Want to bring your active, water-loving family to the next level? Take surfing lessons together! Group classes and surf camps are a great way to improve swimming and water safety skills, teach balance and coordination, and boost confidence while enjoying some thrilling waves. And many schools offer classes for children as young as 3!
We’ve gathered a list of surf schools that cater to young families so you can learn to surf with the right instructors in a beautiful, calm setting. After a few successful rides, your kids will beg to catch the big waves! Bonus: Many of these centers include equipment, and also offer other fun water and beach activities. Plus, your kids are likely to spot birds, fish and dolphins while riding the waves.
1. Girl in the Curl – Dana Point, CA
Located in Orange County, California, Dana Point is an ideal spot for surfing, especially for children, thanks to smaller waves in some coves. Since 1987, Girl in the Curl Surf Shop has specialized in youth classes. Group and private lessons are available, along with co-ed surf camps for beginner, intermediate and advanced level surfers. Since the right surfboard is very important for new riders, students use soft-top boards, which are light, stable and easy for little hands to paddle. Wetsuits are also provided, but students are strongly encouraged to wear their own water shoes or booties. All instructors are CPR-certified, and emphasize water safety, ocean awareness and of course, having fun.
Bonus: Dana Point’s Doheny State Beach was named among the 10 Best Family Beaches for 2019!
Recommended Hotel: Monarch Beach Resort
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2. Campsurf – Los Angeles
As the official surf school in Manhattan Beach, Campsurf has offered year-round surf classes, private lessons and surf camps since 1997, teaching students ages 7 and up to safely and confidently ride waves. The school’s experienced instructors oversee small groups of four students, offering personal attention during the learning process. There is also an introductory Campsurf Groms kids program for ages 4 to 6, who learn about ocean safety before trying boogie boarding, body surfing and one-on-one basic surfing skills. They also offer beach games including sand castle building.
Recommended Hotel: Westin Los Angeles Airport
3. Kahalu’u Surf & Sea – Kona, HI
Located across the street from Kahalu’u Bay, one of the best beaches in Kona, Hawaii, Kahalu’u Surf & Sea offers a fantastic site to learn how to surf and stand-up paddle. Owners Isha Taylor and Ben Callaghan have been surfing since childhood, and provide a flexible program featuring one-on-one instruction, semi-private or group lessons for small children to adults. Lessons begin on land, where you’ll learn how to wipe out in the water and how to stand up on your board. Soft-top long boards, rash guards and booties are all provided; just bring your swimsuit, sunscreen and towel.
Recommended Hotel: King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel
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4. Surf Camp Maine – Scarborough Beach, ME
Located on Scarborough Beach, Surf Camp is Maine’s only full-week surfing day camp and one of New England’s only surf schools. Kids 9 to 15 can attend the day camp while also exploring the local marine environment, while adults have their own surf camp or lessons. All equipment is provided. There’s also a fall surfing program, regularly scheduled group lessons for families, and a surf and yoga session.
Recommended Hotel: Homewood Suites by Hilton Portland
5. San Diego Surfing School – San Diego
Founded in 2000, San Diego Surf School’s lessons and camps take place on North Pacific Beach or Ocean Beach in Southern California. The school features one-, three- and five-day surf camps and boogie boarding camps that also include snacks, a T-shirt, surf stickers and a magazine, plus a souvenir photo. Or, choose from semi-private lessons for two or three students, one-on-one instruction or group lessons for four or more people. All lessons are 90 minutes, and equipment is included. Bonus: The school is currently offering four lessons for the price of three.
Recommended Hotel: Holiday Inn Express La Jolla
6. Summertime Surf – Multiple Locations, NJ
Established in 2006, Summertime Surf has locations along the Jersey Shore in Asbury Park, Bradley Beach, Belmar, Point Pleasant, and on the Manasquan River. Choose from private surf lessons for children and families seven days a week, half-day surf camp for kids ages 6 to 16 or full-day camp for kids 8 to 16. There’s also an introduction to surfing Keiki Camp for children aged 4 to 6. You can also arrange custom family surfing events for groups of seven or more, or SUP programs. Wetsuits and boards are provided.
Recommended Hotel: The Asbury Hotel
7. Sepp Bruhwiler’s Westside Surf – Tofino, British Columbia
Specializing in family surf lessons for kids under 13, Westside Surf is run by former professional surfer Sepp Bruhwiler. The school offers two-day beginner Progressive Surf Camps and private one-on-one or group lessons surrounded by spectacular scenery in Tofino, British Columbia. Family group lessons are three hours long and tailored to the experience level in your group. Children as young as 5 can learn to surf. Surf camps for kids ages 10 and up feature five hours of instruction and hitting the waves, and all equipment is included.
Recommended Hotel: Pacific Sands Beach Resort
8. Zed’s Surfing Adventures – Barbados
Why not include a day of surfing in your Barbados beach vacation? At Zed’s Surfing Adventures—one of the oldest surf schools on the island—your family can learn to ride the beginner-friendly waves in a tropical setting at Surfers Point in Christ Church. Two-hour group lessons run Monday through Saturday, and private instruction is also available. Zed’s one-day ‘Get Wet Summer Surf Program’ features pick-up and drop-off service from your hotel, two hours with an instructor, and a surfboard. Bonus: Your family may spot some sea turtles, and if you take an afternoon class, you’ll see a spectacular sunset.
Recommended Hotel: Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels
9. Richard Schmidt Surf School – Santa Cruz, CA
Open year-round and operated since 1978 by a former professional surfer, Richard Schmidt Surf School teaches families how to surf and stand-up paddle board in Santa Cruz, which has some of the West Coast’s best surfing along the coastline of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The school has a five-day surf camp that begins each morning with a yoga session, and students learn about ocean awareness and safety, along with proper paddling and push-through techniques as they improve their skills in manoeuvring their surfboards. Bonus: The school also offers marine adventure tours during SUP lessons.
Recommended Hotel: BEST WESTERN PLUS All Suites Inn
10. South Padre Surf Co. Surf School – South Padre Island, Tx
Run by husband-and-wife team Gene and Rachel Gore, South Padre Surf Co. Surf School is located at Isla Blanca Beach Park, known for its easy beginner waves and sandy bottom. The three-hour surf camps are geared towards beginners ages 3 and up, and the included soft-foam top surfboards make it easy for beginners to stand up. Lessons are taught in shallow water, and feature ocean safety tips. Surf shirts and wetsuits are also provided. Families can also choose one-hour surf lessons that are held daily.
Recommended Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn South Padre Island
Montreal-based Wendy Helfenbaum is a journalist, content strategist and TV producer who writes for dozens of digital and print magazines, as well as many brands. Wendy loves cruising, adventure travel and venturing off the beaten path with her husband and teenage son, and she can pack a carry-on bag like nobody’s business. Follow her @WendyHelfenbaum.
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