Learn to ride a wave at one of these gnarly board and lodging surf camps.
The idea of standing up on a surfboard may seem like ice-skating in your slippers. And yes, your first attempt at surfing will probably feel like this. But persevere and you’ll soon be shooting down a wave and paddling back out for another go.
– Guide to watersports in Dubai
The best way to learn to surf is at a surf camp. It’s essentially a guesthouse with guides who take you to the beach every day and teach you in the water. You will surf better, meet people like you and find spots only the locals know.
Here’s a pick of our favourite surf camps around the world to inspire your next active holiday.
Kim Bali Surfaris – Bali, Indonesia
In the family of Indonesian islands, Bali got the dashing good looks and all the friends. Tourists flock here for beach days, nights out, massages on tap, and, of course, wave after lovely wave. While the experts get their kicks surfing big waves on shallow reef, Bali’s sandy shores are great for beginners.
Kima Bali Surfaris have six surf camps close to learner-friendly ‘breaks’ (shores with waves). Packages include accommodation, breakfast and two surf sessions per day, seven days a week. A typical day goes something like this:
6am: Rise and shine and hop in a van with two friendly guides and five other guests, with rental surfboards strapped on to the roof. A short drive takes you past green rice fields, Hindu temples and chic boutiques.
6.30am: On the beach, the guides show you how to lie belly-down on your board and pop up to your feet when a wave takes you. The sun rises as you paddle into the warm sea.
7am: After a stumble or two, you stand up in the white water and ride your first wave. You splutter and smile as the realisation hits you that you may have found your new favourite hobby.
9am: Breakfast back at the camp. Feast on tasty mie goreng noodles and nasi goreng rice, or fruit, pancakes, eggs and toast.
10am: Relax in a sun bed, soak in the pool, read a book, make new friends.
2pm: It’s time for your second surf session. A cameraman films the group from the shore. The guides offer tips and review your progress at the end.
7pm: The group watches the video back at camp. A guide corrects your faults and applauds your glories. Everyone laughs at each other wiping out.
8pm: Dinner at the camp restaurant, which could be local food, burgers, pasta, fish, steak, or eat outside the camp at a simple warung (food shack), a cool bar, pizza joint or beach café.
10pm: Retire to your plush villa, thatched bungalow, bedroom or shared dorm. If you’re in a party mood, the thumping clubs of Seminyak and Kuta are waiting to lead you astray.
What else? If you fancy a break from surfing, the camp runs regular day trips to active volcanoes, caves and temples. Don’t miss the sunset kecak dance at Ulu Watu temple, an amazing mix of chanting men, damsels in distress and spooky demons.
Price per week: from Dhs730
Aloha Arabia – UAE and Oman
Why: Aloha Arabia offers a range of board-riding day trips around the United Arab Emirates (based from Dubai) as well as the very popular surfaris to Oman. The Oman coast is often 25 to 28 degrees in summer and offers great surf from May to October with cool water and long uncrowded pointbreaks.
Sleep: Basic hotel accomodation can be provided, or for the ultimate, hippy-chic three or four day trip, opt to camp on the coast.
Nightlife: Surf movie nights at a hotel, beach bonfires and plenty of downtime.
Price per trip: Dhs1,550 (four days and three nights) or Dhs1,450 (three days and two nights). Prices include tent, air mattress, use of hotels facilities, three meals, free soft-board rental and one free surf lesson. Transport not included, but can be arranged.
*NEXT TRIP: October 15 to 18, 2015*
Ericeira Surf House, Ericeira, Portugal
Why: Ericeira is often seen as the surf capital of Portugal and is known for some of the best waves in the world. It was declared a World Surfing Reserve in 2010. The beaches South of town are great for beginners.
Sleep: Upscale surf house with a beautiful garden, view and a big pool within walking distance of the beach break Foz do Lizandro and the city center.
Extra activities: Visit the Unesco World Heritage site of Sintra, the Palace of Mafra or do a day trip to Lisbon. At the house you can practice yoga in the garden or pamper yourself with a massage.
Nightlife: Drinks in one of the cozy bars or dance in the oldest night club of Portugal.
Price per week: from Dhs700 per week
Lapoint Surf Camp – Ahangama, Sri Lanka
Why: The secret’s out – Sri Lanka is a beautiful island lapped by gentle waves.
Sleep: In a basic beachfront guesthouse.
Extra activities: Go whale watching, visit a Buddhist temple or wallow in the pool.
Nightlife: Head to the beach bars of Merissa, or stay in and watch a film.
Price per week: Dhs2,500
Mojosurf Spot X Surf Camp – New South Wales, Australia
Why: You could spend a lifetime surfing every beach in Australia. The breaks around Byron Bay are a good place to start. Mojosurf guides take you to the best beach for your ability, and promise to get you back for happy hour.
Sleep: In a dorm room, waterfront cabin or tipi.
Extra activities: Play some beach volleyball/football/cricket, paddle a kayak, kick back in a hammock or beanbag, shoot some pool.
Nightlife: Drinks around the campfire or a rowdy night in Byron Bay.
Price per week: Dhs2,800
Island Vibe – Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
Why: Perched on a sand dune, this homely surf camp is a backpackers’ favourite. Jeffreys Bay is the surf capital of South Africa, with nice learner waves on the camp’s doorstep.
Sleep: In a dorm, wood cabin or ‘flashpacker’ double/twin/triple room with en suite bathroom and beach-facing balcony.
Extra activities: Go sandboarding or kite surfing, ride a horse, spot dolphins from the shaded deck. Head inland for a game safari.
Nightlife: Sink a drink in the cosy bar, and eat meat from the braai (BBQ).
Price per week: From Dhs1,000
Shaka Beach Retreat – Santiago, Costa Rica
Why: Since starring in surf film Endless Summer 2, Costa Rica has arrived as a surfing destination. The guides at Shaka grew up in US surf havens and now bring their skills to a land of lush waves and pura vida (pure life).
Sleep: In a teak-lined villa with modern interior.
Extra activities: Limber up with a surf and yoga package, go snorkelling, walk in the jungle or lounge in a hammock.
Nightlife: Beach bonfire or dinner in Santa Teresa town.
Price per week: From Dhs5,800 (includes dinner and nine yoga classes)