Some folks might think that surfing is a sport for youngsters. Light, wiry bodies seem better suited to take the punishment delivered by a barreling wall of water. But Lou Maresca, founder of the Central Florida Surf School in Vero Beach, disagrees.
"I can teach anybody how to surf," said Maresca, who has probably taught more people how to surf than anyone in the Sunshine State. "It doesn't matter if you are a man, woman, how old you are or your degree of athletic ability, you can surf with a little instruction."
The majority of surfers learn to surf through trial and error. But this can be a slow and, at times, painful process. Paddle out on your own and it can take six months to a year before a would-be surfer actually "catches" a wave.
"I usually get most people standing up on a board within a day," Maresca said. "It usually doesn't take more than one or two lessons before somebody is actually surfing."
The Central Florida Surf School, founded in 1993, is Florida's oldest and best-known wave-riding academy. The school offers lessons, for both individuals and groups, at locations in Fort Pierce Inlet, Wabasso, Sebastian Inlet and other Treasure Coast locations. Students learn the basics - water safety, board handling, paddling, popping up and riding - on the first day. Subsequent lessons focus on surfing's finer points, such as how to read the ocean, pick a wave and even some basic board tricks.
A big mistake many would-be surfers make is buying a board (usually the wrong one) then paddling out into the line-up without any basic knowledge. This kind of approach can make would-be surfers a danger to themselves and others.
Florida has literally dozens of surfing schools - The Central Florida Surf School can be found at www.surfschoolcamp.com or by calling 321-733-6422 - and which one to choose is really a matter of personal preference.
But keep two things to in mind when deciding. Look for a school that teaches with longboards because they are easier to ride, and as a result, you will be more likely to stand up faster. If possible, find a school that has "soft," of foam-top boards, because starting out, you are bound to fall.
The Ron John Surfing School by Craig Carroll is located on Cocoa’s world-famous beach. Cocoa Beach has a gradually sloping sandy bottom, there's consistent surf and it's as good as any place on the East Coast to learn how to surf. After all, it's where 10-time world champion Kelly Slater got his start.
Florida Surf Lessons in Jupiter (www.floridasurflessons.com or 561-625-5375) serves the southeast coast, from Miami to Cocoa. The school teaches both adults and children in private or group settings. Florida Surf Lessons also offers corporate team building events as well as group clinics.
For younger students, there is the Nex Generation Surf School in Cocoa Beach (www.nexgensurf.com or 321-591-9577) which uses both soft short and longboards. Students can also learn skateboarding and water safety. The school runs a series of 11 week-long summer camps in Cocoa Beach.
For more instruction in the "Hawaiian Sport of Kings," check out the Aloha Surfing School in Jupiter (www.alohasurfingschool.com or 561-543-SURF). Lead instructor Paul Vargas teaches with an international flair, having surfed breaks as far away as Australia and South Africa.
Brevard County has numerous reputable surf schools as well. For a complete listing, go to www.boardheads2.com.