6HWbNHN-show-poster2x3-c7tgE2Y.png

Artbound

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
Earth Focus

Earth Focus

Start watching
5LQmQJY-show-poster2x3-MRWBpAK.jpg

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

Surfing SoCal For The First Time

Support Provided By
Photo: YMCA Surf Camp
Photo: YMCA Surf Camp

"To surf or not to surf?" asked this Midwesterner transplanted to SoCal many moons ago. Upon arriving in L.A. I hired a surf instructor, rented board and wetsuit, and prepared to surf the big waves. Just one hour in the water taught me how incredibly hard it is to balance upon a thin sheet of fiberglass atop moving liquid. "Not to surf," I declared. I'd be an outdoor adventurer still, just a land-locked one. That is, until this past weekend.

I led a group of preteen girls on a SoCal quest that attempted to give them what I'd yet to find: a safe and supportive place to learn to surf. After a traffic-ridden Friday drive south on I-5 we arrived at YMCA Camp Surf in Imperial Beach. In addition to running kids' camps, this facility provides family camping and group retreat weekends with cabin rental or beach camping. Their three day packages include 2 nights and 4 meals priced anywhere between $115 and $125 depending upon the season. Food, shelter, surfboards, and boogie boards are included; wetsuit rental is extra. Groups are defined anywhere between 14 and 300 people.

Photo: YMCA Surf Camp
Photo: YMCA Surf Camp, by klxadm

Friday night we slept in tents on the beach, a rarity in SoCal. Waking to the sound of the waves I expected. What I did not expect was the food, more particularly how good it was. Think back to your days at camp and you might recall cold clumpy oatmeal or tater tots and hot dogs. Camp Surf touts delicious food on their website and they mean it. "Have you tried the sweet cream-filled empanadas?" asked a member in my group one morning. Sadly, I was too busy stuffing my face with homemade banana bread to notice the empanadas. I kept my fingers crossed they'd reappear Sunday morning. They also aim to please. Gluten free? Vegan? They've got not only the four food groups but the many dietary restrictions covered with a vast array of choices at each and every meal.

After the banana bread, eggs, sausages, and hot coffee, I scrambled into my wetsuit and stood at the shoreline. To my right was San Diego; to my left the hills of Tijuana, Mexico. The ocean this morning delivered a calm break and small waves; it felt as if I was in the baby pool of the Pacific. Camp Surf provided a lifeguard and surf instructors on beach and in the water. Now it was just the surfing, a sport with challenges aplenty. Reading the waves, catching the waves, standing on the board, staying on the board: these are just a few things making surfing one of the hardest outdoor sports around. Yet the instructors made the learning curve a little less precipitous. One gently pushed me into the first wave which I rode prone to shore. On the next two I rose to my knees. Finally I mustered up courage to stand. If I was up more than 10 seconds, I'd be surprised. Yet I stood, on a board, with moving water beneath. These weren't the epic, gnarly waves of surfer lore, but I didn't need those waves. To be carried by the forces of the sea, propelled through time and space to the shoreline, this is a gift of nature all its own. It is an exhilarating experience rivaling any ride at Disneyland or Universal Studios. Your heart beats faster. Your brain waves are in hyper-drive. Riding a wave, big or small, is California living at its best.

Group retreats (14 person minimum, maximum 300) at YMCA Camp Surf are available April through November. More information about YMCA Camp Surf can be found here or by calling 619-423- 5850.

Photo: YMCA Surf Camp
Photo: YMCA Surf Camp

Support Provided By
Read More
The landscape at Whitewater Preserve

Where to Explore the Coachella Valley Outdoors (Before It Gets Too Hot)

Whether you’re an off-roader, a two-legged trekker or even an earthquake tourist, here are five great outdoor destinations in the Coachella Valley — no festival pass needed.
Exterior of the Troubadour in West Hollywood.

12 Fascinating Bikeable Spots to Explore in WeHo’s Rainbow District

Whether you’ve got your own wheels or need to borrow some, here are some fascinating points of interest along the first mile of West Hollywood — from intriguing public art to a cornucopia of architectural styles, and even some rock and roll history.
Two rows of colorfully lit Christmas trees at Hikari – A Festival of Lights at Tanaka Farms. | Sandi Hemmerlein

Six SoCal Holiday Lights Drive-Thrus and Drive-Bys for 2020

Haul out the holly and fill up the stockings. We need a little Christmas! Here are some of the best drive-thru holiday experiences in Southern California.