School’s out for the summer, but class on the sea is in session.
“There’s no better way to spend a summer in Laguna Beach than learning how to surf with friends,” said Steve Chew, director of Laguna Beach Surf School.
A local and no stranger to the competitive world of surfing, Chew has been teaching kids how to surf since he was 15.
“When I was in high school, my friend’s dad had an Ocean Adventure Program and they asked me to teach surfing, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” Chew said.
The surf school is offered through the Laguna Beach Community Services recreation department for nine weeks during summer.
Youth, ages 8 and up, surf Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a break for lunch.
The maximum number of students is 12 per session, with a ratio of four students per teacher. The cost is $450 per weekly session.
Surf instructors Chew and Paul Carolan began every Monday morning on land with an orientation on water safety and surfing etiquette, followed by the technical aspects of surfing.
Afterward, the students applied what they learned on land in the ocean.
“The camp environment encourages kids to overcome their fears. They see their friends doing it [surfing] and then they know they can do it, too,” Chew said. “It’s like follow-the-leader.”
Since Laguna Beach is a tourist destination, children from around the world attend the camp, as well as locals.
“We have kids that live right here on this beach and kids from Rome, Italy and Saudi Arabia,” Chew said.
“Surf camp is really fun and this is the best beach ever,” said Lara Walton, 9, visiting from Sydney, Australia.
In addition to surf instruction, the cost of the week includes a T-shirt, Billabong backpack, posters and discount cards to local surf shops, along with a presentation from the Surfrider Foundation on ocean environment awareness.
Also, at the end of each session, the group gathers for a farewell celebration pizza party, where children are christened with a surfing nicknames like “starfish” or “giggles.”
“This is my second summer at the camp and I’ve learned a lot,” said Bella Pringle, 9. “I don’t want to go back to school; I want to keep surfing.”
According to the summer 2008 Laguna Beach community service catalog, the surf school’s “method of instruction will allow students to build confidence and proficiency at their own pace.”
“We give each child individual attention, so we know when and how to push them,” Chew said.
“I’ve stood up every time,” said Bailey Jaeger, 11. “This week, the waves have been smaller, so it’s been easier to get used to.”