active family travel,  family,  family travel,  Travel

Surfing School in Stuart, Florida #DiscoverMartin #LOVEFL

It’s my last day visiting Martin County, Florida. I wake up, throw a swimsuit on and race to the car where Nerissa, tourism manager and host, meets me and drives us both to Stuart Beach. It’s a short drive so there’s no time to stress. Brett from Ohana Surf School meets us on the sunny June morning when I give surfing school a try.


One of the things I love most about writing is the sheer ability to learn every single time you write a story or a post. Sometimes that’s a small lesson about a product. Other times it is a big lesson about life and parenting, sparing the environment, or finding new technology that changes your lifestyle. And then there are the epic adventures that come along with travel writing. Taking a turtle nesting walk was one of those big travel experiences. Learning to ski a couple of years ago was a massive travel experience and now so is this. After today, Stuart, Florida will forever be the place where I went to surfing school.

This past month I took a trip to Indian River County and Martin County Florida. In Indian River County I tried paddle boarding and kayaking. In Martin County, I am talking swells and popups. Learning the language of surfing.

We meet the instructor at the walkway to Stuart Beach. Earlier this week I was here scoping out this pristine little corner of heaven. Stuart Beach was calm then, as it is now, except for a group of children who have traded in school classrooms for the ocean and a surf board. This strip of white, sandy beach is decorated with the most perfect seashells you will ever find, anywhere you travel. A day or two ago I bent to gather some for photos and souvenirs….just a couple of immaculate shells…and one or two tiny ones with a pin prick hole already beneath the lip. I know my teen will make this into jewelry and appreciate it more than anything I could buy. I pocket them, take pictures and then move on throughout the area, exploring for my last two days.


I follow the instructor to the beach and he tells me a couple of quick things about what to expect before we wade out. It is gentle here and the waves are not overwhelming. Sometimes paddle boards are used for the surfing school because they work as well as surfboards when you are learning. Ohana surfing school supplies the equipment needed. You bring the bathing suits, lunches, and sunscreen. The only other thing you need is an ability to try, to learn and to have fun. Ohana Surfing School summer camp is about $200 a week and it is recommended for ages five and up. Ohana is not the only surfing school in the county, but it is the one I am talking to today.


A few weeks prior to this when I was getting ready to travel and write about Martin County, Florida I was asked would I like to try surfing lessons? YES!! OF COURSE, I said. The I started to think about the idea of surfing lessons and I freaked myself out a bit. Despite having a pool and knowing how to swim, I am not a strong swimmer.. So surfing school?

I figured surfing would be a great physical challenge for me. I also figured WHY NOT? In fact, why not is the filter through which I now weigh most of my travel opportunities and adventures. If not now, when and – why not? I was immediately a bit terrified, so of course I said yes.


Ohana Surfing School

Step 1: Getting on the surfboard in the water, which moves. The waves are not huge but you can see in the photo above that they are there. The water undulates and hits your legs and sometimes almost knocks you over walking so, how on earth? Now imagine that you are putting a surf board down on the water and you need to hop onto it. It took me a few moments to negotiate how to do that one and then I was on the board. Seated.

Sep 2: Lay down flat on your stomach. For a person who is still not a massive fan of getting her face wet, that required a small amount of faith and trust.

surfing_school_meeting_2The morning we did our lesson, the campers trickled in. Once they are all present, they have what’s called a family meeting. A pep talk, followed by some of the expectations and newsy announcements of the day.


Back on the water, I am resting on this board comfortably.

Step 3: Establish dominant foot for stance.

Brett asks if I snowboard. I do not. I ski. But skiing doesn’t really help much here, although it has helped my core and leg strength. I stand up, wobbly and we determine which is my dominant foot. He shows me how to space my feet about shoulder width apart, one slightly in front of the other and then he tells me to lay flat again.

Step 4: Practice laying on the board and peeling off sort of like cobra pose. I practice this prone on my stomach, to knees, to almost plank position as he holds the board and then up to stand. And again. We do this probably 15 times while he holds the board. That’s the popup. We haven’t even added waves yet.


Once I feel confident in the popup without waves, then we wait for the waves in the ocean. This I discovered is something I could do all day. I am resting on my stomach facing the shoreline. Brett holds the end of the board and searches for small waves. It is relaxing, like being on a boat on a sunny day. I could picture falling asleep out here waiting for the waves to come. I can also easily imagine how exhausted the kids are when they leave this camp. For sure my girls would sleep well after this much water activity.


When a wave finally comes, he tells me get ready and practice paddling. He gives the board a shove and I paddle my arms as much as possible, before he tells me: Now popup. I wish I could tell you I was a natural. But I was not. I made it to standing eventually that first time about four feet from shore. The movement, and the series of tasks while the board was flying over the waves, was challenging. Then when it stopped, that presented a new issue. How to get off the board? Well I opted for the run and jump off the first time. The second time I flailed and fell in and the third time I just lost my balance and fell off to the side. That final fall was a kicker though as the board hit me gently on the head and went right over top of me. I shoved it out of the way and emerged from the water not so gracefully. Never mind. Grace is overrated.

The BLOOPERS REEL. Or the times I fell off at the end. My dismount needs work.

The thing about surfing I think is that it’s a bit like skiing. Practice makes perfect. So, move to a spot where there’s lots of water and great waves and keep trying. Take a lesson or two, go to surfing school and eventually you will improve. Frankly the kids in surfing school summer camp pick it up fast. Brett said even the kids who come to camp indicating they will NEVER try that, typically end up happily chasing waves within a couple of days.

Proof I stood up and had some success.

The Ohana surfing school summer camp is the coolest summer camp I have ever seen in action. In fact, people fly their families in from out of state so the kids can have a chance to learn this incredibly fun water sport. By the time I am done my lesson, I am mentally adding up the potential costs of getting my kids to Stuart Beach so they could learn to surf with Ohana. The feeling of being able to balance while flying over the water is more than worth the effort involved in learning.

I was a guest of Martin County and Indian River County while in Florida and have been working with them to tell these stories. I have received perks, accommodations, tours, flights, meals and other compensation. My opinion is all my own and it is truthful. Many thanks to Nerissa for taking pictures while I tried to surf. 

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.


  • Melissa Dixon

    Wow this looks like a lot of fun and it looks like you were getting the hang of it. Your instructor looks like a surfer too how cool. I would be disappointed if I showed up and my surf instructor was not the kind of guy to say far out or dude. lol I am silly!

  • Dee

    What a cool and awesome experience. I honestly don’t think that I could serf. Even if i had the world’s best teacher I just cant see myself doing it so I give you props for stepping out and giving it a try.

  • Jeanine

    So much fun! Would love to attend a surf school. This would be so fun. I think my oldest would love something like this too!

  • Liz Mays

    That actually sounded like an awesome time. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I think I’d consider learning how to surf with a school like this.

  • Amanda Love

    This is what I love about being a blogger, you get to learn new things along the way! I’m sure you had a blast, it shows through the smile on your face! I would love to learn how to surf, it’s so exciting and it’s looks like a lot of fun! I’m going to have my fair share of embarrassing moments for sure!

  • Rebecca Swenor

    Ohana Surf School sounds like a great place to learn to surf. It is always fun to try doing something we have never done or thought about doing. The summer camp for the kids sounds like a great summer camp for them. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Paula

      Rebecca: YES it was so unique and fun and the camp itself looked incredible. I would absolutely bring my kids just to do this for a week in Stuart.

  • Bella B

    This must have been so much fun! I’ve always wanted to learn to surf, I think it needs to happen this summer! Great pics!