How to choose a good surf school (part 1, the coach)
I have worked in the surf lessons business for years, in different continents, with diverse companies and in various oceans. Lessons are pretty similar everywhere in the world but there’s some key factors that will make you have the time of your life or, on the other hand, have a nightmare of an experience. I have listed here what, in my opinion, you should look at when choosing a surf lesson.
The most important thing will be your coach, hands down. A prepared, professional and motivated coach will be able to teach you the basics of surfing while giving you a fun experience.
I say “prepared” because surf coaching is not taken seriously by many surf schools. I have seen lessons given by teenagers who don’t surf themselves and don’t even look in good physical shape. These kids want to make some extra cash during summer, which is cool, but it’s not safe and not effective.Your coach needs to be an experienced surfer in order to see where your mistakes are and to tell you how to correct them. He should also have deep knowledge of how the ocean works and be in good shape, otherwise he won’t be able to rescue you in case it’s needed. Many things can go wrong while surfing but 99% of them can be addressed by someone who knows what he’s doing.
“Professional” means that your surf coach must be accredited. It doesn’t matter if it’s the International Surfing Association, the British Surfing Association or any other accredited association.If something happens and the coach is not accredited, insurance companies won’t pay and that will put you, the coach, and the school in trouble. Your surf coach also needs to know how to administer CPR, which is something that is learnt in a professional course.
Motivation is another key factor in your coach. People don’t become surf coaches for money. They do it because they love the sport, the ocean, the beach and the lifestyle that comes with it. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be paid or treated like slaves. Last year I met coaches from another school operating in the same area where I was working. I found out that they were paid 400 Euros a month for 6 days a week of work, and on top of that they HAD to live in the surfcamp that hired them and pay 250 Euros rent per month. If they refused to live there (because accommodation in the area can be way cheaper than that) they would be fired. They weren’t the happiest of surf coaches. Of course anyone can have a bad day but in general surf coaches love their job. If the team you meet is all grumpy and complaining, there must be something wrong. What you can do, if you find out hectic labour conditions like that, is to spread the word on internet so people will avoid these schools. If you find out after you already had a lesson, tip your coach. Even a small tip will change his day!
Read about other tips in how to choose a good surf school part 2.