An open faced wave somewhere on the East Cape.

Surfing Is Hard...but Learning Doesn't Have to Suck

I remember my first wave like it was yesterday… It was a hot summer day at Arpoador Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I was 10 years old and my mom had enrolled me and my cousin in a surf school that offered group lessons on the weekends.

The instructors gave us some on-land training before they took us out into the water. Since it was our very first time, and there were about 20 of us, we had to wait until some of the more advanced students got their waves. I was so eager to get out there that it felt like it was ages before they finally called our names. We were guided into the water and told to wait until the instructors grabbed our boards and got us in position to catch some whitewater.

Where it all began, 23 years later. Many lessons were learned along the way and there are many more to come.

Once it was our turn, my cousin and I were pushed into these little baby waves and were easily able to pop to our feet on the 10-foot longboards. It was, without a doubt, the best feeling I had ever experienced up until that moment. All in all, it may have only been 10 seconds, at max, 20 seconds. Didn’t matter, I was hooked. The only downside was that I now had to wait again for my turn. Once I got another go, the same transcendental bliss took hold as I rode a ~1 foot wave to the shore. Yep, for good or ill, I was now a surfer for life. I was back the very next day for another group lesson and caught another few waves to seal the deal.

It didn’t take long before I acquired my own surfboard…and like countless other beginners with illusions of grandeur, it was way, way too small. What did take long was actually learning to surf–as in, having my own board (one suitable for my skills) and being able to paddle out on my own and catch waves. It took years actually… Why? Well, I didn’t live in Rio (that’s where I was born), or anywhere near the beach for that matter. I lived 2000 miles away from the nearest ocean in the midwest United States. It wasn’t until years later, when I moved to California, that I was able to start surfing frequently and really make progress.

I have now lived by the coast for over 10 years and my surfing has improved significantly. I feel comfortable in bigger waves and can ride an array of different boards based on the conditions, and what I am feeling that day, but it wasn’t a quick or easy road. There were certainly a couple of times I got yelled at by other surfers for interfering with my innocent mistakes.


If you can relate to that you know just how bad it sucks, you went from having a good time to now having your tail in between your legs. If it happens in front of the rest of the lineup, it can be enough to make you want to end your session and paddle in…the offended surfer may even go as far as to tell you to paddle in or surf somewhere else. It sucks.

Figuring out how to read the conditions and bring the right equipment was a complex puzzle that, to be honest, I can still get wrong. Sometimes we feel like riding a sexy shortboard and the waves are like “Nahhhh mate”, you should’ve brought the mid-length (or maybe even the log). If you have ever been in the water on too short a board, and see everyone else on longer boards having tons of fun, well then you know the feeling. It sucks.

Yep, that board is looking pretty good in those waves.

Or how about this one; you wake up and check the cam, "fuck yeah", looks good! But then by the time you--make coffee, pick up your bestie, find a parking spot, and finally get into the lineup--the waves have gone to shit. Noooo! But whyyyyy?!?!? God knows it can happen for a number of reasons: the wind comes up, the tide gets too high/low, the swell fades, the crowd fills in (Saturday/Sunday mornings anyone?), some crazy lull hits and the waves fade as if someone just turned off the tap. Yep, these are all common occurrences in our pursuit of wave-fueled bliss.

Surfing is hard. Like, really hard. There are so many variables that it is truly unlike any other sport–no two waves are the same and it’s not just the waves you have to catch, it’s the other surfers you have to watch out for and coexist with–that, in and of itself, is no easy task when you’re in a crowded lineup.

That is why we are stoked to announce our new Surfer Development Program (SDP) which is specifically designed to help beginner surfers progress their skills in a concentrated 4-day workshop on the epic waves of the beautiful San Jose del Cabo. The program was developed by our very own Glen Gaudion, an expert surf guide, and instructor with over 15 years of experience in 7 countries, who has seen incredible results across an array of students.

With the right equipment, guides and waves, you'll walk away with the skills to be able to pick up a board and continue your surfing progression when you get back home or on your next surf trip. This program is a way to bring together a small group of beginner surfers that have the same passion and goals of learning to surf. Yes the end goal is to walk away with this new found love of the sport, but also meeting others and having one hell of a time throughout the trip! - Glen Gaudion

Whereas many learn-to-surf programs involve large groups, one of the key success factors of the SDP is the 2-1 surfer-to-guide ratio, allowing for very personalized instruction, care, and safety. Each day features two surf sessions, morning and afternoon, meaning you’ll be catching lots of waves that will all be recorded for the daily video analysis sessions.

Another difference is that most surf lessons take place in the whitewater making it easy to stand up but hard to actually progress and move down the line with the wave and, eventually, learn how to turn and cutback into the wave. Surfing is all about riding a wave in its entirety–making the most of it–by flowing with the power of the wave while it is breaking. Catching whitewater is a great way to start and learn how to balance on a board but it is a very limited experience and, to be honest, it gets old quickly.

When it comes to friendly waves, let's just say Cabo is holding.

The SDP will take place at spots that allow you to start slow and then quickly progress to surfing to an open wave, sometimes called “green waves”, so you can really get the hang of it and feel what keeps us passionate surfers so excited (maybe “addicted” is even a better word ;)

If you want to learn more about the specifics, just drop us a line and our team will be happy to get you set up with a spot and your future surfing self will be very happy that you did.


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