Ryan McDonald

Surf camps open door to the ocean

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Billy Atkinson, now a Mira Costa High team surfer, shows how much fun a grom can have with a little instruction and lots of practice. Photo by Steve Gaffney (SteveGaffney.com)

by Ryan McDonald

One of the most common questions directed at Chris Brown, a Hermosa Beach native and the owner and executive director of Campsurf, is, ‘How do I know when my kid is ready to learn to surf?’ To find out, Brown said, all you have to do is listen.

“When your kid is saying, ‘I want to surf,’ that’s when it’s the right time. Some kids are early adopters, They want to charge at a young age, five or six. Others are more reserved. It takes until they are 11 or 12 to feel comfortable surfing on their own. There is no right or wrong time,” Brown said.

CampSurf marks 21 years in business in the South Bay this year. The camp is open year ‘round, but its business shifts with the seasons. It’s a reflection of the fact that, in Southern California, there are just two kinds of people: those that want to learn how to surf, and those that already know how.

“We have people from all walks of life. We offer a camp year-round so that makes us a little different. We do primarily adults in winter, and then primarily kids in the summer when they’re out of school. But really it’s anybody who wants to learn. We get people in their 70s who say, ‘I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf.’ And then we get three- and four-year-olds. If I’m able to focus on them, I can teach them. What it really takes is the desire,” Brown said.

Surf camps are scattered up and down the South Bay beaches during the summer. CampSurf sets up its tents on the sand near Rosecrans Avenue in Manhattan Beach. The camp benefits from the large parking lot and lifeguard facilities nearby, Brown said, but the main attraction is the surf itself.

Even within the South Bay, there is tremendous variation among surf breaks, Brown said. Some areas may not be exposed to the south swells that are the dominant wave makers in the summer, while others don’t draw as well from the northwest swells that predominate in the winter. The El Porto area can take in both, Brown said. The area also benefits from a large undersea canyon just off shore, which picks up open-ocean swells further out to sea than other areas, and draws them in.

“At El Porto, the waves break further out. When you’re learning, we start you out in the white water. But there, you can get pushed in on white water and still have some time, and really learn how to surf,” Brown said.

Once customers commit, equipment is their next concern. Some people show up with their own boards. Brown said that, in that case, camp staff will give an honest assessment of the surfer and indicate whether he or she might benefit from a different size board.

Once the customer has a board picked out, camps often go over the physical basics of surfing, emphasizing popping up and spring to one’s feet. Before they get in the water, though, there’s often another question that always generates a chuckle out of long-time surfers like Brown.

“It seems like people who don’t surf are much more concerned about and interested in sharks than people who do. Are there sharks out there? We all know that there are all sorts of fish out there. But you are a million times more likely to be hurt driving your car down to the beach,” Brown said.

The surf camp business is competitive in the South Bay, with many options to choose from. So how do the camps keep things affordable? Well, they typically don’t have to spend much on human resources: at the beach and in the water, recruitment kind of takes care of itself.

“Kids come to camp one summer, then they come back again and again, because they’re really bonding with the instructors. Eventually, some of them will say, ‘Wait how old do you have to be to work here?’ We keep an eye on the good surfers, the kids with the best people skills, and that’s where we find a lot of our future instructors,” Brown said. 


BeachSports Surf & Beach Camps is celebrating it’s 23st year. Programs start at age 4 and include 4 camps: Surf Camp, Beach Camp, Beach Volleyball Camp, and Junior Lifeguard Ocean Safety Program. Camps are located at these Lifeguard Tower locations: 14th St.,Manhattan Beach, 15th St., Hermosa Beach. Ave. I, Redondo Beach. Vista del Mar, Redondo Beach. Online registration is available at BeachSports.org

Camp Surf

Camp Surf is the official surf camp for the City of Manhattan Beach, and 2018 will mark their 21st year. All instructors are accomplished surfers and CPR certified. Camp Surf also distinguishes itself through its partnership with the Jimmy Miller Foundation, a pioneer in the field of ocean-based therapy. Instruction is available year round from the group’s base at 38th Street in El Porto, at the south end of the parking lot. Summer surf camps feature morning, afternoon and all-day camp options. (424) 237-2994. campsurf.com

Champ Camp

Voted “Best Kids Camp,” in Easy Reader’s “Best of the Beach reader’s poll. Kids decide on the beach activities for the day. Director Trevor Elder is a South Bay native, certified lifeguard and EMT. Champ Camp staffs about 15 first-aid and CPR-certified college grads. Full day sessions, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Half day sessions 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (310) 283-4509. ChampCampKids.com

Freedom Surf Camp

June 11 through Aug. 31

Freedom Surf Camp offers morning and afternoon sessions in Manhattan Beach, Venice, Santa Monica and Malibu. Ages 5-7: Water safety, boogie boarding, sand sculpting, sand crabs, dodgeball, and other games. Surfing 101 for kids who want it. Ages 8-12: Surfing, boogie boarding, water safety, and environmental education. Ages 13-14 : Depending on skill level, all water and beach activity are offered. Groms: competitive level surfing. (310) 770-4410​. ​freeedom.org  

Hermosa Beach Skateboarding Camp

The South Bay’s longest ongoing skateboard camp. Classes start June 20 and are Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30am. Students must supply their own skateboard, helmet, knee pads and elbow pads and should come with a drink and snack. Hermosa Skatepark, 710 Pier Ave. Hermosabch.Org, Sp23tione@yahoo.com.

Hermosa Surf Camp

Hermosa Surf Camp is celebrating 26 years at the Hermosa Beach Pier. Learn safety and surfing basics in 1-1/2 or 3 hour classes, Monday through Friday. Instructors will be in the water helping kids get through the surf and catch waves. Instructors are credentialed teachers and there is always a L.A. County Lifeguard on duty. T-shirt, lycra surf shirt, goodie bag and three photos of included. Vince Ray (310) 370-1918. surferjay@losangeles.usa.com. Hermosasurfcamp.com

Friendship Circle Surf Camp

The Hermosa Beach Circle Surf Camp is for children and adults with special needs. Ages 7 and up. 2:1 teacher-to student ratio. Teen volunteers paired with each student. BZ soft surfboards provided. All students receive a T-shirt, lycra surf shirt and three photos of themselves. Children must be able to swim.

(310) 214-6677 or (310)-214-4999.  GotFriends.com or HermosaSurfCamp.com.

Manhattan Beach Aquatics

City-offered camp offers ocean-safety, fitness and beach games for kids 5-13. Morning and afternoon classes are available. Program runs June 19 to August 11. (310) 802-5448. Citymb.info/registration.

Meistrell private, advanced surfing

Professional surf coach Jamie Meistrell draws from his worldwide surf travels and 12 years as a professional surfer. His detailed curriculum emphasises strengthening drills, contest strategy and the general stoke of surfing. CPR, AED, and First Aid certified.  

(310) 753-5436. JamieMeistrell@gmail.com

PCH Skate

Learn to skateboard or take your skills to the next level. Beginner to intermediate level skate and safety instruction, focusing on basic ollies and turns, flip tricks, grinds, vert skating and more. Ramps, rails and fun boxes positioned differently each day. All campers are required to wear full pads. Private skate instruction available at Manhattan Beach and new Redondo Beach Pier locations.  PCH Skate runs in association with BeachSports.org and Body Glove Camps.

Register online at PCHSkateCamps.com

Perfect Day Surf Camp

The Quiksilver/Roxy-sponsored Perfect Day Surf Camp has locations in Torrance, Redondo, Manhattan, Dockweiler, Marina Del Rey and Santa Monica. Surf and beach camps are offered for ages 3 to 17. Lessons cover stand up paddling and surfing and beach workouts. 8 a.m. to noon, noon to 3 p.m. and all day. Daily and weekly rates. (310) 985-1458.  PerfectDaySurfcamp.com.

PV Surf Camp

PV Surf teaches ocean safety, surfing, surf etiquette and appreciation for the power and beauty of the ocean. Instructors are trained in CPR. The camp is surrounded by picturesque cliffs of Torrance Beach and Palos Verdes, which keep the surf gentle. Weekly camp sessions with a 4:1 ratio are offered for kids ages 6-15, June 11 — August 17. (310) 908-8164. PVSurfCamp.com

Skatedogs Skateboarding Summer Camp

Skatedogs brings their mobile private skate park to Manhattan Heights Park in Manhattan Beach and Perry Park in Redondo Beach. Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Skateboard, helmet, knee pads and elbow pads are required.  Ci.manhattan-beach.ca.us, redondo.org.

Tarsan SUP

SUP Camp is for kids of all ages (ideally 10 and up). Monday-Friday with full day classes and half days from 9 a.m. to noon and in the afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m. June 26 to Sept. 1. Kids must know how to swim. $299/child per week. 10 percent off for additional siblings (same week only). $275/child per week if parent is a Preferred Member. Private dock access. Instructors are CPR and First Aid certified. Students will learn water etiquette, ocean safety, handling a board in and out of water and proper technique. (310) 798-2200. 831 N. Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach.


Entries submitted for the “Day in the Life of Manhattan Beach” art exhibit may be viewed on Instagram at #manhappenings. The show opens Friday, June 29.


A day in the life

Summer at the Manhattan Beach Art Center

Depicting “leisure and recreation through the eyes and lenses of local artists,” “Day in the Life of Manhattan Beach” opens June 29 with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Manhattan Beach Art Center. Consisting of original work by members of the community, in a variety of media, this show depicts “the hometown feel of the city” and is “a portrait of Manhattan Beach and its progressive, laid-back lifestyle familiar to all.”

Even more promising is “Can’t See the Forest for the Trees,” which features the works of several notable artists: Lowell Nickel, Jacalyn Lopez Garcia and Nicholas Cesar Colon, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Anita Bunn, and Fatemeh Burnes.

The opening reception is August 17 from 6 to 9 p.m., and the show will be up through October 14. More information to come, but “Can’t See the Forest for the Trees” is being described in these words: “To discern an overall pattern from a mass of detail; to see the big picture, or the broader, more general situation.” That cryptic teaser will be replaced as we get nearer to the opening which, judging from the artists involved, should be a good one.

The Manhattan Beach Art Center is located at 1560 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach. (310) 802-5440 or go to citymb.info/exhibition. 

Saturday May 12

Artist Unlimited

Artists Unlimited cordially celebrate their fourteenth group exhibition, “Kaleidoscope.” Enjoy the art, refreshments, and classical guitar music. The exhibit features a wide variety of works by eight artists from the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Torrance, and San Pedro. 1 – 4 p.m. Malaga Cove Library Gallery, 2400 Via Campesina, Palos Verdes Estates. Free. Many artworks will be for sale, with 20 percent of sales benefitting the Palos Verdes Library District. For additional information please call (310) 548-8570

Friday, May 18

Late Night at the Library

The Manhattan Beach Art Center is partnering with the Manhattan Beach Library for Late Night at the Library. Talk with Rachel Shimpock, one of the artists featured in the exhibition currently on display at the Manhattan Beach Art Center. Hot Stuff, Contemporary Sculptural Jewelry. Free. Food and drinks provided by Critics Choice Catering. Live music by Lisa Ritchie. 8 – 10 p.m. Manhattan Beach Library, 1320 Highland Ave., Manhattan Beach. For questions call (310) 545-8595.

Saturday, May 19


Artlife Gallery group exhibition brings “Vitality” to the South Bay. Local artists in an array of styles and subject matter appeal to a wide audience. Music performances. 6 – 9 p.m. Plaza El Segundo, Artlife Gallery, 720 Allied Way, El Segundo. For more information call (310) 938-2511.

Sunday, September 23

Rod, Rides and Relics

Along the Waterfront at the Redondo Beach Pier, a collection of carefully selected antique automobiles will be exhibited at the 15th Annual Rods, Rides, and Relics, Classic Car Show. With the Beach Boys singing “Fun Fun, Fun” in the background, prepare to be transported to a different era among the 100 classics on display. 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Redondo Beach Pier, 100 Fisherman’s Wharf, Redondo Beach. redondopier.com. 


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