All Surf Camps are unique. There are Surf Camps for young people and backpackers who like late nights, and then there are surf camps with an average age of 45+ years that stress the importance of tranquillity and solitude. There are surf camps at $6,000 per week or surf hostels at $15 per night; All-inclusive surf camps with one on one, personalized lessons, or cheaper camps with ratios of 1 coach for 8 students in the water.
At Barefoot Surf Travel, many people ask us to recommend another Surf Camp, whenever our Surf Trip Calendar doesn’t fit their schedule. Since each traveller has personal preferences of what they want to gain from the experience, this is not always an easy question to answer. As a “mix” of a Surf Travel and an All-Inclusive Surf Camp, we thought we would first categorize the different types of camps in the industry to provide a better overall idea of what would be the best surf camp for you.
1. What is your budget?
The saying “you get what you pay for”, might not always be true, but it’s safe to say it is relevant for many surf camps across the world. Inevitably, with a bigger budget, the quality increases as well. You will often have better surf coaching, better accommodation standards, better food, better service, better locations, etc. With a bigger budget, you might want to choose “higher end” surf travel companies, all-inclusive surf camps or luxury surf camps.
If you’re on a budget, the surf hostels and hotels might be the option. If the surf coaching is important to you, make sure to ask about the Coach | Student Ratio (how many coaches per student) and if the coaches are certified CPR or not. Many of them offer lessons with 1 coach for 6 to 10 students, which makes it practically impossible to provide quality surf courses.
When comparing different options, you should consider prices to rent boards, prices for individual surf lessons, transportation fees, airport shuttles, activities, meals, etc. Sometimes it adds up and helps to choose between a “room” in a surf hotel or an all-inclusive package.
2. What is your Surf Level?
Beware of surf camps that can “accommodate all levels of surfers”. The truth is, it is very hard to please both beginner and advanced surfers at the same time. Not all surf breaks are for all levels, so naturally, the different levels want to surf different spots and different conditions. Before you book with a camp, make sure the surf spots are good for your level and the “wave season” is right for your surf skills. Keep in mind surf spots have seasons much like the changing weather we’re used to. This means the waves can break differently (larger, smaller, faster, slower, etc.) depending on the time of the year.
3. What Type of Surf Coaching are you looking for?
How much do you care about learning to surf properly? Some companies will film and analyze each of your surf sessions. Some offer 1 on 1 in-water classes, others 1 coach for 10 students. This will be reflected in the price. If you don’t care that much about the surf lessons, or just want to try and see if you like it, then renting a room at a surf hotel and booking surf lessons separately would be the best decision. If learning to surf and progressing quickly and efficiently is important to you, look for a surf school that has a small coach-to-student ratio and that will shoot your surf sessions. This will exponentially help your learning process.
4. What Type of Accommodation?
Are you looking for a private room? A semi-private room? A dorm room? What do the rooms look like? How many people will live at the surf camp: 10, 20, 50 people at the same time? Also, how far will you be from the beach, restaurants and attractions? Some surf camps are ridiculously far from all of those, or in shady neighbourhoods. It’s best to do some proper research that guarantees you’re at your maximum comfort.
5. Are you traveling by yourself, as a couple or as a group of friends?
This might affect your choice of surf camp type. “All-inclusive packages” or “Surf Travel trips” usually have a specific start and end date. This is great if you travel by yourself, as you might meet new travel friends right from the start. A surf hostel could be a great choice if you are a backpacker on a budget, or a younger traveller looking to find new friends to surf and party. If you’re travelling as a couple, then it might be the privacy you’re looking for, so you could ask how many people are living at the camp.
6. What type of vacation are you looking for?
Are you looking for a “backpack and party” type of vacation? Are you looking for a “surf and chill in a hammock with a book” type of vacation? Or are you looking for the in-between of “surfing and a few beers or wine glasses at sunset”? You should ask the camp managers about what type of travellers they get, and read TripAdvisor reviews about what people are saying about the place. It can get quite annoying to get the opposite vibe you are looking for at a surf camp.
7. Are you concerned with “fitting in”? (Traveler Age, Sex and Nationality)
“It would have been a great vacation if I spoke German”. This is a review from a random surf camp on TripAdvisor. Do some research: What type of people are going to the surf camp? What is the average age? For example, if you’re a woman and prefer to learn in a camp specialized for women, there are plenty of “Women Surf Camps” out there, so don’t settle on the first camp you see!
8. Do you want meals included?
Some people just want to relax and have it all planned out for them. Others like to experience different restaurants and local food. Some like a little bit of both – healthy breakfast bar in the morning, and the rest of the meals on your dime and time!
9. What type of structure are you looking for?
Do you want to have total freedom of doing what you want, when you want? Or do you want a more structured surf camp to organize the surfing classes, activities, airport transport, etc? In some camps, every single hour of the day is organized. At other places, you are free to do everything you wish to and add surf classes or activities when you feel like it. You also have surf camps that are “in-between”, partly organizing the trip and giving plenty of free time to explore and adventure the way you want to.
10. Do you have flexibility in your travel dates?
“Surf hotels” will give you the opportunity to book a “3-day trip”. If, for example, you want to hike a volcano for 2 days, then learn to surf for another 3 days, and then go visit a colonial city for the last day. Other types of surf camps like surf travel companies or all-inclusive camps typically have specific dates for the start and the end of the trip. This does have the advantage of providing a “group atmosphere”. It is quite different when all the travellers start and end their trip at the same time, creating an undeniable connection.