Learn To Surf

Or if you already know how, surf your trunks off
BY: SANDY BEECH

San Jose resident David has surfed all through the Baja, and says there is nowhere else to be right now but on the Pacific side. “The East Cape and the Corridor are like lakes at this time of year,” he explains before heading into the waves at San Pedrito beach, ten minutes south of Todos Santos.

The waters around Todos Santos, El Pescadero and Cerritos are good for surfing year round, but enjoy their busiest season December through March while the shores around Cabo are calm. And Pescadero Surf Camp and Mario Surf School are bracing for one of their busiest years yet. Both Pescadero based businesses say they have seen steady but manageable increases in visitors since they were founded, as Todos Santos and its surrounding area matures into a world class tourist destination.

“I think it will become like Malibu is to Los Angeles,” says Jaime Dobies, owner of Pescadero Surf Camp, comparing that region to Cabo San Lucas.

Mario Becerril, founder of his namesake surf school, agrees. “The area is growing at a decent pace, slow enough to still make it organized,” he explains. “People around here love the vibe of the rural environment and want to keep it that way.”

Dobies founded the Surf Camp in 1995 when El Pescadero was little more than open fields. Last month, he completed a remodel of the hotel with new paint, landscaping, and new beds in all the rooms.

While winter is their busiest time, he notes that they tend to have a lot of European visitors in the summer. “At one point this year we had 14 different nationalities staying here,” he told us. Dobies estimates over a third of those who visit the Surf Camp are repeat customers, and about half aren’t even surfers but explorers of the region.

Ten years ago Becerril was one of the main instructors with the camp when Dobies encouraged him to start his own surf school, and since then the camp contracts all its surf instruction through Mario’s School. Despite being based in such a small community, the company is now one of the largest surfing institutions in the state. They teach between 6 and 10 new surfers each day.

Becerril attributes the popularity of his school to the unique combination of elements at Cerritos beach. “I’ve surfed all over the globe, and Cerritos is the best place to learn to surf in the world,” he states. “This is because it has a shallow sandy bottom, so it’s very safe, and you can stand to catch a wave. Most other places are too deep and you have to be floating, which is really the second step in learning.”

More experienced surfers tend to head north to the breaks at San Pedrito Beach or La Pastora. Both have rocky shores and more powerful waves, so they can be dangerous for beginners. On some mornings this December, there have been more than 40 surfers crowding the waves at San Pedrito and near misses between boards have occurred with frightening regularity. “It’s definitely getting more competitive,” says Teddy, a veteran surfer who lives on the beach in Pescadero.

Dobies and Becerril think Cerritos’ reputation as a beginner-only beach is unjustified. “I’ve been surfing my whole life and Cerritos is still my favorite,” Dobies says. For anyone interested in learning to surf, Dobies’ advice is to stay focused and keep at it. “Everyone should give it a try. Some do really well though they don’t seem like the type that would. It’s all about determination. Even those who don’t get up to standing on the board find they still have a lot of fun riding the waves on their knees or belly.”

He is often asked how young can kids start and says it all comes down to how comfortable they are in the water. Those who think they will be natural surfers because they snowboard or skateboard might be surprised. “There is no real relatable sport to surfing. I once tried snowboarding thinking it would be easy for me, and I couldn’t go 10 feet without falling,” he laughs.

A one hour lesson for one to four people costs $60, there are two, three, and five day lessons, and price includes equipment. There are stand up paddle lessons for $80 which includes 30 minutes of instruction and three hours of paddling around. You can rent an SUP board and paddle for $35 a day, a surf board for $30 a day. Wetsuits, (you will need one at this time of the year), go for $10 a day.

For more information visit pescaderosurf.com or mariosurfschool.com.