I often suggest that readers planning San Diego vacations consider learning how to surf, especially if they’re traveling with kids. You can book a lesson or camp with an awesome San Diego surf school and paddle out from some of our best beaches, year-round. How cool is that?
Booking surf lessons in San Diego is a fit for those in search of a classic Southern California experience and fun to do whether you’re 5 or just need to tick riding a wave off your life bucket list. Believe it or not, between the foam boards for beginners and the excellent coaches, it’s possible to get up on a wave in a single lesson.
You’ll need to decide whether you would like to learn on your own, with a friend, or in a group setting. Our San Diego surf schools offer a variety of programming. The half-day and full-day summer camps are very popular with local kids. If you’re visiting San Diego with kids, you can book them into these camps for a morning or two during your stay as you often don’t need to commit to an entire week.
If you’re an experienced surfer and want to hit the waves, many of these schools offer rentals so you don’t have to fly your gear out here. The schools on this list are chosen for their reviews and also because they’re near popular San Diego beach hotels.
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Before You Book Surf Lessons in San Diego
If you’re scheduling a lesson or camp for very small kids, make sure the school has wetsuits that will fit them or bring your own. You also may want to consider also getting in the water with small children to “catch” them as they ride a wave into shore as the instructor will be out in the water preparing them to ride the wave.
If you decide on a surf school in San Diego that isn’t on this list, make sure that they are properly permitted by the city they are located in.
Minimum age: 5
Location: La Jolla Shores Beach
Surf Diva is the largest surfing school on the West Coast with more than 50 instructors on staff. All are certified in CPR, first aid, and lifesaving and they’re licensed with the city as well as insured. If you can drive to your surf lessons in San Diego and don’t need to be in a certain location, I would direct you here as they’ve been in business for 20 years and are excellent at what they do.
You can choose private lessons, semi-private lessons, or group lessons on any day. Surf Diva also offers a summer surf camp for those who are ages 5—17 (groups are broken up into ages 5—8, 9—11, and 12—17). Each session is for one week of instruction and it’s not uncommon for parents to enroll their children in successive weeks of lessons.
Every day, there is a Surf Diva Party Wave which is a 1.5-hour co-ed surf class that includes all equipment (wetsuits are an additional $6 plus city tax). Kids can join one of their monthly surf clubs and adults can take it up a notch and join Surf Diva on a Costa Rica surf retreat. They also offer SUP lessons, surf and SUP gear, and beach gear rentals like chairs and umbrellas. The school is permitted through the City of San Diego. La Jolla Shores is also my favorite La Jolla beach.
- Address: 2160 Avenida de la Playa, San Diego 92037
- Phone: (858) 454-8273
- Website: surfdiva.com
Minimum age: 5 years old
Location: La Jolla Shores Beach
Tip: Use code lajollamom and click the green checkmark for a 20% discount on tours, lessons, and rentals at Everyday California
Everyday California is another great choice for La Jolla. The company is extremely popular for La Jolla kayak tours, but recently secured a permit through the City of San Diego for surf lessons, too. Lessons that last for 90 minutes and start on land where students learn the basics before heading into the water. Book into a group lesson or grab up to five friends or family for private lessons.
These surf lessons in San Diego are taught according to student level of experience though none is necessary. All equipment is provided and while in the water, instructors make sure all students are safe and having fun.
You can rent surfboards, boogie boards, SUP boards, snorkels, and kayaks.
- Address: 2262 Avenida de la Playa, San Diego 92037
- Phone: (858) 454-6195
- Website: everydaycalifornia.com
Coronado Surfing Academy
Minimum age: 7 for camps (can be a little younger for private lessons)
Location: Coronado Central Beach
If you’re looking for surf lessons in San Diego near Hotel del Coronado, talk to Coronado Surfing Academy which has been in business since 2004. Private surfing lessons are offered as well as groups. In groups from two to five members, the ratio of instructors is one instructor for every three students. For groups of six or more, the ratio is one instructor for every five students. You can rest assured that you’re getting personalized attention.
All lessons include the use of a soft surfboard and a full-body wetsuit. Lessons are 90-minutes long with at least 60 of those minutes spent in the water. No lessons are offered on Sundays as the Academy is closed.
If the kids are small, you can split a private lesson between two kids (so one child goes out with the instructor while the other rests). Ask the school about this, however, before you book.
If you’re interested in their summer camps, registration for these is through the City of Coronado (though which the school is permitted). You can rent wetsuits and surfboards through them as well.
- Address: 1880 Avenida del Sol, Coronado, CA 92118
- Phone number: (619) 293-3883
- Website: coronadosurfing.com
San Diego Surf School
Minimum age: 6 or up is preferred
Location: Pacific Beach (Law Street), Ocean Beach
San Diego Surf School instructors are trained to work with those who are just beginning as well as experienced surfers who want to improve their skills. There are three different instruction packages to choose from:
- Private lessons: One-on-one instruction lasting 90 minutes.
- Semi-private: Can be 2-3 students with one instructor that last for 90 minutes.
- Group lessons: Maximum of 4 students with one instructor for 90 minutes.
- Drop-in after school camps on Wednesdays and Fridays.
- Summer camps: Half-day or full-day in 1-, 3-, or 5-day sessions.
All equipment is provided. Students need only to wear swimwear and bring towels, sunscreen. You can also opt to have your surf lesson professionally photographed.
You do not necessarily need to be a strong swimmer to enjoy your surfing lessons. Instructors at San Diego Surf School in Pacific Beach determine swimming ability and competence about being in the ocean on an individual basis so students can work at their own pace. The school is permitted through the City of San Diego and they rent wetsuits, SUP, and surfboards. Law Street is also the most family-friendly beach in Pacific Beach.
- Address: 4850 Cass St., San Diego 92109 and 5050 Santa Monica Ave., San Diego 92107
- Phone number: (858) 205-7683
- Website: sandiegosurfingschool.com
Encinitas Surf Lessons
Minimum age: None.
Location: Encinitas beaches (Beacons Beach between Memorial Day and Labor Day — exact surfing location varies by month)
Encinitas Surf Lessons guarantees its students will be surfing on the first day provided, of course, that the student follows the instructions of the teacher. Surfboards and wetsuits (cleaned with a hypoallergenic, biodegradable solution) are provided. In addition to being CPR and first aid certified, the instructors here are trained in ways to help students get over their fears and to feel empowered in the water.
Encinitas Surf Lessons offers private and group lessons. All group lessons have one instructor for every three students and are two hours long. Private lessons may be 90 minutes long.
- Address: 948 Neptune Avenue, Encinitas, CA
- Phone number: (760) 456-5036
- Website: encinitassurflessons.com
SoCal Surf Lessons
Minimum age: 5
Location: Carlsbad beaches (Frazee beach or Warm Waters beach)
SoCal Surf has been in business since 2002 and offers lessons to students of all ages at whatever level. It is the only licensed, bonded, and insured surf school in Carlsbad.
Lessons are offered year-round by instructors who are all former California state lifeguards and certified in first aid and CPR. Same day lessons can be booked subject to availability.
The surf school guarantees students will up and surfing by the end of the first lesson or their second lesson will be free. Students can use their equipment for one hour after completion of the lesson.
- Address: Warm Waters Beach, Carlsbad
- Phone: (760) 672-2770
- Website: http://www.socalsurflessons.com/
Surfari Surf School
Minimum age: None (private lessons are recommended for small children)
Location: Mission Beach
Surfari Surf School offers 90-minute surf lessons that start off with instruction at the surf shop followed by roughly one-hour practice time in the water.
Surfari, which was opened in 2000 by a former lifeguard, provides great prices on lessons, surfing equipment rental, and surfing equipment purchases.
Instructors are all veteran surfers with decades of experience. They are all Red Cross certified in CPR and have been trained in Ocean Rescue and lifesaving.
If you are unsatisfied in any way about your first lesson, your second surf lesson will be free as their mission is to be the best surf school in San Diego. They are permitted through City of San Diego and offer a good range of rentals including SUP, rash guards, wetsuits, and a variety of surfboards.
- Address: 3740 Mission Boulevard, San Diego 92017
- Phone Number (858) 337-3287
- Website: surfarisurfschool.com (you can check live availability and book direct here)
Thanks to warm weather and ocean waves, surfers take to the water year-round in San Diego. Many are novice surfers seeking to enjoy their first day so don’t be afraid to give surf lessons in San Diego a try.
Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).
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