What’s the Best Surf Camp in Hawaii?

Mar 12, 2014
Outside Magazine

SwellWomen offers female-specific and coed surf camps.    Photo: Ian Strickland Photography


Surf lessons in Hawaii are as plentiful as drops of water in the ocean. More unusual, however, are surf camps: multi-day immersions in the sport that build confidence and skill in novices and aficionados alike.

Former pro Ken Bradshaw, who made a name for himself riding 45-foot waves, is at the helm of Hawaiian Surf School. Its surf camps, which must be scheduled ahead of time, are held on Oahu’s North Shore and include accommodations at a vacation rental on Sunset Beach and, of course, lessons with Bradshaw—who coached Layne Beachley to many Women’s Association of Surfing Professional World Tour championships.

Reflecting an emerging trend among camps, Surf Hawaii Surf School offers intense exposure to the sport’s lifestyle, with a full menu of lessons; beachside, lanai-style lodging (for an extra fee); and yoga classes. Its guided hikes and whale-watching excursions let visitors appreciate Oahu’s natural beauty in its many forms.

At Kauai Surf School, adventurers can book private, group, all-female, or ohana (family) camps taught by Billabong team riders. Camps include housing at the school’s accommodations on Poipu, and outings such as snorkeling and hiking. Intermediate and advanced surfers can hire local professional guides for one-on-one instruction. They’ll also know where to find the day’s best waves, as well as how to best advise against hazards like reefs. 

Women who don’t want to pop up among surfer-brahs can opt for dedicated camps. A leader in women-only camps since 2003, SwellWomen Surf and Yoga Vacations hosts Maui getaways with a wellness bent: each package includes yoga classes and massage sessions.

According to SwellWomen owner Me-Shell Mijangos, the many benefits of women-only camps include “empowerment, support, inspiration, friendship, confidence—and the list goes on.” And SwellWomen now offers coed camps too. “I met my husband on a surfboard and wanted to offer coed retreats for individuals seeking a connection with other adventurers,” Mijangos says. “But our coed vacations aren’t just for singles. Couples come, and are inspired by learning something new with their spouse or partner.”

Other surfer-girl outfits include Kristy Murphy’s Siren Surf Adventures, North Shore Surf Girls, and Billabong’s trips, which are offered through the Waves Hawaii Surf School. Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa has lodging, while Goofy Foot Surf School instructors provide the lessons. 

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