So you want to learn how to surf? That’s honestly the best news I’ve heard all day! And you believe that a surf camp, where you can surf your heart out multiple times over consecutive days, is the way you want to go about doing it? I love what I’m hearing. Let’s see if we can get some others on board (*pun* intended) before we dive into what to look for when picking the best surf camp for you.
What is a surf camp?
A surf camp is exactly what it sounds like - a camp focused solely on surfing. There are often 2 surf sessions in a given day. The morning session tends to involve a lesson focusing on a specific aspect of surfing, such as mastering the pop-up, or learning how to make turns. The afternoon session is more of a free surf, where you can put to practice what you’ve already learned. Surf camps or retreats take place over several consecutive days, ranging generally from 3 to 14 days, with 5 to 7 days being most popular.
Why should I do a surf camp instead of several one on one lessons?
Great question. Unless you’re lucky enough to live close enough to a surf spot where you can go for a weekly lesson, throwing yourself into a surf camp is the best way to master basic surf skills that on a weekly or biweekly schedule would take months to learn. This type of commitment also leaves little room for distractions, changes of mind, and fear. Plus, you’ll have a consistent group of other beginners to get to know and feed off of, potentially making surf friends from around the world.
Now, not every surf camp is created equal, as you can imagine. Here are 5 things to consider when choosing a beginner surf camp.
Instructors have to not only be trained to teach you how to surf, but also how to keep you safe in the water, and how to respond in the event of an emergency. You’ll want to seek out a camp that has instructors certified by either the International Surfing Association (ISA) or the Academy of Surfing Instructors (ASI). Both are internationally recognized surfing authorities.
Surf instructor to student ratio
Look for camps that offer a low instructor to student ratio. When you’re a beginner, feedback from a trained instructor is key in helping you improve and grow your surfing confidence. The less students that an instructor is responsible for, the better he or she can track your progress and offer feedback that’s specific to you. Having said that, titles and accreditation aren’t everything. Don’t forget to check out independent reviews of the camp looking out for comments regarding the instructors. This is where you’re more likely to get a sense of the instructor team is like.
Location and time of year
Surfing conditions vary by location and time of year. Winter in many parts of the world brings bigger and more consistent swell. While this of course doesn’t sound beginner-friendly, some places, such as Hawaii or parts of Australia, will run surf camps year-round as there are always smaller swells available for beginners to learn on. Some surf camps make it easy by only offering camps during the times of the year where the swell is appropriate for beginners. It’s always worthwhile to still do a google check to confirm that the week you’ve got your eye on is during a favourable time of the year for learning how to surf.
You may also want to have the option of other activities or plain old sightseeing to do when you’re not surfing. If that’s the case, make sure your chosen location has those options close by.
Photo and video surf analysis
Many camps are now offering photo or video analysis of your surfing sessions in an effort to help you progress in your skill level. Naturally, this is likely to come with a heftier price tag but if you’re really keen on making the most of your week at surf camp, this is a nice luxury to have. The more you learn in that week, thanks to both verbal and visual feedback, the further along in your learning curve you’re likely to be when you leave.
Is the surf camp run sustainably?
If you’re considering attending a surf camp where you’ll spend hours in the ocean, you’re likely someone who appreciates and respects the great outdoors. Let’s take that a step further then and choose a surf camp that shares your love of nature.
Finding out whether a surf camp runs on sustainable principles may take some digging around but it’s worth prodding in order to leave a positive impact on the environment, as well as on the local community you’ll be staying in.
Here are some questions to consider:
Who owns the surf camp? Is it locally or internationally run?
Does the surf camp hire and train local staff?
Does the camp strive to produce minimal waste, and use minimal energy?
Are the meals that are provided at camp sourced from the local environment?
How does the camp do its part to care for the ocean? Do they organize regular beach clean-ups, for instance?
Many surf camps are located in underdeveloped countries, within communities with a low socioeconomic status. Does the surf camp offer its participants a way to give back to local community? For example, this could be just offering a trip into the local town for dinner or local souvenir shopping. If they offer volunteer experiences, are they going to contribute to the long-term development of the community, or are they just going to make us feel better about ourselves?
There’s a lot one can consider, can’t they? I recognize it may be overwhelming to look into, maybe even so much as to deter you from even going! I think the more of us that aren’t afraid to ask these type of questions, the more likely it is to bring about more sustainably-run camps.
Some additional things to consider when choosing a surf camp
Female-only or mixed surf camp?
Some learn to surf camps are designated female-only camps while others are mixed. This of course is your own personal preference, just thought I’d let you know what’s out there.
Combined surf and yoga camps
Sometimes surf camps are combined to include yoga, and those are also great, as these 2 activities complement each other in many ways.
Where are you considering going to learn how to surf? Leave me a comment below.
Not sold on the idea of learning how to surf? Check out my article on the life lessons surfing offers.
Looking for other challenging outdoor activities to try? You can find a few in these posts: