Surfing is about as Californian as you can get. For most beachgoers, watching the pros catch waves is a favorite pastime—they make it look so effortlessly fun, who could resist wanting to join in? But when it comes to actually getting on a board yourself, it can be intimidating.
But really all a barney (that’s lingo for new surfer) needs to get up and running is a lesson or two to understand the basics—how to paddle, how to pop up on the board, and how to lean into the ride.
Luckily, there are plenty of surf schools to help. This summer, if you want to finally check surfing off your bucket list, sign up for a class at one of these six spots down the coast. You’ll be hanging ten in no time.
Adventure Out, Pacifica and Santa Cruz
Generally, Southern Californian waters can be better for novices, but the Bay Area has a few spots that make for good options, especially during the summer when the water is warmer and waves are smaller. Adventure Out offers lessons to newbs just a short drive away from SF, both in Santa Cruz and Pacifica, where you can book one- or two-day lessons (they highly recommend two days for those completely fresh to the sport). Each day includes three hours of lessons and you can choose private or group instruction. // adventureout.comRichard Schmidt Surf School, Santa Cruz
Just an hour-and-a-half south of the Bay, the Richard Schmidt Surf School runs lessons year-round at ideal beginner surf spots along the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, stretching from Santa Cruz south to Big Sur. The school has been around since 1978 and instructors are world-class surfers with a ton of experience, so you’ll be in good hands. Two-hour lessons cover all the basics, from safety to technique and tips and tricks. // richardschmidt.com
Sea, Surf & Fun, Half Moon Bay
Launched in 2011, Sea, Surf & Fun teaches classes in Half Moon Bay, only half an hour south of the city, at a calm but thrilling spot close to the famous surfing point Maverick’s. Here, you’ll get the chance to learn the ropes and even perhaps meet a seal or dolphin. Choose from two-hour group lessons, semi private (2-3 students), or private lessons—multi-class packages are also available. In addition to the standard courses, the company also offers ladies-only sessions that start with a surf lesson and end with yoga on the beach. Really looking for a challenge? Try taking a class instructed in French. // seasurffun.com
Fairmont’s ‘Miramar to Malibu’ Program, Santa Monica
You can’t get much dreamier than Malibu for a surf lesson, with its pristine beaches, killer views, and areas of solid yet manageable waves that are perfect for amateurs. Make a weekend of it with a new luxe surfing experience package from the chic and historic Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica, which coordinates 90-minute lessons with an instructor form the legendary Malibu Surf Shack, a shop that dates back to 1972. The Fairmont provides you a picnic lunch, custom rash guards, and transportation upon request. Post-lesson, head back to the Miramar to relax at its pool or trendy bar, The Bungalow. // fairmont.com/santa-monica
Mary Osborne Surf, Ventura
For a chance to learn from a famous pro, head to Ventura—located on the coast just northwest of Los Angeles—to take a lesson with Mary Osborne, an icon in the surf industry who spent 10 years in competition. In addition to the sport, she’s become an ambassador for environmental causes as well as female empowerment, traveling to remote places around the world. You can choose to take a 90-minute one-on-one class or a group course. Osborne also holds overnight surf getaways at beachfront places like the Crowne Plaza, inland at Ojai Valley Inn, or often at a rented beautiful private home. // maryosbornesurf.com
Surf House Adventures, Encinitas
In North San Diego County, Encinitas is the ultimate surf town—and Surf House Adventures is the ideal place for a getaway to soak in the SoCal vibes and conquer the waves for the first time. A boutique hotel on highway 101 that also offers a surf camp and complimentary access to surfboards, you’ll be totally immersed in the surf life experience. Choose from a one-off lesson to a five-day intensive surf experience. After you get your thrills, head back to relax in your surf-inspired room or the outdoor cabana. // surfhouseadventures.com