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  1. #1
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    Free to travel surf jong, where to go for lessons....

    I am quitting my job working for the man in a couple months to travel full time with my camper. Woot! I've always wanted to learn to surf and I'm free to travel across the U.S. so was wondering about suggestions on locations for lessons and practicing. I've never touched a surfboard but longboard every day weather permitting. I have no idea if boarding will aid in learning to surf but hopefully will help a little.

    It would be nice to find a place where I don't annoy every single local while floundering around, but I'm guessing anywhere there is good surf/lessons I will be where there are a fair number of surfers in the water. Any suggestions on a place to take a couple lessons and then practice practice practice? Ideally I would set my camp trailer up nearby and stay for a couple weeks. I saw some suggestions on the threads regarding pre-designated locations, but since I'm mobile, I can pick where I want to go so thought I would throw it out to the collective.

    Also, any other general tips regarding a newb starting out would be appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Got no locale suggestions -- but as someone who dabbled in hs and has long wanted to do what you're setting out on -- I really enjoyed the book Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by doebedoe View Post
    Got no locale suggestions -- but as someone who dabbled in hs and has long wanted to do what you're setting out on -- I really enjoyed the book Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan
    Will look into that, thanks!

  4. #4
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    Personally if i were you i would head to socal. Warmish water, lots of surfers and used gear market as well as waves. I dunno about the campervan situation there though.

    To avoid pissing off locals, avoid paddling out into a crowd, especially if you cant really surf. Theres no need for you tobe paddling for real waves in a crowd if you cant get to your feet, so pick an empty spot with no one around and go for it. Also if you have no timeline, I would avoid the ultra early pre-work surf. Generally more crowded with people frantically trying to get a wave in before work. Best time to paddle out is when that first wave exits the water so around 8am. Same in the evening. Hard to get waves off the overfrothed kids.

    When you say longboard do you mean like the skateboard? If so, no that will not help you. Riding waves is generally the easier part of surfing. Its the paddling, positioning, ocean knowledge that is the hardest to learn. I would say just spend as much time in the ocean as you can. If its too small/dumpy to surf, going bodysurfing or even grab a walmart boogie and thrash yourself on that. The more time you spend in around the impact zone watching waves break the better.

  5. #5
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    La Jolla Shores for lessons. If you can score a camping spot in one of the San Diego CA State campgrounds you are right on the beach, but they are busy. There are inland campgrounds that are inexpensive and have hook ups. I can give details if you decide on San Diego.

    I learned surfing in my 20's...it is very difficult. If you have a longboard or SUP get on some flat water up there lay on your belly and paddle with your arms, will be good to build some fitness.

  6. #6
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    That's all good information, thanks guys.

    406, I will definitely look into the state campgrounds and may hit you up if I end up in the San Diego area, that's much appreciated.

    Nortonwhis, yes a skateboard, and that all makes sense regarding ocean knowledge. I will definitely be cautious and do some homework. I have boogie boarded once, caught a couple of long rides but mostly messed up my timing wish I had flippers. But I had a blast even though I learned what the lack of a rash guard does to one's belly and chest, fak! I watched the surfers quite a bit with envy though. I like the thought of being on my feet, not my belly. (I'll probably change my tune quick on that one after I eat shit repeatedly) The boogie board trip was in Newport, CA and I had a room right by the beach. The first day I just swam some to get a feel for the waves and watched the surfers after watching videos on rip tides, etc. That was definitely helpful.

    Speaking of rash guards, what should I wear starting out until I see if I want to invest more into it? Like I said, I'm a total jong at this. I like the warm water idea, I guess with that comes more people but I was surprised how easy it was to find a little section mostly to myself here and there in Newport.
    Last edited by 3PinGrin; 06-02-2020 at 11:02 PM.

  7. #7
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    What months are you thinking? Good waves in colder water will be plenty crowded, at least anyplace in CA. But like others said avoid those places until you get better.

    For San Diego I'm typically rash guard July-Nov. Maybe a spring suite for a cooler day, but I typically save surfing for when the weather/water is warm here. It is easier paddling with no wet suite. But they do help you float, which can be helpful if the waves are larger and you are getting worked.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by 406 View Post
    What months are you thinking? Good waves in colder water will be plenty crowded, at least anyplace in CA. But like others said avoid those places until you get better.

    For San Diego I'm typically rash guard July-Nov. Maybe a spring suite for a cooler day, but I typically save surfing for when the weather/water is warm here. It is easier paddling with no wet suite. But they do help you float, which can be helpful if the waves are larger and you are getting worked.
    I don't have a set schedule other than hitting the road early August. I may try to get to the UP in Michigan for some Fall kayaking which I would need to wrap that up by the end of September before colder weather so I was thinking of August for the surf stuff. However, I could also do the UP first then hit the California surf in September depending on what might be better wave and crowd wise. I have thought of getting a dual purpose kayak / surf wetsuit if that can be done without compromising too much on either activity.

  9. #9
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    Congrats man! I just ended a 2yr sabbatical living in the van and learning to surf was one of the best things I did. I got ~3 months (maybe 150 sessions) worth of surfing in. California is a good choice for the sheer number of surf options. Rig camping on the coast is somewhat difficult to pull off in California (without paying) so an inland site isn't a bad idea. If I were to do California coast again I might try a fuel efficient car and airbnbs or long term rental instead of the van/rig. Baja still has the surf/camp feel you've envisioned, but is a more involved endeavor.

    I've never surfed south of San Onofre so take my California recs with a grain of salt. I liked the vibe in SLO area. Ventura was good too. Wherever you end up, I think beachbreaks are good places for beginners to learn. Plenty of whitewater and shallow spots to get a feel, and the peaks shift constantly, which forces you to learn to read waves and spreads out the crowd.

    - You're going to want a wetsuit (for anywhere SanO and North IMO). There's currently a thread in tech talk discussing wetsuits. Beyond keeping you warm, they're a nice "suit of armor" for all the flailing you'll be doing in the beginning.
    - Lessons will be similar anywhere. You're essentially paying to get a lot reps practicing your pop-up and to have the instructor push you into waves so you get a mini preview of the timing for takeoffs and that excellent "caught a wave" feeling. It's worth taking at least one.
    - Wave count will determine your rate of progress. The more you catch the better you get. With that in mind, don't make excuses for not being in the water. Are there waves? Cool, assuming it's safe to be out you'll learn something so get in there. Also the "best waves" will also be the most crowded and you'll spend a lot of time watching. This is OK, but better to get on lower quality waves more often.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by North View Post
    Congrats man! I just ended a 2yr sabbatical living in the van and learning to surf was one of the best things I did. I got ~3 months (maybe 150 sessions) worth of surfing in. California is a good choice for the sheer number of surf options. Rig camping on the coast is somewhat difficult to pull off in California (without paying) so an inland site isn't a bad idea. If I were to do California coast again I might try a fuel efficient car and airbnbs or long term rental instead of the van/rig. Baja still has the surf/camp feel you've envisioned, but is a more involved endeavor.

    I've never surfed south of San Onofre so take my California recs with a grain of salt. I liked the vibe in SLO area. Ventura was good too. Wherever you end up, I think beachbreaks are good places for beginners to learn. Plenty of whitewater and shallow spots to get a feel, and the peaks shift constantly, which forces you to learn to read waves and spreads out the crowd.

    - You're going to want a wetsuit (for anywhere SanO and North IMO). There's currently a thread in tech talk discussing wetsuits. Beyond keeping you warm, they're a nice "suit of armor" for all the flailing you'll be doing in the beginning.
    - Lessons will be similar anywhere. You're essentially paying to get a lot reps practicing your pop-up and to have the instructor push you into waves so you get a mini preview of the timing for takeoffs and that excellent "caught a wave" feeling. It's worth taking at least one.
    - Wave count will determine your rate of progress. The more you catch the better you get. With that in mind, don't make excuses for not being in the water. Are there waves? Cool, assuming it's safe to be out you'll learn something so get in there. Also the "best waves" will also be the most crowded and you'll spend a lot of time watching. This is OK, but better to get on lower quality waves more often.
    That's great info North, thanks! I will look into wetsuits, not much available locally except a few for kayaking. I was eyeing the Oneill Mutant mentioned in the wetsuit thread, but definitely want to try on whatever I end up with. I'm definitely stoked to start this adventure. I'm in my mid 50's and finally decided I need to do this now in case I can't later due to the unknown. I'm also unfettered for the first time in decades, and free to do whatever the hell I want.

  11. #11
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    I'd go to La Jolla for the lessons, then surf your fucking brains out in San Onofre. When you get tired of that area, drive back to San Diego for trunking. Lots of options. Just be careful at IB.

  12. #12
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    Find a wetsuit on sale. Try a few on and pick one that fits well. I've ben surfing for decades and only once or twice have bought such a high end suit. Mostly it is bell and whistles, especially for warm water like SoCal in summer. If you were planning on surfing Santa Cruz, it make more sense to purchase a higher end suit, but really any blind stitched non taped seem 3/2 would be plenty for south of Pt Conception. Buy what fits. Like ski boots, each brand is slightly different tin sizing, like where a seem comes across your body. RipCurl outlet up here usually has something for cheep. I bought a 2/2 a few years back, fully taped and welded seems for $99 - it would be perfect for SoCal spring, summer and fall.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by BS720 View Post
    I'd go to La Jolla for the lessons, then surf your fucking brains out in San Onofre. When you get tired of that area, drive back to San Diego for trunking. Lots of options. Just be careful at IB.
    IB = Imperial Beach? sketchy women or something? lol

    Quote Originally Posted by Ottime View Post
    Find a wetsuit on sale. Try a few on and pick one that fits well. I've ben surfing for decades and only once or twice have bought such a high end suit. Mostly it is bell and whistles, especially for warm water like SoCal in summer. If you were planning on surfing Santa Cruz, it make more sense to purchase a higher end suit, but really any blind stitched non taped seem 3/2 would be plenty for south of Pt Conception. Buy what fits. Like ski boots, each brand is slightly different tin sizing, like where a seem comes across your body. RipCurl outlet up here usually has something for cheep. I bought a 2/2 a few years back, fully taped and welded seems for $99 - it would be perfect for SoCal spring, summer and fall.
    good info!

  14. #14
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    ^^^ If you do buy a decent suit, and get up to Santa Cruz, shot me a PM. I'm recovering from a shoulder dislocation and slowly returning to the water. I'd be happy to show you around a bit and paddle out for some mellow surf. I'm getting in the water tomorrow to paddle for the first time in 6 months. I also have a few boards around you could borrow. Foam 8', Foam 5'9', a 6'4" full volume shortboard and a 6'5" moderate volume, 7'6" fun board.

    Also, avoid used wetsuit unless you are getting them real cheap or almost new. Neoprene and its seams age; not well. Suits do not like to be dried out. I've dunked my wetsuits in water three times over the past 6 months to keep them from getting to dried out. The neoprene can become brittle and rots while dry. I'd choose a lower quality new suit over a high quality used suit if they are the same price.

  15. #15
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    Also, I can't get past the concern of messing up my aging eyes with all that UV, sand, wind, salt, etc. Yet I rarely see surfers wearing eye protection. I'm sure it can be a PIA given continual submerging, wave hits, etc. Anyone wearing silverfish or the like with success, or is it just a waste of effort?

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ottime View Post
    ^^^ If you do buy a decent suit, and get up to Santa Cruz, shot me a PM. I'm recovering from a shoulder dislocation and slowly returning to the water. I'd be happy to show you around a bit and paddle out for some mellow surf. I'm getting in the water tomorrow to paddle for the first time in 6 months. I also have a few boards around you could borrow. Foam 8', Foam 5'9', a 6'4" full volume shortboard and a 6'5" moderate volume, 7'6" fun board.

    Also, avoid used wetsuit unless you are getting them real cheap or almost new. Neoprene and its seams age; not well. Suits do not like to be dried out. I've dunked my wetsuits in water three times over the past 6 months to keep them from getting to dried out. The neoprene can become brittle and rots while dry. I'd choose a lower quality new suit over a high quality used suit if they are the same price.
    That's awesome, I may very well take you up on that Ottime. Will pm as time gets closer. Yea, I had heard to avoid used suits so will look for a new 3 or 3/2 probably around $100ish.

  17. #17
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    needessentialsusa.com is a great place to buy a new high quality suit. Made in the same factories as all the top brands but half price or better most of the time.
    The only people who wear eye protection are people suffering from pterygiums. I grew up surfing and never saw anyone wearing anything except one guy at Uluwatu where the sun sets directly behind the lineup making it hard to see. I assume he had issues (eye or other wise).
    A month is very little time to learn to surf. As someone mentioned, just get out there as much as you can when its safe. If you aren't a strong swimmer, start swimming laps right now and get better. Having some kind of paddle fitness will help. I try and swim before every trip i go on.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by nortonwhis View Post
    needessentialsusa.com is a great place to buy a new high quality suit. Made in the same factories as all the top brands but half price or better most of the time.
    The only people who wear eye protection are people suffering from pterygiums. I grew up surfing and never saw anyone wearing anything except one guy at Uluwatu where the sun sets directly behind the lineup making it hard to see. I assume he had issues (eye or other wise).
    A month is very little time to learn to surf. As someone mentioned, just get out there as much as you can when its safe. If you aren't a strong swimmer, start swimming laps right now and get better. Having some kind of paddle fitness will help. I try and swim before every trip i go on.
    Good to know on factories and eyewear, will skip that. The more I get stoked reading, watching surf videos, etc. I can't imagine that i'm not going to enjoy learning and getting better. So the plan has been morphing into spending a few months at least focusing on surfing and head to the UP some other time. I have no set plans really, although i was planning on a fair amount of boondocking to avoid paying for campsites. That's pretty easy in the intermountain west where there are large tracts of federal land everywhere, but I need to look into options for cheap camping. But walking or biking to surf would be ideal and I definitely don't mind spending some time in pay parks etc. if it means more surf time.

    Check on the swimming. I've been thinking I need to get on that. I've swam in lakes, rivers, even irrigation ditches/flumes my whole life so comfortable in the water but I'm not a particularly strong or efficient swimmer. The ocean is a whole new ballgame obviously, and I think some lessons are in order but have to figure out what's up with covid and the local gyms. I had a blast duck diving on the bodyboard, learning to ride the rip currents out a little ways to get to waves, and just playing around in general but didn't get out too far.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3PinGrin View Post
    Good to know on factories and eyewear, will skip that. The more I get stoked reading, watching surf videos, etc. I can't imagine that i'm not going to enjoy learning and getting better. So the plan has been morphing into spending a few months at least focusing on surfing and head to the UP some other time. I have no set plans really, although i was planning on a fair amount of boondocking to avoid paying for campsites. That's pretty easy in the intermountain west where there are large tracts of federal land everywhere, but I need to look into options for cheap camping. But walking or biking to surf would be ideal and I definitely don't mind spending some time in pay parks etc. if it means more surf time.

    Check on the swimming. I've been thinking I need to get on that. I've swam in lakes, rivers, even irrigation ditches/flumes my whole life so comfortable in the water but I'm not a particularly strong or efficient swimmer. The ocean is a whole new ballgame obviously, and I think some lessons are in order but have to figure out what's up with covid and the local gyms. I had a blast duck diving on the bodyboard, learning to ride the rip currents out a little ways to get to waves, and just playing around in general but didn't get out too far.
    If you venture further north there were lots of places in OR where vanlife was in full effect on the beach. Cape Kiwanda etc. Much colder water though. The most important thing is to be in a place where you want to surf as much as possible. Warm water really helps for that. I have no idea how my friends learn how to surf in Tofino. Horrible.

  20. #20
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    The general consensus from what I am reading is that I should be starting on a ~ 9.5' longboard. Any reason to veer from this advice if I want something I can grow into that isn't too difficult to learn on? I did see a couple suggestions for a fish.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3PinGrin View Post
    I have no set plans really, although i was planning on a fair amount of boondocking to avoid paying for campsites. That's pretty easy in the intermountain west where there are large tracts of federal land everywhere, but I need to look into options for cheap camping. But walking or biking to surf would be ideal and I definitely don't mind spending some time in pay parks etc. if it means more surf time.
    IME, boondocking can be done *near the coast in CA, but very rarely within walking distance of a surf spot, and more often requires some sort of commute from your sleep spot to surf spot. Also, in many instances it's not especially glamorous - expect to share some areas with folks that aren't living in their vehicles by choice. There are exceptions - San Diego area was much easier than I would've expected, but I only spent a few days there and my van is reasonably stealthy.

    Quote Originally Posted by nortonwhis View Post
    I have no idea how my friends learn how to surf in Tofino. Horrible.
    Ha, Tofino is where I learned to surf. I don't mind wetsuits though, and stay comfortable anytime a 4/3 is sufficient.

    Quote Originally Posted by 3PinGrin View Post
    The general consensus from what I am reading is that I should be starting on a ~ 9.5' longboard. Any reason to veer from this advice if I want something I can grow into that isn't too difficult to learn on? I did see a couple suggestions for a fish.
    No fish. Start with the barge. Plenty of discussion in this thread:
    https://www.tetongravity.com/forums/...ns-from-a-Kook

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by North View Post
    IME, boondocking can be done *near the coast in CA, but very rarely within walking distance of a surf spot, and more often requires some sort of commute from your sleep spot to surf spot. Also, in many instances it's not especially glamorous - expect to share some areas with folks that aren't living in their vehicles by choice. There are exceptions - San Diego area was much easier than I would've expected, but I only spent a few days there and my van is reasonably stealthy.



    Ha, Tofino is where I learned to surf. I don't mind wetsuits though, and stay comfortable anytime a 4/3 is sufficient.



    No fish. Start with the barge. Plenty of discussion in this thread:
    https://www.tetongravity.com/forums/...ns-from-a-Kook
    Yea, a little hard to be stealthy with an F150 and camper, ha. A short commute wouldn't be terrible. Saw that thread right after I posted the question, my bad.

    Now I'm trying to decide if I even want to haul my sea kayak around on the truck if I'm going to be spending a lot of time surfing. Gotta parse stuff down. Definitely bringing the mountain bike though.

  23. #23
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    A few spots to park nearby in Santa Cruz. Some in walking distance. Others short drive.

    I just got back in after 6 months off due to a shoulder dislocation. My ribs bruise for the first few times bak in the water until they develop something like a callous. Plan for this. You may need to surf two days and take a break for a day to "heal". So try to plan your down days to coincide with poor surf days (wind, lack of swell, etc.).

    For the west coast, I find Stormsurf to be the best resource. They also have a Quickcast page for Socal and NorCal. Surfline is decent. And get a tide chart for where you will be surfing

    Swimming before hand is excellent advice. Taking 6 months off from any paddling has demonstrated how out of paddle shape I am in, even though I'm in great cardio and biking shape right now. I ws tired before even getting to the lineup.

    If you can find a 9' or 9'6" foam top, hard bottom board, that would be ideal. Less rib bruising, but it also allows you to fall and get banged by your board deck with no injury to you or the board.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ottime View Post
    A few spots to park nearby in Santa Cruz. Some in walking distance. Others short drive.

    I just got back in after 6 months off due to a shoulder dislocation. My ribs bruise for the first few times bak in the water until they develop something like a callous. Plan for this. You may need to surf two days and take a break for a day to "heal". So try to plan your down days to coincide with poor surf days (wind, lack of swell, etc.).

    For the west coast, I find Stormsurf to be the best resource. They also have a Quickcast page for Socal and NorCal. Surfline is decent. And get a tide chart for where you will be surfing

    Swimming before hand is excellent advice. Taking 6 months off from any paddling has demonstrated how out of paddle shape I am in, even though I'm in great cardio and biking shape right now. I ws tired before even getting to the lineup.

    If you can find a 9' or 9'6" foam top, hard bottom board, that would be ideal. Less rib bruising, but it also allows you to fall and get banged by your board deck with no injury to you or the board.
    Great, thanks. I need to start looking to find a spot to park the RV and plan lesson locations around that probably. Are you talking pay campgrounds or just places to park and not get hassled by the authorities?

    Any thoughts on a Torq 9'0" soft top? I also see a lot of suggestions for the Odysea log. It would make sense to rent or buy a board when i get there, other than it might be good to start getting it out on some water here to get a feel for it, practice paddling, etc. The thought of a used rental wetsuit kind of freaks me out honestly but that's something I really should probably try on before buying. If I do end up in Santa Cruz looks like maybe a 4/3 wetsuit in Aug/Sep? Temps on the Missouri River here are around 57F so Canyon Ferry reservoir is probably similar. A little chilly without a wetsuit! Have to check the kayak shops here still. I do have some NRS paddle boots, I wonder if they would work for surfing?


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    I watched White Rhino the other night. WOW....

  25. #25
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    Parking is street parking. In town youíll have neighbors. Plenty of people here living in RVs. There are a few more secluded places north of town you can park overnight without hassle.

    I donít know much about starter boards. I rode a torq alerrich once and it worked fine. A bit stuff inn the flex, but I imagine fine to learn on. They are harder to damage than fiberglass, so that is a plus.

    4/3 is what I wear, but I mostly surf north of town out in the ocean. Town and be quite a bit warmer in August/Sept. but you might want to explore north on the smaller/calmer days. Otherwise, you can get by with a 3/2 in summer.

    Those boots look fine for a two month surf. As long as the sole is not too stiff. Ideally you can feel the. Oats under your feet.

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