Surf Camp Australia. I’ll do my best to give you a review of a week (I was there March 17-21, 2014) – I didn’t have all the instructors, so it’s not a completely objective review, but will give you an idea of what to expect.
You catch the bus at Wake Up hostel in Sydney and ride for about 2 hours to Seven Mile Beach where they hold camp. There are 7 beds per room (we had a smaller than usual group, so we only had 5 people in our room which was really nice) and they split the guys/girls. The bathrooms in the courtyard are communal - showers on the left and toilet/sinks on the right. I always showered in the camp ground’s bathrooms because they were really big, very nice, and girls only J The surf camp is actually located inside a camp ground (travel trailers, not tents) so there is a swimming pool and a reception desk you can use. You can buy just about everything (except alcohol) at reception. There is a pub on top of the hill where you can buy alcohol and get a great view of the beach – it’s about a 10 minute walk up hill (but only 5 min. on the way down). There is wifi (it was about $7AU a day I believe), I didn’t use it, so I can’t tell you have great the signal strength was, but it is there. The cell reception wasn’t that great, but you could get pretty good reception up on the hill though.
The meals are very filling, and basically all you can eat, oh, and did I mention, very tasty? We had some type of sandwich every day for lunch and then pasta, steak, chicken, etc. for dinner. If you’re a vegetarian they can accommodate (I believe they can also do Gluten free, but no one in our group was GF, so I’m not 100% sure). Everyone has to wash their own dishes from every meal, but it only takes about a minute. During dinner every night they play a slide show of the day’s surf photos so that’s always fun, and then sometime after dinner (around 8pm) they play a video of the day, from footage shot throughout the day. On Friday they combine a bunch of the footage and make a week-long video. All the photos and videos are on their facebook page, so although they don’t actually give you the photos, you can share them on your own page, or tag yourself in them. After dinner and the video are over you’re free to do as you please. There’s a huge Jenga set and lots of playing cards, we watched a movie one night too. You have to be quiet after 10pm (because it’s in a camp ground), so if you want to stay up and be loud you have to head to the beach.
Learning to surf is very hard work, so if you know ahead of time that you’ll be going to surf camp, I’d suggest you start working out. Lots of swimming laps, some running and maybe some pushups J My arms got very tired and sore from all the paddling (to get to the back waves and to catch waves).
Now for the actual surfing portion of the review, this is why you’re reading this in the first place, right? Everyone gets a wetsuit for the week (if it’s not summer) and they have free SPF 50 you can use as well. After you’ve got your wetsuit on you walk about 5 minutes from the camp to the beach (I’d suggest wearing flip flops – I cut my foot the first day on something – even with calloused feet) and then walk across the beach for another 2-5 minutes and then back in to the road (you make a big U shape). Once at the road, the instructors have the surf boards on the trailer and you grab a board and have to carry it back to the beach. I’m short, so it was rather difficult to carry the board because I can’t reach the whole way around it, so my suggestion is to carry it on your head or grab a buddy and do the double carry. There is a handle in the middle of these learner boards, so that does help. Once everyone has a surfboard and is on the beach you usually do a warm up run/jog and then some stretches. You split off into your group and your instructors walk you through the new concept for the current lesson on the shore and then you all head out into the water. We learned accelerating, braking, turning, the Eskimo roll, the shuffle, how to paddle out, etc. The instructors are helpful in the water, but the ratio of student to instructor is a bit high, so you need to plan to work on stuff on your own a lot. Plus, there were times when I felt like the instructors were more interested in messing around, or surfing themselves, to actually make the effort to help you. Granted, they were all guys and I think most of them were under 25… Natalia was the only female instructor while I was there, and she was in my group and she was always really great at helping people out. Don’t let that fact put you off going, but just keep that in mind. If you think you need more help, ask for it.
My last tip would be to leave yourself time on the Saturday after you get back to Sydney, because your free camp Tshirt and hat aren’t given to you at camp. You have to go to the Rip Curl store in Sydney to pick them up, and they close at 5pm on Friday and you won’t be back in time to get it Friday night. You get a permanent 15% off card for Rip Curl stores in Australia, plus you get a onetime $20 off a $50 purchase Rip Curl store coupon (I believe it’s good for anywhere in the world).
Surfing is very hard work, but it’s also lots of fun. If you think you’d like to try surfing, give it a shot – don’t get discouraged if you’re not the best person out there, just keep on trying and have fun, that’s what it is all about! If you have any questions about my experience let me know and I’ll try to answer as best I can J