8 Tips for Running a Successful Surf Camp

I've always wanted to host a surf camp. After some time of researching locations we decided on Oahu for the ease of travel, popularity being a destination and gurantee of surf somewhere on the island at anytime.  Writing this, we're midway through our first camp week and am sharing some tips on running a successful camp. So far it has been successful and we'll run another Oahu SUP camp in the fall.

Pick a location you're familiar with. 
While Mexico sounded great, I've never been there and didn't have the bandwith to travel there to check it out prior to running our camp.  We picked Oahu because we've been there several times, know the breaks, culture, language and it's an easy flight from Seattle where most of our customers came from. If you're not familiar with a location - travel there prior to scope out lodging, local contacts, board vendors and any permits or fees you need to pay to run our camp.

Find a reliable local surf shop that has a good reputation. 
We also chose Oahu as we already had a good relationship with Blue Planet Surf, a Honolulu based surf/SUP shop. The owner is one of our certified PSUPA instructors so we trust him, know he's safe and responsible and runs a professional business.  Plus provided us with gear and his own local certified instructors who know the surf culture, permits, rules, breaks, etc.  Why certified? That's one more level of responsibility and safety from instructors when working in a foreign or unfamiliar location.

Have Your Own Reliable Transportation
Make sure you have your own transportation if the local shop doesn't provide it to run students to the beach, carry boards and gear and run additonal trips to town for food and supplies.

Have Several Instructors
Our camp included three local SUP instructors who each had their own way of doing things thus provided us with a well rounded experience.  Students will identify with each instructor differently as well.

Mix up your days
Sure, I wouldn't mind surfing all day for 7 days straight but most don't have the stamina or drive and would prefer to mix of their days with other activities.  Whether is be yoga, beach walks, private time, island exploration or flat water paddling or kayaking, mixing up your agenda will make those surf sessions even better.  We offered an off day for folks to go their own way or in my case, stay local and get caught up on work, check out the neighborhood etc.

The above point leads to.. How much do you want to socialize with customers?
In remote areas you'll be with your customers most of the time.  In some camps with famous surfers people sign up to hang with famous paddlers so the hosts most likely are there for social time after paddling/surfing.  I inquired to a colleague who hosts surf camps about how he spends his camp time with participants. He said he felt responsible to be present for those that wanted to connect with him and pointed out that the independent folks will take off on their own from time to time.  In contrast to the military where officers and enlisted soldiers stay and socialize in separate quarters, you have to make the call what works best for your situation, personality and location.

Hold Briefs of Daily Sessions
At the end of each session or full day, gather your students for some time to talk about what they learned for the day.  They are there to learn so maximize their time in doing so.  Half way through our week I realized we were surfing and downwinding but not talking about tides, currents, forecasts etc. Evening is a good time to go over land based learning.  But don't over due it by providing so much info that students are always tired and/or may get burned out from info overload. They are on vacation and need need their own time as well.

Course Evaluations
Be willing to ask participants how their week is going, is it going the way they had hoped and what could improve or change.  At the end of the course send out a document again stating the above questions as well as - how was the signup process? did you like the food? was the camp well planned? etc...  The more info you get from them the more successful you'll future camps will be.  

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