helps your balance and everything. It gets you going out in the water a lot. How they move their body and everything on the wave, it just takes a lot of strength.”
Physical education is a way for schools to keep students active and teach them about exercise, health, and fitness. Surfing trains strength, coordination, and stamina while also teaching about currents and tides of the ocean. The JAMS surf team knows the ocean, so they also know the danger of a surfing P.E. class.
“With a lot of kids, once the waves get bigger, the instructors (would) have a tough time managing them because we’ve got a strong current normally going one way,” said team member Ryan Keith. “They would have to round up everybody and constantly get out and walk up the beach, and that’s hard to get the other kids to do.”
But that wouldn’t be the only danger.
“If you fall badly, you could hit your head on the board and you could get knocked unconscious or something,” said team member Neil Sonnenberg.
Sonnenberg said surfing would be fun for people who are learning, but inexperience and limited coaching would be hazardous in a physical education class.
An idea brought by Michelle LoMonaco, last year’s team manager and mother of one of the members, would not only benefit the team’s surfing skills but also their school education.
“One suggestion would be to have surfing counted as independent P.E. (in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district),” LoMonaco said. “That way, the kids are responsible for surfing on their own and they just get P.E. credit.
“Independent P.E. would take the place of school P.E., so that would open (the students) up to take another class.”
LoMonaco said certain physical activities such as AYSO soccer are not counted as independent P.E. Whatever activity would count for independent P.E. needs to meet certain requirements. The SMMUSD Independent Study Agreement states the program must engage the student for 200 minutes every five days; must engage students in physical activity, support personal growth, and promote healthy living and physical activity as lifelong goals and adhere to the state’s content standards in physical education; must be structured programs taught by qualified individuals responsible for supervising, documenting, and verifying student participation, progress, and performance (and parents cannot be this instructor); and the students must take the physical fitness training, mandated by the State of California.
“Some of these kids who are surfing three, four, five mornings a week and then competing on the weekends, I think, would meet that requirement easily,” LoMonaco said.
An email to JAMS Physical Education Department Chair Jeanette Asher was not returned by the time this video was posted.
The JAMS surf team will compete in their second season this upcoming school year.