Where anyone can learn how to ride the waves.
Upon observing wave-riding Hawaiians in 1907, Jack London rhapsodized that surfing was “a royal sport for the natural kings of the earth.” These days, everyone from kids to CEOs can connect with the elemental thrill of the surf, and devotees of the sport have set up schools and camps around the globe for would-be beach royalty.
Startling beauty, a low-key vibe, and brawny offshore waves have long delighted serious surfers at Hanalei Bay (Laird Hamilton calls it his home break). But the crescent-shaped bay also welcomes newbies with clean swells, a sandy bottom, and warm water; in the distance, humpback whales can sometimes be seen spouting. Surf n Sol’s multiday programs include private or small-group lessons, cushy beachside digs, yoga, and massages.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
Miles-long beaches draw tourists to Playa Tamarindo, but thick jungle and unpaved roads keep most travelers from venturing south of the beach town. Surf Diva’s resort, set near a traditional Tico village, features a stretch of sand so secluded its location is kept secret from enrollees before they arrive. The camp is for women only, with surfboards scaled for their narrower shoulders and shorter reach.
Montauk, New York
The shore break at Long Island’s Ditch Plains can be challenging; it’s choppy, cold (lower 70s° F at the highest), and edges a mostly rocky beach. But warm, enthusiastic instructors at Corey’s Wave, many of whom have been surfing here their entire lives, share how to navigate the topography—plus where to find the best burgers and beer back onshore.
Santa Cruz, California
For those who crave hands-on help, Richard Schmidt Surf School delivers. The onetime pro surfer paddles alongside beginners, literally lifting them into the pop-up and adjusting their stance for smooth, long rides. At Cowell’s Point break, where Schmidt runs day classes and multiday camps, a single wave can roll for a quarter mile.
Byron Bay, Australia
Waves chasers mingle with New Age crystal healers and astrologers in this beach town perched on Australia’s most easterly point. It’s also the longtime home of 1965 U.S. surfing champion Rusty Miller; now nearly 70, he teaches private, early morning lessons at Byron’s gentlest shore breaks. For Miller, surfing is a near-spiritual pursuit; his approach teaches ocean respect and humility.