There are few things better in life than surfing waves towards an empty section of coastline as the sun bounces off the warm water around you. Now imagine doing this but being surrounded by a group of new surfer friends who share your passion. Not to mention a surf instructor, who has taken you to this secluded cove with an incredible swell.
That’s exactly what a surf camp can offer you. If you’re new to surfing and are researching the best surf camps for beginners, there are a few things to bear in mind before you take the leap and make your booking.
Why go on a surf camp?
To keep it simple, and this is from personal experience, it’s very hard planning a surf trip when you have no idea about the location and are not competent or confident enough to go out in any conditions.
If you’re a beginner, you may think you can just rent a surfboard or buy a second-hand one and head down to the coast in search of waves. Well, what if the ocean is flat or you get in the water and find it much more challenging than you’d anticipated? How do you improve and is it any fun trying to do this alone?
A surf camp allows you to get into surfing, learning from others, whilst also being on an amazing holiday in an exotic location. You can improve alongside other surfers and share your accomplishments together. It’s a more comprehensive option than say, taking a half-day surf lesson at your local beach.
You will really get to grips with surfing by being in the water day after day. The camp will likely be in an area where the swell is good for most of the year, if not year-round. This gives you the opportunity to explore multiple areas along the coast each offering different breaks.
The culture and social perks of being at a surf camp are enormous. Most are relaxed and laid back with plenty of like-minded surfers to chat to. Often the instructors are at the top of their game, and everything is geared around the sport and being in the water.
With the rise in “blue health” awareness, many surfers are citing the days in the waves as a type of nature therapy. A chance to be away from the world and to settle into your own natural rhythm and routine. This thought process, alongside the exercise involved in surfing, can do wonders for your physical and mental health.
What makes a good surf camp for beginners?
Surf camps come in many shapes and sizes, each offering different programmes for beginner surfers. Some camps are for experienced/advanced surfers, but most offer getaways for a mix of abilities.
Beginners should select a camp that caters to newbies and will have the support to get you confident in the water. You want to know the instructors are knowledgeable, experienced, and willing to put time into your improvement. They should also be easy to get along with and it’s an added bonus if they want to hang out in the evenings also!
Price is probably the next big factor. The most expensive camp isn’t necessarily the best as surf camps in Asia or Central America may well offer cheaper options than Europe or Australia. Accommodation is often the biggest cost, but many surf camps include this in the rate.
The best surf camps for beginners should also feature the social aspect of the sport. You want to know that the atmosphere is inclusive and amiable. Choose a camp that helps you to meet other surfers and get involved with extra activities outside of surfing.
The location can be a big component behind what makes a surf camp good. If you want warm water and sunshine all year round, you’ll probably look to more tropical climes before the UK.
Consistent swells are another big factor. Turning up to a surf camp only to find there are no waves would be a real bummer. Do the instructors know secret spots to go when the popular areas aren’t producing any waves?
Any tips on booking a surf camp?
The time of year will affect the location you choose. If winter is when you want to take your trip, it’s best to avoid parts of Europe. Winter storms will bring big Atlantic swells and it will be too cold to surf in a lot of places. You’ll find surfing hard to learn if you’re shivering too much to stay in the water!
Access to waves is important. Look for a surf camp that has nearby beaches facing in multiple directions. That way you can access different swells and breaks controlled by varying wind directions. This is also useful if you want to start on smaller waves then move to more challenging beaches as the week wears on.
Searching for the right waves is something of an art. Beginners want smooth waves – not too steep or dumpy, and definitely not too powerful. Long easy rides in warm water are ideal. This is something the instructors should know a great deal about but ultimately, nature is nature, and you can’t always control the waves.
That’s why you want to book a surf camp that has other good facilities included too! Lots of camps offer extra perks such as cool lounge areas, yoga lessons, bars, cafes, BBQs, skate ramps, slacklines, sports equipment, and hammocks/chill spots – the options are endless. Selecting a surf camp with these add-ons is a great tip.
Transport to/from the coast is important. Flexibility, not just regularity of transport, is essential. Sure, the surf camp bus may take you to the popular beach every 30 minutes, but can it go to a different spot if conditions change and there’s another cove with better waves?
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The best surf camps for beginners – where to go?
We’ve compiled a list of some great surf camps in amazing locations. There are many camps around the world, but these ones are from well-renowned companies – and I’ve been lucky enough to be on a fair few of them and trust me you’ll have a great time wherever you choose!
Fuerteventura – Sunwave
Location – Corralejo, Fuerteventura
Sunwave is backed by the titans of retail, Quicksilver and Roxy, who both specialise in watersports. With their support, they have created a highly revered camp in the Canary Islands.
This area isn’t as popular with the younger crowd who want a real adventure, but it’s a safe bet for a wide range of adult surfers wanting a reliable holiday.
We went to Fuerteventura end of January and it was perfect. The weather was warm, surf was great and perfect for a cheap-ish winter getaway.
Best time of year to go
The water is mild with consistent swells all year round. So if you want some nearby winter sun, grab your summer wetsuit and surf sunscreen and head to Fuerteventura. October to April is particularly popular but rather crowded. The water is cooler than in summer, but the waves are a little bigger and the wind doesn’t blow as hard.
Founded in 1994 by German mega-surfer Joachim Hirsch, Sunwave boasts over 25 years of experience. In other words, you know you’re in safe hands.
The surf school is focused on beginner and intermediate surfers. Sunwave is a big multi-national institution that may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it certainly delivers consistently great camps as per its reputation.
The instructors are very sociable and it’s common for surf groups to spend the evenings drinking and relaxing together after a day spent in the waves. However, as Sunwave is a big company, this won’t be the same intimate vibe you get at a smaller surf camp.
They offer surf courses by themselves or a full beginner surf camp which includes accommodation in the resort and free airport transfers. 6 days in the surf school will cost 240 euros – excluding flights and accommodation. This involves 4 hours of lessons each day and transport to/from the beach.
There are various types of accommodation available from hostel-style to country retreat and luxury villa. Costs vary depending on your selection.
Due to its popularity, you may find yourself sharing an instructor with up to 10 other surfers. This may be too overwhelming for some beginners looking for hands-on experience with an instructor.
You can reach Sunwave via direct flights from the UK to Fuerteventura Airport in around 4 hours. Costs are reasonable with return flights often under £150 when purchased during a sale. The Canary Islands are a popular getaway destination so expect similar prices to a Mediterranean beach resort.
Sri Lanka – Lapoint
Location – Ahangama, Sri Lanka
If travel and adventure are as much of a priority as surfing, then Ahangama is the perfect place for you. Your day might start with a yoga session at sunrise before catching waves in the warm waters of the Laccadive Sea. You can then head into the jungle in search of monkeys and waterfalls before exploring temples in the nearby towns.
Not to mention the delicious curry and fresh Sri Lankan food that’s on offer every evening.
Best time of year to go
The camp is open all year round with steady waves and magnificent warm water. November to April is considered the high season for surfing on the west coast. Beginner surfers will want to avoid May to July when the monsoon strikes.
When I spent February in Sri Lanka the waves were 3 – 4ft most of the time and perfect for practising.
Lapoint is an eco-conscious surf camp on the south coast of Sri Lanka and offers one of the best surf camps for beginners around. It is all about living a free-spirited lifestyle and enjoying “good times”. They offer a relaxed atmosphere that caters to solo travellers and small groups of 18–30 year old surfers. The social aspect is at the heart of this camp so expect to make a lot of friends!
Lapoint focuses on beginner and intermediate surfers. Groups are small with 4-5 surfers per instructor.
Free breakfast and complimentary yoga sessions are offered daily. A 7-day course will set you back £570. However, this includes 5 days of lessons at 2 hours each, equipment, and your accommodation. It also includes dinner for your 5 surfing days and transport to your surf lessons.
Sri Lanka is a cheap destination for surfers, once you get there. A delicious curry with a cold lassi will only set you back a few pounds in the local town. Flights will be the biggest upfront expense, but the actual camp and your living costs are reasonable.
Learn more > https://www.lapointcamps.com/surfcamp/sri-lanka/
Australia – Mojo Surf
Location – Byron Bay, Australia
With names like Surfer’s Paradise and the Sunshine Coast, you can be sure Australia is a dreamland for surfers. Travelling up the east coast of Australia is an iconic backpacking trip. For hundreds of miles, all you will see are fantastic sandy beaches with pristine curling waves.
Best time of year to go
You can surf all year round. April to October offers amazing weather (not too hot) and consistent surf with long, fantastic waves. The winter months (June to August) can bring storms and cooler weather.
About Mojo Surf
Mojo Surf offers exactly the sort of laid-back beginner surf camp you’d expect from the Australians. Their message is pretty simple: surf, chill, party, chill, and surf some more. They are located in Byron Bay and Spot X.
They aim to celebrate everything that’s great about surfing. Set up by locals Nat and Dan in 1998, the two wanted to create a surf school that was as fun and simple as learning alongside friends. They added safety and expertise to the mix and just like that Mojo Surf was made.
From what I remember, the Mojo surf camp was very much a gap year type deal and most people I spoke to had just left school or university. I was also on a gap year, and Mojo was a great way to explore the Australian coastline that I otherwise would never have seen. Also, you can’t travel to Australia and not try surfing, so it’s almost a right of passage, even for beginners.
Surf camp options range from 2-7 days each offering teepee accommodation, surf lessons, equipment (during lesson times), and one meal per day. The 7-day course will set you back at least £500.
You’re encouraged to get involved with other activities such as volleyball games, campfire parties, and visits to local cafes/bars. Though these aren’t included in the price, they are facilitated by Mojo Surf.
This surf camp is certainly not for those surfers on a budget. Flights alone can set you back close to £1,000. On top of this, Australia is not a cheap country and prices of food, drinks, and transport will be expensive.
Given how far away Australia is, it’s difficult to visit for a shorter period than a fortnight due to jet lag and the 24-hour flight time. That said, spending 2 weeks or more in Australia is no bad thing!
Learn more – https://mojosurf.com/locations/australia/
Portugal – Rapture
Location – Ericeira, Portugal
Portugal has some of the biggest waves in Europe. Period. People come from all over the world to surf on this stretch of the Atlantic coast. This is the only World Surf Reserve in Europe, which makes it one of the best surf spots on the continent.
If that sounds daunting to beginners, it shouldn’t. The swells aren’t all that size and there are a lot of breaks to explore. However, the waves do generally face the same direction which means if the wind is wrong or if there’s no swell, then the waves are either all big or there’s no surf anywhere.
Best time of year to go
Beginners may want to avoid the tail end of winter as this is when the biggest waves slam into the Portuguese coast. Spring through to autumn provide sunny days and cool water. You may not want to risk the fringe months though as the waves might be too big. June to September is the safest bet.
Rapture offers surf camps all around the world. There are 3 camps in Portugal with the main location set in the old fisherman’s village of Ericeira. This settlement has now transformed into a bohemian surfer’s haven due to its incredible swell.
Rapture is also a global company that’s been around for +17 years with surf schools in many locations. If you’re looking for an intimate surf camp, this probably isn’t your best bet.
A package includes breakfast, dinner, and surf lessons. You can also add on yoga classes and an airport transfer. There’s free paddle boarding, yoga, foosball, and table tennis offered onsite. The villa is a 30-minute walk to Ericeria’s Old Town – famed for delicious seafood and vibrant nightlife.
Prices are organised by tailor-made packages. Portugal isn’t as cheap as other European beach resorts, but a trip here shouldn’t break the bank given a lot of your expenses are included in your booking. You can fly directly to Lisbon from the UK in under 3 hours. Flight prices are cheap and depart regularly.
Morocco – Surf Berbere
Location – Taghazout, Morocco
Situated in the coastal town of Taghazout, Surf Berbere is surrounded by around 20 Atlantic surf spots. Morocco has incredible waves and surfers have been raving about it for years. The secret is out by now but that shouldn’t put anyone off as there’s still a lot to discover.
Best time of year to go
Morocco gets good weather and swells all year round. However, during autumn and spring, the coast gets reliable waves with perfect weather and relatively warm water. September and October see the arrival of the first winter swells and hardly any crowds.
About Surf Berbere
Surf Berbere started from humble beginnings. A couple of school friends on a surf holiday stumbled across an opportunity to purchase a cheap apartment on the coast. They decided to roll the dice and purchase the flat and start their own surf camp. 12 years later and they’re still going strong!
The team at Surf Berbere drives you to an optimal spot each day and they don’t settle for simply dropping you at a popular beach with no waves present. Feedback is welcomed after each day of surfing which allows guests to ask for more help or get support on any areas they are struggling with.
For £390 beginners will be treated to 7 nights of accommodation, 5 surfing days with 4 hours of surf lessons and equipment hire. All that plus breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Groups are limited to 8 surfers per instructor which is smaller than at some of the bigger surf camps. For the price and what’s on offer, this is one of the best packages for beginner surfers on this list.
Flights and airport transfers are your main costs here. Flights to Agadir Airport vary wildly. You can get direct flights from London in under 4 hours. Other flights may require a stopover. Costs range from £200 upwards, but they can be cheaper if booked with a budget airline carrier.
Learn more > https://surfberbere.com/
UK – Base Surf Lodge
Location – Newquay, England
The southwest coast of England is one of the most popular areas in the UK for beginner surfers. The swells are consistent with steady curling waves in summer. The surf provides a great learning ground for newbies and Newquay in Cornwall is a town bustling with wave hunters.
Base is within walking distance of Newquay. This is great for those surfers wanting to enjoy the social side of their trip by visiting bars, cafes, etc. It’s also near numerous good surf beaches including the hotspots of Fistral and Towan beaches.
Best time of year to go
June to August are the best months in terms of weather and warm-ish water. Fringe months of April-May and September might see you getting lucky with good conditions while avoiding some of the crowds, though the waves are messier.
Rob and Lou have been running Base for 12 years. Their motto is “eat well, move well, surf better”. They try to be flexible and relaxed to cater to everyone’s tastes. They aim to minimise hassle and maximise enjoyment.
This is a small company that will provide you with more of a family-style setting. Both owners are directly involved in Base with Lou acting as your surf teacher and Rob your chef. That means you can form close relationships with the hosts and a maximum of 12 other guests. At Base, you will get a more intimate holiday than you would with a bigger company.
Base offer 3-5 day packages which include accommodation, breakfast, daily 2-hour surf lessons, equipment, and dinner. A 5-day package will cost £425. As this is such a small surf camp, you can expect real care to be put into your experience.
For UK surfers, there’s no need to fly to Newquay. You can reach this coastal town easily by car. That way, you don’t have to pay for transfers or spend hours at an airport and on a flight. This means you got more time in the water!
Your only real transport cost is fuel. You can also reach Newquay by train, though these can be shockingly expensive during high season if not booked well in advance.
Learn more > https://basesurflodge.co.uk/
About the author
Watersports Pro is managed by Ollie, who has been in the industry since 2007. A paddleboard and advanced windsurfing instructor, Ollie has travelled the world teaching these sports.
Now based on the South Coast of England, he shares his experience and knowledge on watersportspro.co.uk.