Endless Summer Surf Camp
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Dawn patrol. The morning is exploding out of east, a half-box of crayons streaking across sky.
Slowly, reluctantly, a bed-head emerges from warm confines of a sleeping bag, followed by an arm, then a body. Eventually there are four or five of us milling about, sleepy-eyed, blinking away night. One of us is munching away on Raisin Bran, staple of his morning breakfasts, with thousand-mile stare of a man sleep-deprived. Another is finding comfort in his coffee, and well, he should, considering he woke surf camp staff at 6 a.m. to get it. When we find out that that only those with their own equipment can hit water, we are disappointed, but understand liability issues. So we are reduced to spectators, watching from bluffs above beach. The sunrise has reached far horizon now, where ocean is beginning to distinguish itself from sky. Down below, we see several lone surfers paddling into morning gray, looking for that first set.
Such a devotion to surfing may surprise some, but those familiar with surfing understand. "Once you catch that first wave, when you stand up and you make your first turn, you get hooked," explained Jason Senn, owner of Endless Summer Surf Camp in San Clemente, California. Sun-baked and ocean-washed, Jason has been a part of camp since 1991, when he was brought aboard as director. According to him, most rewarding part of his job is seeing progression of his students throughout week. In fact, several of his alumni surf competitively today. There is a downside, however. "Surfing can become an addiction. You start making excuses to go surfing. Missing class, missing work." Dawn patrol was a testament to that.
By 9:30 a.m., well after Dawn Patrol had returned from its first foray, rest of day campers had arrived (there were roughly 12 day campers and 12 overnighters). We assembled on beach, and although morning fog was still hazy along beach, it was already growing warm. A soft off-shore breeze carried smell of salt and sun block. After a quick briefing about basics of surfing and water safety, we were matched up with our instructors, about 3 students per staff member. After a few more detailed lessons, we hit surf.
Three things I learned this day: 1) Surfing is tough. One aspect that is not emphasized on TV is paddling out. Getting pounded by wave after wave while your shoulder and trapezius muscles are screaming Fire! with exertion makes you very humble, very fast. There's a reason why surfers look way they do; 2) You can't breath underwater, and 3) I don't plan on quitting my day job to join pro surf tour any time soon.