How to choose a surf school? Guide on surf schools for beginners, intermediate and PRO

How to choose a surf school? Guide on surf schools for beginners, intermediate and PRO

Nowadays surfing has been fairly considered one of the most spectacular sports ever. And it doesn’t come as a surprise. Just take a look on some random corresponding search results on Youtube, Instagram or any other popular platform and you’re going to be stoked by passion and power of many surfers all over the World. 

With the spreading of the Internet the art of riding waves has been steadily attracting people from different continents and countries, even those which are far from the nearest coast line. On top of that in 2020 surfing is going to have its debut appearance at the Olympics in Japan.

More and more beginners and pros are attracted by the hype around surfing and seeking opportunities to challenge their first wave. In this feature we are going to elaborate to newcomers what they should pay attention to in times of choosing a surf school, share some destinations and introduce a few particular spots.

What you should know before choosing a surf school or surf camp

Licenses for Surf Instructors

Many newbies wander on how to choose a surf school correctly. The expanding variety is really confusing, and you need to check several factors. One of them is licenses for surf instructors. Basically, these licenses prove compliance of a surf instructor or a school with particular global or local standards in terms of surf tuition. Here we will introduce some of them.

• ISA
The International Surfing Association (ISA), which was founded in 1964, is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the world governing authority for the sport of surfing. The ISA regulations rule out types of surfing and other wave riding activities as well as international programs for surf coaching and instructing. ISA certificate is considered the most internationally recognized award for surf instructors. Check ISA homepage for more details: www.isasurf.org

• ASI 
The Academy of Surfing Instructors (ASI) is one of the biggest world surfing authorities. The ASI courses for instructors provide comprehensive information covering surfing skills, instructional techniques, operations and safety. Established in 2003, currently, ASI operates in over 20 countries. This is another body in the decentralized world of surfing which sets international standards for education and safety measures. More details here: www.academyofsurfing.com

• SGB
Initially known as Surf Great Britain (SGB), Surfing England is a non-profit membership organization and a recognized National Governing Body for the sport of surfing in England. Created by surfers and for surfers, SGB provides professional education for surf coaches and instructors and sets standards for the UK. SGB is recognized by ISA & the European Surfing Federation. More info: www.surfingengland.org

Generally speaking, it doesn`t make much difference to you which certificate your school or instructor complies with. The primary target of these standards is to satisfy legal requirements and make sure you got the right person or place. 

Board on a bech /surf camp

 

Why go to a Surf School?

Surfing is incredibly fun, yet involves courage in tight interaction with the elements (waves, tides, wind, sun, reefs, wildlife etc). Many beginners are often deceived by how easy surfing looks, but when they get to paddling and catching waves they realize how much physical power it initially requires. So as a beginner you need to be fit and durable, eat well and sleep well. 

Moreover, it takes time and expertise to find a good breaks and figure out under which conditions they work and what dangers they hide. Besides that as a first-timer you may be confused by the variety of surfboards, paddling and diving techniques, choosing a good time for surfing and other issues. It`s not that badly complex, but definitely it`s not a “read-and-apply” thing neither.

Allowing someone who is really experienced to guide you through your first steps in surfing will save you a lot of time and effort. So, for many of you who love surfing but can only afford a regular short vacation attending an appropriate surf school or participating in a surf camp seems to be the good answer. Let`s see what`s the difference between these two things.

The Surf School Concept

Briefly speaking, a surf school is a particular institution located in a particular place (mostly on the Ocean shore or very close to it), which offers not only surf education at all levels with experienced instructors, but also accommodation, meals and recreation, additional physical training and post-workout practices, entertainment, photo and video footage and so on.

Surf schoolon the beach

 

Basically a surf school is a relatively small guesthouse (normally hosting up to 25 persons) where people from different places get together to surf, chill and have fun. This is the best option for first timers, who want to get an idea of what surfing is about, seek encounters with like-minded peers and feel more secure in a team. 

The Surf Camp Concept

On the contrary, a surf camp is an event rather than location. It might be set up literally in a form of a camp with tents and skewers at a popular spot or in the middle of nowhere with only you and your surf instructor. That’s a great solution for those who are eager to break free from comfort zone, challenge their qualities and explore something new. 

Surf camp on the beach

 

From time to time some well-known instructors may rent a common big villa or guesthouse at a particular surf spot to catch a particular swell. They give a shout on their pages in social media in advance offering to join them in a trip to challenge some big waves or teach you basic surfing somewhere far from crowded places. Let`s dive into some more details here.

What to keep in mind when choosing a surf school or camp. Safety, prices and group VS. one-to-one lessons

When it comes to surfing as well as any other extreme sports you should remember: safety is the top priority.

To avoid any regretful outcome make sure you carefully follow all guidances of your instructor. If you are a beginner, it will require from you decent patience to listen to all the theory, which your instructor gives you on the ground before he takes you to the ocean. If you are an intermediate or a pro visiting an unfamiliar spot you know what to do: get as much information as you can, as your guide about everything. 

Especially it refers to local currents, which may wash you away, any hidden rocks and poles, wildlife (jellyfish and sea urchins) and of course waves - both on the shore and in the open water.

Surfing instructor

 

All the instructors are supposed to tell you how to handle your surfboard at all times: when you get in the water, reach lineup, catch a wave and come out on the beach. Regardless of how confident you might feel, don’t ever forget these advices and try to follow them no matter what.

Remember: it`s always better to stay low rather than get yourself in trouble.

How much is the excitement?

Even though surfing might seem a relatively cheap sport at the first glance (waves are free, indeed), there is something what may deter you from choosing a place where you might want to go. Here we are talking about price of accommodation. 

Surfer with a surfboard on the beach

 

Due to development of international tourism more and more places which used to be hidden are getting exposed to the public and attract crowds of surfers as well as all other visitors. As a result prices are growing year to year, so that now even hardcore shacks in Indonesia may seem quite a big deal, especially in time of a high season. Just to give you an idea, a raw accommodation plan for two persons for two weeks in August will cost you 200-400 USD in Bali, 700-1000 EUR in Portugal and 1600-2000 EUR in France.

As for surf schools and camps, generally they are intensively promoted in social media, so the best spots are sold quickly. As surf trip is better when its planned in advance, matching a particular swell or weather conditions. Thus you should better book a spot in a particular school or camp beforehand.

Group lessons or one-to-one

Many of surf fans and amateurs are sometimes hesitating whether they should join a group or take private lessons. 

On one hand, group lessons are considerably cheaper, simply because for schools and camps it`s much more profitable to accommodate a number of customers at a time and it allows them to offer more options like vehicles, gear, lectures, non-surf tours, parties etc. Moreover, visitors stay in a group, make new friends, motivate each other and have good time in all ways, sometimes even ending up dating or making business together. This is definitely good for those who want to make a first try or prefers being in a company.

Group lesson on the beach

 

On the other hand, private lessons are more expensive by definition, there are rarely any additional options provided besides a surfboard, but you get all the attention of your instructor on you. It is a good deal for those surfers who aim a particular result like learning new techniques and tricks as well as challenging bigger waves and unfamiliar spots. 

One-to-one lesson

 

Surf school for beginners

When you as a beginner apply for your first course in a surf school, you should remember, that there is no such thing as an overnight success. It`s a real school where you will have to really study, aside of all fun options of course.

Many first timers mistakenly consider that being good in snowboarding will help them succeed in surfing quickly. The reality proves the opposite. Surfing requires not only solid physical power, but also good balancing, swimming and diving skills, courage and A LOT of theoretical knowledge. Thus education in surf schools is basically built around all these spheres with a particular emphasis on theory. 

When you get to a surf school for the first time, they will not take you to the ocean right away. Normally instructors begin the first lesson with some basic explanation on currents, waves and safety as well as provide a demonstration of paddling and take-off techniques.

Beginners on the beach

 

Later on, depending on a particular school, you may also have training on free diving (in a pool) and power exercises, skateboard and yoga classes, lectures on breathing, types of surfboards and many more, either included or for extra money.

All together these activities may number around 5-7 events besides surfing program. Usually these details are listed in surf school offer which you can view on a home page or in social media, but if you find that anything is unclear to you its always better to ask and check before you proceed to payment. Let’s compare some surf schools from different parts of the world.

1. Quicksilver Bali Surf Academy

Location: Kuta - Bali, Indonesia
Best season: beginners are welcome to come to challenge theirs first fun waves all year round with the best season lasting from May to October, which is also good for intermediate and advanced surfers.
Duration of a course: up to 3 lessons 2 hours each, which you may double or triple and so on depending on your progress and holiday duration.
Instructors’ certificates: ISA
Lifeguards: OK
Equipment (brands): different ‘Learn To Surf’ surfboard brands, local manufacturers Chilli & Luke Struder
Accommodation (included or not): not included
Price of course: 3 lessons in a group (4 pax) - 1.200.000 IDR per person
Nearest airport: Ngurah Rai - Denpasar, Bali
Official website

 

Prices of individual instructors on this location: 950.000 IDR for 2 hours.

2. Cabarete Surf Camp

Location: Cabarete – Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Best season: November-March
Duration of a course: longest course lasts for 3 days, however you are welcome to contact the school to customize your surf trip
Instructors’ certificates: N/A
Lifeguards: N/A
Equipment (brands): brands are not specified, on the home page it is stated that the school possesses a collection of more than 100 boards, all of top quality and in excellent condition
Accommodation (included or not): included
Price of course: 95 –300 USD depending on length of your stay and type of room you choose
Nearest airport: Puerto Plata International Airport
Official website
Instagram

Prices per hour of individual instructors on this location: 40 USD.

3. Baleal Surf Camp

Location: Peniche, Portugal
Best season: April-September - for beginners, October-March - for intermediate and advanced surfers
Duration of a course: 1-4, 5, 10 and 15 classes
Instructors’ certificates: ISA, Portuguese Surfing Federation, Portuguese Tourism Board, Peniche Harbour Captancy. 
Lifeguards: OK
Equipment (brands): not specified
Accommodation (included or not): not included
Price of course: 30–345 EUR depending on number of lessons and season
Nearest airport: Lisbon Airport
Official website
Instagram

 

Prices per hour of individual instructors on these locations: 69-80 EUR depending on the season.

 

4. Biarritz Paradise Surf School

Location: Biarritz, France
Best season: May-August
Duration of a course: regular - up to 5 days (1 lesson per day), intensive - 5 days (2 lessons per day) 
Instructors’ certificates: FFS (France Surfing Federation) 
Lifeguards: OK
Equipment (brands): 150 boards and 60 wetsuits
Accommodation (included or not): not included
Price of course: 40-330 EUR depending on number of lessons and season
Nearest airport: Biarritz Airport
Official website
Instagram

Prices per hour of individual instructors on these locations: 100-120 EUR depending on the season. 

5. The Surfer Surf Camp

Location: Weligama, Sri Lanka
Best season: November-April
Duration of a course: 7 days
Instructors’ certificates: not specified
Lifeguards: not specified
Equipment (brands): local brands
Accommodation (included or not): included
Price of course: 350-1300 USD depending on the number of lessons per day and accommodation type
Nearest airport: Bandaranaike International Airport
Official website

Surf school for intermediate

What distinguishes an intermediate surfer is the ability to do bottom-turn and cutback as well as take off smoothly, maintain a linear trajectory on the surf line and bail out without hurting oneself and others in the process. Another significant skill is to read surf forecast and plan a session.

Bottom-turn stunt by a surfer on the waves

 

Upon reaching this level you are free to go further and learn how to choose best waves, paddle out more efficiently using less power, make optimal use of each wave and moving your bodyweight from rail to rail and – if you are a longboarder – from tail to nose. To master all these skills it makes sense to apply to a surf school of a higher category. Here are some recommendations of spots of this type worldwide.

1.Asu Surf Camp

Location: Nias, Indonesia
Best season: May-September
Duration of a course: 10 days
Instructors’ certificates: not specified
Lifeguards: not specified
Equipment (brands): local brands and imported basic boards
Accommodation (included or not): included
Price of course: 1100-1370 EUR depending on accommodation type
Nearest airport: Medan International Airport
Official website

Prices per hour of individual instructors on these locations: subject to negotiation.

2. The Surf Hotel Morocco

Location: Tamraght, Morocco
Best season: September-April
Duration of a course: up to 13 days
Instructors’ certificates: not specified
Lifeguards: not specified
Equipment (brands): over 150 boards of highest quality
Accommodation (included or not): included
Price of course: 142-857 EUR depending on number of lessons and accommodation type
Nearest airport: Agadir Al-Massira International Airport
Official website
Instagram

Prices per hour of  individual instructors on these locations: subject to negotiation

3. Odysseys Surf School

Location: Kuta - Bali, Indonesia
Best season: May-October
Duration of a course: up to 7 days
Instructors’ certificates: Australian Academy of Surfing Instructors
Lifeguards: OK
Equipment (brands): Malibu, local brands
Accommodation (included or not): not included
Price of course: 455.000-4.550.000 IDR depending on number and type of lessons
Nearest airport: Ngurah Rai International Airport
Official website
Instagram

Prices per hour of individual instructors on these locations: 780.000 - 4.550.000 IDR depending on a number of lessons.

4. Campsurf

Location: Manhattan Beach - California, USA
Best season: December-February
Duration of a course: up to 5 days
Instructors’ certificates: CPR
Lifeguards: OK
Equipment (brands): not specified
Accommodation (included or not): not included
Price of course: 70-380 USD depending on number of lessons and participants
Nearest airport: Los Angeles International Airport
Official website
Instagram

Prices per hour of individual instructors on these locations: 90-380 USD depending on a number of lessons.

5. Ride Surf Resort

Location: Peniche, Portugal
Best season: October-March
Duration of a course: you are free to choose the desired duration
Instructors’ certificates: not specified
Lifeguards: OK
Equipment (brands): not specified
Accommodation (included or not): included
Price of course: 85-399 EUR per day depending on number of lessons and other options
Nearest airport: Lisbon Airport
Official website
Instagram

Prices per hour of individual instructors on these locations: not specified, the tuition fee is included in total cost with accommodation and other options.

Surf school for PRO?

When you reach the level of a pro-surfer, you clearly know how to catch good waves anytime anywhere on Earth. Unless you are a solo drifter there is also a community behind you. Just by definition most pros no longer go to a surf school, they rather research, plan and surf on their own or in a company of friends.

PRO surfer on the beach

 

However, if as a pro you are determined to proceed further some extra professional guidance will be good. It`ll help you to excel what you are already capable of and learn something new,  whether it is challenging fast barrels or doing aerials without getting wiped out. 

Finding an appropriate surf instructor is not a big deal now. If you are planning your trip in advance, the first thing you can do is to search through social media using particular tags or pages. Today eminent surf guides and professional locals often promote themselves on Instagram and other platforms. You are free to give a shout directly to someone you like and trust. Searching through the surfing community you belong to or any other is another solution. Dedicated surfers mostly know each other or know someone who knows someone you need anywhere etc. It might be time-consuming, but this is what planning is about. 

Continuing as a PRO is also about reaching out to particular spots. Go try Indonesian Mentawai or Maluku islands. The travel is going to be pricey, but you will be among a few surfing in a remote and authentic location. These island trips are normally arranged on boats. The average price for the all-included package starts from 300 USD per night. Standard duration - 7-10 days.

Sunny Mentawai island

Sunny Mentawai island

If you prefer easier travel Hawaii is your destination. There you can find a large variety of surf camps and many instructors. Regular price for 2-hours pro-surf coaching will cost you 150 USD, whereas the price for 1-hour surf guide is 175 USD.

Sunny Hawaii

Sunny Hawaii

Struggling with high expenses? Nevermind, there is a spot where you can go relatively cheap and easy and still reach new limits in your surfing experience - Cloud 9 in Siargao. The Filipino island receives decent swell in August-September and annually hosts World Surf League Competitions. There is a number of greatly skilled locals who will be happy to coach and guide you for some reasonable reward.

Siargao beach

Siargao beach

Whatever is your choice, never forget that surfing is an endless school and you don`t want to stop learning ever. Enjoy it! Enjoy life and spread this attitude!