My heart is pounding and I am suddenly very aware of the strap around my ankle linking me to something that could potentially knock me unconscious and cause me to drown right here in the Pacific Ocean, something you definitely don’t want to happen on one of your first Huntington Beach surf lessons. Thankfully within a couple of seconds, I was back up above water, breathing in beloved oxygen and clinging desperately to the surfboard beside me. After the initial shock of falling into the cold water for the first time, my California surf lesson ended up being rather successful. If you’re thinking of taking surf lessons on America’s West Coast then grab your suntan lotion and swimwear and read on for all you need to know before you go.
Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City USA (are you singing the Beach Boys song right now?), is located about an hour South of Los Angeles along the US West Coast. It has ten miles of uninterrupted beaches and holds over fifty surf contests every year including the US Open of Surfing, due to its consistent waves. It’s also home to the International Surfing Museum so with that reputation, it seems there’s no better place to learn how to surf, right? Even in the middle of Winter, ahem. So in an attempt to escape the cold Winter in London, I jetted off to California for a week and added a surfing lesson to my to do list.
If you do a quick search of surf lessons Huntington Beach, there is no end to the results with surf schools both in Huntington Beach itself and within the surrounding Orange County like Laguna and Long Beach. It can actually be quite daunting at first and I spent a lot of time researching various surf schools in the area. As I was going in January, my search was narrowed significantly as quite a lot of surf schools do not open or offer surf lessons all year round. I was also looking for a surf school with good reviews as I have only attempted surfing once before and that was in school on a PGL trip many moons ago. Finally I settled on Banzai Surf School, they were open all year round, offered private lessons and seemed a great choice for surfing for beginners.
What should I look out for when looking for a surf school?
- Location – obviously if you’ve already decided you want to surf Huntington Beach then that’s your location, don’t accidentally pick a surf school in Long Beach. Sometimes you can research the area and see if the waves are suitable for your skill level too i.e if there are powerful high waves, they probably aren’t the best for beginners.
- Reviews – check Facebook, Twitter and search the surf school + reviews in Google. You want someone who will take the time to explain things to you more than once if needed. Surfing and being in the sea can be very dangerous so you need an instructor who knows what they are doing.
- Accreditation – if they don’t have any accreditation, it might not be a bad thing but it does add that extra layer of confidence that you’ll get a great instructor and lesson.
- Inclusions – check that equipment hire is included in the price, a wet suit and a surfboard.
Why go with Banzai Surf School?
Banzai Surf School is 2 miles south of the Huntington Beach pier and Main Street. It is a truck located at 22355 Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and Brookhurst Street, 92646. I chose it because it was open year round and offered 1 hour lessons. As I wasn’t sure if I liked surfing or if my endurance could deal with 2 hours or more of surfing so I wanted an hour lesson to start with. When I spoke to Banzai they said they don’t actually offer 1 hour lessons in the Winter as it’s not worth them opening the truck for just an hour but as they had other lessons that day they would make an exception. If you’re surfing in Summer, you should be able to have an hour lesson if you want, no issues.
They are also NSSIA (National Surf Schools and Instructors Association) accredited – the highest governing body in the surf instruction industry in North America, so you can be confident to get an instructor who knows what they are doing.
When I rocked up for my lesson, there was no one around. After waiting for ten minutes after my lesson was supposed to start, I gave them a call and they got back to me immediately saying they weren’t sure what had happened but they were sending someone down and they’d be there within half an hour. These things happen so I wasn’t bothered as didn’t have a time schedule and was pleased they fixed the error so quickly. The instructor they sent was awesome. He took time to go through the basics with me – you spend around 10-20 minutes on the sand practicing things before you get in the water – and seemed really invested in my making progress and standing on the board. He explained what we were going to do before we did it and when I got mental block and freaked out, he took me back to the sand to go through the popping up again before heading back into the sea.
How much does it cost to take a surf lesson in Huntington Beach with Banzai Surf School?
- A 2 hour private surf lesson with Banzai Surf School will set you back $149pp.
- You get discounts if a group of you want a private lesson.
- They offer seasonal 1.5 hour group lessons where you can join the group and have one instructor per 3-4 surfers for $79 pp.
- If you already know you love surfing, you can get ‘packs’ of lessons, which work out cheaper too.
Don’t forget that if your lesson is good, you’ll have to add some money on top of this for tips.
How was the Huntington Beach surfing lesson?
HARD. I had done my research and was aware it wasn’t going to be a piece of cake especially with my non existent fitness level but it was knackering! To be honest, swimming on the board and trying to pop up wasn’t the tiring bit – it was trying to get back to shore and fighting the waves each time to start again in a good place. Afterwards though, my arms ached for two straight days and I was ravenous! Once I got used to the waves splashing in my face, it was a good lesson. My instructor pointed out that I was going to fall off anyway so I might as well fall off attempting to stand. I was SO close to standing as well – my instructor reckoned that if I’d had two hours I would have got it so maybe bare that in mind when booking your lesson. If you don’t like water splashing in your face or being submerged in water, surfing isn’t for you but if you love being in the sea, you should give it a go. I loved the idea of surfing in such a prestigious place for surfing too.
Most surf schools in the Huntington Beach area suggest surfing early in the morning, in fact some even close in the afternoon as apparently you get the best waves in the morning. Near the end of my lesson the waves got choppier and more powerful and to be honest I was glad my lesson was ending as I’m not sure I could have dealt with them. Basically, if you want to surf, you’ll probably have to get up early – I booked my lesson for 9am.
Surf schools have a range of wetsuits. I was a little worried that they wouldn’t have one that fit me but the second one my instructor picked up fit me fine. If you are worried about this just contact the surf school but I’m sure it will be fine.
DO NOT rent a surfboard and think you can do it on your own if you have no experience. The sea is dangerous, make sure if you’re a beginner, you go with a instructor who knows surfing and knows the area.
So there you have it. Hopefully this has convinced you to go ahead and book that surf lesson in the California sunshine. It’s hard but good fun, promise!
If you’re still undecided, why not pin this for later?