Surfing is such an amazing sport that it draws large crowds, spectators, and participants every year to our local beaches. There is a certain magical quality one feels while ridding a wave or watching someone practice the art of surfing in the ocean. In my time down here as a resident of Newport Beach, I have seen numerous tourists come and attempt the sport. Some have been successful in learning the basics, others have been given a serious dose of reality. Regardless of ones ability we are all on the same path to learn this art in order to accomplish whatever goal in life we wish to achieve. Some practice the sport for fitness, others as a way to synthesize themselves with nature and enjoy its beauty.
What has been happening down in both Newport and Huntington Beach that troubles me is the large “surf school” or “surf camp” that attempts to teach visitors the art of surfing. I have worked for these “schools” and “camps” and to be completely honest the only thing that was being taught was how to capitalize on tourist’s lack of knowledge when it comes to surfing.
Safety should be the forefront of any lesson in the ocean whether it is surfing, swimming, sailing, or anything concerning navigating ocean waters. The issue at hand is that surf schools try to pass themselves off as being accredited in safety and therefore legitimate by a non-profit organization known as the NSSIA. This organization was created in order to capitalize off the large number of surf schools popping up around local beaches. Its name piggybacks off the NSSA, which is a high profile association that attracts a large number of amateur surf competitors, puts on surf contests, and is a legitimate organization in the surf community. The NSSIA however is not a credible source of safety training…I know this because I worked for two very large and well known surf schools in Orange County that had certifications from the NSSIA. Both of the owners worked in conjunction with the NSSIA and had a financial interest in it and never once did either school train any of its instructors in safety, lifeguarding, or anything that the NSSIA claims the schools under its banner go through. I however went through the ultimate water safety training programs in the US Navy. When I went through Dive School in the US Navy I was taught advanced lifeguard training. I could proficiently take a large man who was unconscious out of the water and revive him through chest compressions or if need be through the use of an AED. I was put through a battery of drown proofing tests in SEAL training where my arms and legs were tied with ropes. I was tested everyday by being put in emergency situations where I had to use my training, water skills, and calm demeanor in order to safely pass a drill.
The surf camps under the banner of the NSSIA or others that claim to be CPR certified are playing a dangerous game by claiming they are proficiently trained in safety. The instructors that teach lessons with Learn to Surf are put through a slew of tests that I adapted from both SEAL and Dive School training. The ocean is such an unpredictable entity that I cannot fathom how a surf camp with a student/instructor ratio of 4-1 or greater can claim they are safe. With that being said just because a city, surf shop, or hotel recommends a surf school, does not mean that it’s safe. I am safe and have the credentials to prove it…I went through the toughest military training in the world. I was in the water everyday. I am still in the water everyday. And I cannot wait to teach you how to be proficient and safe in the water everyday so that one day you can teach others the correct way.