5 Best Surf Schools

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Twenty-five years ago the only sport businessmen played was golf and maybe tennis. Today, that has expanded to marathons, triathlons, rock climbing, snowboarding and surfing. At a certain point, there was a shift from cigarettes and red wine to free weights and yoga. Staying healthy and learning how to do these sports decently can be challenging. Here are a five surf camps where you can learn to ride the waves and get into "the aloha" lifestyle.

Destination: Bocas del Toro, Panama
Camp: Azucar
Why Go: "We are boat-based," explained owner Michael Lawson. "We take the boat out and within ten minutes can access just about any type of waves we are looking for. We anchor the boat and paddle directly to the wave, bypassing the need to struggle out over the reefs or pounding coastal beach break."
Package: A typical Learn to Surf package is price based on the first two people sharing the cost of $445 per day and then each additional surfer adding $195 per day. The packages are all inclusive. They provide accommodations and food. A typical stay is six nights and with morning surfing lessons, an afternoon free surf, private instruction and equipment rental included. Azucar also offers a list of other activities: yoga, jungle hikes, snorkeling, a Starfish Beach tour, a Dolphin Bay tour and a tour of Butterfly/Chocolate Farm. They also provide transportation to and from the airport.

Destination: Long Beach, N.Y.
Camp: Skudin Surf
Why Go: Instructors Will and Cliff Skudin, who are also the owners of Skudin Surf, are ranked on the Big Wave World Tour.
Package: Skudin Surf offers a children's surf camp and an adult surf camp, which both run Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. All of the pricing is the same except for the one-day rate. One-day for the children's camp is $90, and the adult camp costs $100. Three days are $250, and the full week is $375. Unfortunately, there is no housing; however, the Allegria hotel is located just three blocks west of our location in Long beach. The hotel offers special rates for customers of Skudin Surf.

Destination: Costa Rica
Camp: Safari Surf School
Why Go: "Playa Guiones is an all sand bottom break with a very gradual bottom contour decent providing an ideal setting for beginning and intermediate level surfing. With this type of bottom contour, the open ocean swells come in and slow down before they break. So, there is no intense explosion once a wave breaks," said Tim Marsh, the owner.
Package: The most basic package starts at $2,045. A typical stay is seven nights at your choice of hotel accommodation. Breakfast is provided each day at the Casa Tuscan restaurant. The package includes surfing classes for five days and a choice of three activities that range from horseback riding to zip lining to an ATV tour. They also provide transportation to and from the airport.

Destination: Venice Beach, Calif.
Camp: Venice Beach Surf School
Why Go: L.A.'s only adult surf camp and paddleboard camp.
Package: Surf camp for five days is 425, and it includes all surfboards, paddleboards and wetsuits. Venice Beach Surf School is a day camp that does not offer housing. However, nestled in Venice Beach housing is easy to come by. If you are looking for five-star accommodations, room service and a nightlife scene, this might be the surf camp for you. The area offers shopping, a multitude of bars and clubs and a boardwalk that is a day trip unto itself.

Destination: York Beach, Maine
Camp: Grain Surfboards
Why Go: Grain offers the experience to shape your own board out of locally-grown, sustainably-managed northern white cedar. "We mill all the wood up at our shop and make all of the parts needed to build a board," said Mike LaVecchia, the Grain Surfboards founder. "Each board is built from the bottom up, gluing bottom planks to an internal frame that defines the shape of the board, much like an airplane wing."
Package: Seven days of classes will run you $1,675. Four-day packages are $1,500. In all of the classes, price includes all of the material, instruction, tools, use of the shop, plus two meals a day. Each student takes home a board he built with his own two hands. There is camping offered here on the farm at Grain. There is also a small cabin on site that students can rent for $50 per night. For campers, there is a full kitchen, bathroom, shower, lounge area and wireless. For those looking for hotels and motels and B&B's, there are dozens of options within just a few miles of the shop. Once the board is built, Grain is located about 5 miles from the ocean with dozens of breaks within a 20-minute drive. The shop is also filled with demo boards that are available for students to try out each day at the end of class.

--Written by Leigh Held for MainStreet

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