Santa Barbara Surf instructor cheering image

The Best Surf Schools in California

It doesn’t get more California than sunshine and surfboards. When it comes to shredding waves, California is a well-known hub of some of the world’s best surf spots. Whether you’re brand new to the sport, or you’re just looking to dust off the cobwebs, a surf school will bring your surf game to the next level and get you ready for an exciting ride in the Pacific. What about the kids? Maybe you need an activity for summer break? Get them in the water, learning to surf in a safe and supportive environment. These surf schools are simply the best in California:

ADVENTURE OUTcalifornia surf school image


Founded in 2004, this company has been one of the premier spots in Santa Cruz for adventurers learning to surf. With their mission being to help people fall in love with nature, they offer a variety of surf lessons, clinics, and camps to best suit your needs. Never been on a board before and want to learn? If so, sign-up for their Surf I course through their surf school. Want to improve upon your skills or take your riding to ripping status? Then you can register for Surf II or Surf III lessons. Adventure Out also offers kid and adult multi-day surf camps to build consistency and a strong foundation.

If you are looking for some variety in your surf game, take your next surf trip with Adventure Out. Taking off to Big Sur or Baja you get the chance to surf uncrowded waves, explore nature, and relax in between surf sessions.

Where: Santa Cruz

Who is it best for: From beginner to experienced – this one is for everyone! 


club ed surf school

Known as the “professor of surfing” from UC Santa Cruz, Ed Guzman owns a supreme surf school. Ed has been teaching surf for decades. Naturally, his surf school offers a wealth of knowledge to surfers stepping onto a surfboard for the first time. Take a beginner group lesson if you are just starting out and need to know the basics. You will learn etiquette, safety, wave dynamics, paddling skills, surfboard positioning, maneuvering, proper stand-up, and riding techniques.

Club Ed also offers week-long surf camps in California’s Manresa Uplands State Park or adventure out to their Cabo surf camp to learn something new while relaxing in Mexico. 

Where: Santa Cruz

Who is it best for: Kids to teenagers beginning to surf


surf lessons santa barbara

Santa Barbara has many things to offer its community with its quick access to mountains and surf. Since 2002, Santa Barbara Surf School has been the premier surf school in the area. Whether you choose a private or group lesson, you will learn key surfing strategies to get you paddling out and catching waves faster than you can say “stoked”. Learn various water safety techniques, identify prevailing currents, how and where to paddle, and surfing etiquette. 

Surfing is a sport like no other, bringing a huge rush to everyone that tries it. Santa Barbara Surf School’s surf camp is perfect for kids that are looking to get a lot of surfing in and be completely focused on surfing for a three-day or full week half-day camp. 

Where: Santa Barbara

Who is it best for: From beginner to experienced – this one is for everyone!


makos surf camp

Malibu is known for its beautiful beaches and world-famous point break. Through their surf school, Malibu Makos offers a summer camp program as well as private surfing lessons and group surf lessons. All lessons are taught at Zuma Beach, a prime surfing location in Malibu, CA. Their surf school takes a safety-first approach and is why their instructors are experienced ocean lifeguards, professional surfers, pro surf instructors, ocean athletes, and educators. 

If you are looking to invest in a fully immersive program, their week-long surf camp is the move. Understand surfing fundamentals while also learning more progressive surf skills. You can expect to learn turning, tube riding, cutbacks, and floaters. Additionally, surf school students will also be educated on rip currents, lateral currents, impact zone knowledge. All of which is crucial to proper ocean safety. 

Where: Malibu

Who is it best for: Kids to teenagers beginning to surf with a strong emphasis on ocean safety knowledge



Kids on surfboards


Since 2002, Learn to Surf LA has been a leading surf school out of Santa Monica, Venice, and Manhattan Beach. Booking a private or group lesson is a breeze if you are in Los Angeles county as they have several locations to accommodate soon-to-be surfers. 

Their summer surf camps are a parent’s dream as they offer full and half-day camps all summer long. Is your little grom as active out of the water as they are in? Learn to Surf LA also offers activities like boogie-boarding, swimming, body-surfing, sand sculpting, and other beach sports to ensure they are active and engaged all day. 

Where: Santa Monica, Venice, and Manhattan Beach

Who is it best for: Kids to teenagers who love the outdoors


kid with surfboard

Camp Surf is in the heart of the South Bay offering lessons and a great surf school to boot. For adults, you have the ability to book as a beginner or hone in on your skills with an intermediate course. 

The surf school offerings for full or partial-day beach adventures will keep your kids frothing and busy. What’s more Southbay than The Strand and beach volleyball? Register for Camp Surf’s full day of surf and volleyball combo to get the true Southbay experience. Keep in mind, the age requirement for this camp is slightly older than the others on the list with a minimum age of seven. 

Where: Manhattan Beach

Who is it best for: Kids to teenagers looking to experience South Bay culture


surf school girls

Also based out of the South Bay and female-owned, Wave Huggers offers lessons out of Santa Monica, South Bay, Orange County, and Encinitas. Lessons are offered for beginners to more experienced riders and even offering ‘ladies-only’ sessions. 

If you are looking to get your kids in the water during downtime, Wave Huggers offers a smaller student-to-teacher ratio in their surf school with a 3:1; the others on the list are not far off with a 4:1 ratio. Wave Huggers offers after school surf school twice a week in Huntington or Hermosa Beach. For the summer months, Wave Huggers allows for single day drop-ins or weeklong full or half-day camps. Whether your little mermaid or grom is ready to dive in deep or just dip their toes, there is something for them with Wave Huggers. 

Where: Santa Monica, South Bay, Orange County, and Encinitas

Who is it best for: Kids or female beginning riders 


Party wave

Located in the heart of California surf culture, this surf school offers a few different learning options to best suit you and your little groms too. For those of us on a budget but still aching to learn, Banzai offers a bargain “open surf” option for up to four during the spring, summer, and fall. If you get lucky, you’ll be the only one and you score a private lesson for a bargain price! If you’re looking for something for you and the kids to enjoy, sign up for one of their group private lessons for up to six surfers. 

Banzai Surf camp offers morning sessions on a weekly basis during the seasonal summer months. Keep in mind, the age requirement for this camp is slightly older than the others on the list with a minimum age of eight.

Where: Huntington Beach

Who is it best for: Beginner surfers looking for a bargain


Yellow surfboards

If your teenager’s heart belongs to the surf already, Endless Summer Surf Camp is a way to satisfy their wave hunger and keep them frothing while school is out for summer. Offering both day and overnight surf school during summer months in San Clemente, you have the ability to keep them local to California surf culture. If your ripper is looking for a little more, their elite surf package was developed for high-level intermediate and advanced surfers who want to add on to an existing day or overnight lesson. Endless Summer also provides “Surf and Turf” lessons for lovers of both land and sea. Enjoy a morning surf session with an afternoon round of golf – outdoor lovers rejoice! 

What makes Endless Summer really unique is its offering of a surf retreat strictly for teens. If your teenager dreams of hitting a world-class surf spot on a trip to Costa Rica just like the pros, register for this camp as weeks fill up in July and August. 

Where: San Clemente

Who is it best for: Teenagers looking to take their surfing to the next level


Female surfer learns to surf

At San Diego Surf School they believe surfing is not just a sport, but a remedy for life. It is a way to relieve stress and forget your worries, find spiritual awakening, and stay healthy. San Diego Surf School offers three types of lessons in addition to surf camps and adult retreats. Want a little more hands-on experience from your instructor? If so, book a private or semi-private lesson guaranteed to not exceed more than three students. To build more consistency in your riding San Diego Surf School offers one, two, three, and five-day surf camps so you can learn to rip year-round. 

If you are a beginner adult surfer and looking to get away in one of the world’s most beautiful beach towns, consider them for a retreat in San Diego’s Pacific Beach or Ocean Beach. A week-long experience is a proven program to “provide a subtle, yet exhilarating surfing progression leading to confidence in water and wave selection. By the end of the week, participants will be able to analyze surf conditions and currents. You will identify the basic components of a surfboard, differentiate basic types of surfboards for individual goals and styles of surfing, and progress to selecting and catching waves independently. The surf retreat program includes professional surf instructors and educators to individualize the experience for personal surfing goals and outcomes”. 

Where: San Diego

Who is it best for: From beginner to experienced – this one is for everyone of all ages! 


surf diva surf camp

Female-owned and operated for over 20 years, Surf Diva offers a wide variety of programs for people of all ages and all abilities. Join the party wave with a group lesson or go solo in a private session. Through their surf school, their kid camps are unique as they break up the camps into age groups (5-8, 9-11, and 12-17) to keep skills and ability relatively similar.  

Want to escape for a girls’ weekend to San Diego and learn a new skill while you are at it? If so, Surf Diva provides a ladies-only weekend or week-long surf clinics to get you and your girls up and going. Better yet, escape to Costa Rica for a full-on surf retreat designed for beginning to advanced female surfers. They also offer co-ed and family retreats too so you bring the entire fam. 

Where: San Diego

Who is it best for: Female surfers finding a community of other surfers of all skill levels.

No matter which you choose, these are all top-notch, safety-driven, knowledgeable surf schools offering an incredible experience for you to get out there. For those going the “self-taught” route, consider renting your gear and catching a few waves on your own. However you choose to learn you are in for a good time. Remember, the best surfer in the water is the one having the most fun. Hang loose!


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