Surf’s Up, Man Down in Huntington Beach, California

Featured writer: Darren Carter 

Exerting all of your energy while trying to paddle out, falling off of the board, and enduring the constant crash of waves on top of you may not sound like a great day, but the exhilarating feeling of catching your first wave and learning a new sport is California’s most awesome adventure. It wouldn’t be a proper visit to California without surfing. When I heard that my brother, Kevin, was going to visit, I knew the number one thing on his California Bucket List would be a surf lesson. Banzai Surf School is a family run business and one of the few NSSIA accredited surf schools in Huntington Beach. Open year-round, they provide experienced instructors, surfboards, wetsuits, and all the sand you can eat. Our lesson wasn’t without its falls and frustrations but our determination and drive got us up on the board again and again. 

The two hour lesson started with basic instructions and beach practice. We listened attentively and asked a few safety questions before heading out to the waves. Our 10 minute instruction covered the basics including:

  • Rule 1: Avoid crowds.  The biggest danger in surfing is not the waves, the rocks, the sharks, or the marine life. It’s other surfers. Always try to keep at least 20 feet between you and the next surfer, especially important if they are to the outside (toward the ocean) or directly inside/shoreward of your position, where you may get pushed into them.
  • Rule 2: Practice in the whitewater first. One of the hardest parts of surfing will always be the take-off. If you start out by catching the whitewater (after the wave has broken), this eliminates a huge timing issue.
  • Rule 3: Paddle the board on its trim spot. That trim spot on bigger boards is generally found by keeping your toes on the tail when you paddle. It’s the balance point where the board moves forward with the least resistance. The same trim rule applies when you’re riding the wave: Keep your weight forward and the boards nose just above the water.
  • Rule 4: Stand with your feet on the center line. Keeping both feet, one in front of the other, directly across the center line (or ‘stringer’) fixes a lot of problems. When feet are on either side, the board wobbles, flips, and turns where you don’t want it to.
  • Rule 5: Have fun (Okay, Rule 5 is not exactly a rule, but I think it’s just as important.)
There’s a ton of other safety issues, skills, and fine tuning that the surf instructor gave us while in the water; after all, surfing can’t be learned from a book – there are too many variables.
With all of that in mind, we both struggled with actually getting up on the board
at first. We took each wipe out like champs and kept on truckin’.Kevin’s entire body exuded confidence and pride when he stood on the board.

Normally two hours of intense physical activity would be completely exhausting, but the adrenaline that consumed both of us pushed thoughts of quitting out of our minds. Surprisingly, even after our two hour lesson time ended, the instructor stayed in the water and let us continue. It was obvious that teaching others to surf wasn’t just a job for him. He was having as much fun as us. It was his reassurance and hard work that helped us get on the board in the first place.
Companies like Banzai Surf School are difficult to find. The owner, Jaz, doesn’t run the school with the soul purpose of making money. He’s a Hawaiian who loves the ocean and the waves and he instills that passion in others. His son is also an instructor with Banzai and his daughter enjoys taking surf class in school. (Yes, many beach schools in California offer surfing as a class; how cool is that?)
Kevin viewed the surf lesson as a wise investment that saved time and frustration. He used the local knowledge from the instructor to practice on his own throughout the week. One two-hour lesson gave him the confidence to get out on the water on his own and enjoy the surf of Surf City USA.For me, it was an affirmation that with practice and patience, I could make surfing a daily activity. It’s like riding a bike; it will become second nature… in time.

23 thoughts on “Surf’s Up, Man Down in Huntington Beach, California

  1. I’ve harbored a secret desire to try surfing for years, and since I live in Hawaii, I’ve no excuse (although I’ve found plenty). After reading this post, maybe now I’ll actually do it. Great tips, btw.


  2. Surfing is cool and I like the pictures. UK has a lot of coast and some surfing areas. Perhaps need to have some lessons. Newquay here we come.


  3. Huntington Beach! My sister lives there (^-^)
    I used to surf when I was in my late teens and still time to time, I remember how wonderful it was.
    Guessing from the full wetsuits, the water there seems pretty cold?
    I may try the lesson next time I am in Huntington Beach!


  4. I’ve had a hip-pocket body boarding lesson before. Bottom-line, I dread what happens if my bodyboard got away and I have nothing to float on. I don’t know really know how to swim. Hehe 😀 A friend of mine from Hawaii is soooo passionate about it. He always makes me interested with surfing.


  5. Love this post! Reminds me when I was learning to surf…. which I am still learning. We go surfing down in the OuterBanks of North Carolina. It’s nothing like California waves I’m sure! My husband and all his brothers have been surfing for years… they especially love the hurricane waves.


  6. I went to Huntington beach some time ago and fell in love with the cali small town cool vibe
    Thanks for stopping be Lesley, long time no see
    I’ve been writing almost nonstop in Spanish English and Spanglish ( yes spanglish lol)
    and taking pictures too but not as many
    most of my art is in
    hope u like it too


  7. Thanks for the insightful info, will keep digging more. One of my smaller dreams/goals is to move to SoCal as part of my own journeys and learn to surf (without any prior experience, I might add, but love challenges) maybe in Venice Beach. Loved that place! Anyway, thanks!


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