When You Learn to Surf, Lessons Come in Waves

So, you wanna learn to surf? Cool. The Southland teems with people who want to teach you. From a quick two-hour course for $80 to a world-famous five-day surf camp for $900, Southern California is definitely the learn-to-surf capital.

* Stewart Surfboards


(310) 317-8688


Starting mid-June, two-day clinics will be held to teach start-up surfing skills. Emphasis will be on safety, equipment and on-board technique. The clinics will take place on Saturday and Sunday mornings, five hours each day, at a cost of $99 for the weekend. If you have your own board, bring it. If not, board rental is an additional $25.

* ZJ Boarding House

Santa Monica

(310) 392-5646


“People come here from all over the world to pick up surfing savvy,” says Mikke Pierson, co-owner of the ZJ surf shop--one of many in area beach cities that can either offer lessons or recommend surfing instructors.

Here, most people take just one private two-hour lesson, at $40 per hour (which includes wetsuit and board).

“What you learn in that two hours is basically what you’ll need for the rest of your surfing life,” Pierson says.

The first hour is spent discussing how the tides work, how waves work, water safety, weather and other technical aspects. Then instructor and student go out and catch that first wave.

“The excitement of that first ride will stay with you forever. It just increases with every wave you catch after that.”

* Corky Carroll’s Surf School

Huntington Beach

(714) 841-0253


Everybody seems to know about Corky Carroll’s Surf School--one of the most popular in the area. But Carroll himself is hard to find. He’s out teaching most of the time. His students range from beginners (7 and older) to professional, competitive surfers. Carroll offers private lessons ($50 an hour), less expensive group lessons by the full- or half-day, and weeklong courses. The school is at Bolsa Chica State Beach.

* Matthew Binswanger

Newport Beach

(949) 760-1430

Matthew Binswanger, 40, has been teaching surfing for 15 years. It’s his full-time work. He also teaches safety, weather, equipment, tides, how to track waves--all the essentials. You can pack it all into one basic two-hour private lesson, where surfboards and wetsuits are provided, at $50 an hour. Or you can take six private lessons of two hours each, at $300.

* Paskowitz Surf Camp

San Clemente

(949) 361-WAVE


The Paskowitz Surf Camp draws students from around the world. It was started 26 years ago by Dorian Paskowitz (better known as Doc), now almost 80 and still out there ripping the waves every morning.

“Surfing is not just a young person’s sport,” says his son Izzy, 34, the camp director.

Each camp session runs five days and four nights, Monday through Friday. Students are asked to bring a sleeping bag because they camp out in a state park, but everything else--including food and equipment--is provided.

“We wake at 7 a.m., we give the students breakfast, and we all get into the water. That’s when the wind is calm and the water is smooth--the safest conditions for surfing. We don’t need big waves. We need gentle, easy rides, so that the first experience will be a great one,” Paskowitz says. There are afternoon surf session and land adventures. Students are 8 to 80, but children and adults attend different sessions. $900 a week.