Surf camps are a great way to make new friends, have some fun, and learn to surf at the same time.
You might not be Kelly Slater by the time the camp ends, but you should know how to stand up on a surfboard and how to handle yourself on the water.
A lot of different elements go into making a good camp, from the comfort, food, and amenities, to the quality of the surf lessons.
To make sure you don't waste your money on a dud, make sure you look for all of the following when choosing a surf camp.
Look for Value
Price is important, but value is everything.
The most expensive isn't always the best and the cheapest is very rarely the most value for money.
Take a closer look at the amenities and services.
Once you start adding these up, you might find that it's not as cheap as you first thought.
Do they provide you with equipment, or will you need to buy/rent it yourself? Is the accommodation clean, large, and comfortable?
Is the food fresh and varied? Do they have multiple lessons per day or just one?
A surf school can save money by giving you low-quality accommodation and food, and if that doesn't bother you, great!
But if you want the best experience all round, you will need to delve deeper, run some comparisons, and understand the true value.
Don't rely on photographs provided by the camp.
They are designed to show the camp in its best light and may have been altered.
Location, Location, Location
Hawaii, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Morocco, the Maldives—surf camps are located on some of the best coastlines all over the world.
It's a complete vacation by the sea and while it's important not to get too caught up in the sun-drenched location and to focus on the actual quality of the surf spots, amenities, and instructors, the location definitely plays a big role in the overall camp experience.
Whether you're sunbathing by the beach in Bali or absorbing some local culture in Portugal, the location is going to be the thing you focus on when you're not catching waves, so look for somewhere that appeals to your preferences and your budget.
A good surf instructor isn't simply a lifeguard with a whistle.
It's not their job to watch, shout a few orders, and then get back to chatting with fellow instructors or posting selfies on Instagram.
A surf camp may make a big deal out of the fact they have former pro surfers, but that doesn't really mean anything.
You're not trying to win a WSL title, not yet, so none of that really matters.
If you want to learn how to ride a bike, you don't call Lance Armstrong; if you want to know how to kick a soccer ball, you don't ask David Beckham.
You need someone who is schooled in teaching, as opposed to just surfing, as well as someone who actually cares about their students.
You need someone who is attentive, experienced, and actually cares, and for this, you'll have to do some digging.
Look at user reviews and pay attention to descriptions of the surf coaching aspects of the camp.
It's important to find somewhere comfortable and cozy.
You're there to learn, but you're also there to have fun, and you don't want a camp that treats you like a soldier and expects you to sleep on beds riddled with bed bugs and in dorms swarming with pests.
Look beyond the camp photographs.
Read the reviews, run a Google search of the area, and make sure you're actually getting what you expect.
Last but not least, don't forget about the food!
If you're going to be spending a few days or weeks in some tropical paradise, you should expect some fresh food and local cuisine.
From delicious vegetable curries in Sri Lanka to fish dishes in Portugal, it's important to make sure the food is good and that it actually meets your dietary needs.
Summary: Finding the Best Surf Camp
As you can see, a lot goes into finding the best camp, and that's before we even factor your skill level, equipment needs (wetsuit, board), and additional activities (yoga classes, meditation classes), WIFI connectivity, and airport transfers into the equation.
It's definitely not something to book on a whim before grabbing your sunscreen and heading to the nearest airport.
Take your time, check the reviews, and run some comparisons.
Surf holidays are great if they're done right, but there are so many bad ones out there and it always pays to do your research.