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How to choose the best summer surf camp

Posted by on Apr 25, 2014 in Surfing

How to choose the best summer surf camp

School or Camp: Though the terms are used interchangeably, when I speak here of a ‘surf school’, I think of a place – perhaps open beyond summer – where people go for surf lessons. When I say ‘surf camp’, I’m referring to the place where you drop the kids off every day during summer, a summer camp (Banzai does both). On a side note: The word ‘camp’ can be a misnomer too: There are NO ‘overnight camping’ surf camps in northern OC. Otherwise, picking the right surf camp is a lot like picking a baby sitter; Trust is everything. Here are a few pointers on how to quiz your prospective surf camp. • Ask what the camps ‘student-to-instructor’ ratio is. This will give the best indication of how much personal attention your child will get. The younger the child, the lower that ratio should be. (This is why Banzai Surf requires a private 1:1 lesson for kids eight and under, and we can’t accept them in our summer camp). Surf camps typically staff anywhere from three to ten kids per instructor; The ratio may vary depending on ages, skill level, and surf conditions. • Ask how much actual water-time your kids will get. Most schools will rotate students, being as there may be sixty kids and only twenty surfboards. The amount of actual time they spend surfing might take some of the shine off the “bargain” price. • You should also find out if a surf camp/school has an actual permit to operate on the beach, and where. This would seem obvious, but the illegal (“pirate”) surf schools have gotten more brazen, using expensive websites and marketing. Having your kids at a “school” that doesn’t have a permit exposes them to a variety of risks, such as a lack of safety oversight, and a staff that isn’t background checked or qualified. Also, if they are caught, you could lose your money. Legally permitted schools – through the fees they pay – contribute to the care and maintenance of beaches. Illegal schools not only don’t pay these fees, they compete with an unfair price advantage (ie Groupon deals, etc). In reality, a rogue surf school would be unlikely to offer a week-long surf camp; It’s too conspicuous. It’s more likely they would try to talk parents into a ‘package of lessons’ at a variety of locations, with the selling point being that they can ‘do lessons anywhere you’d like’. This is because they aren’t permitted in any one location, and keep moving to stay ahead of the authorities. They may offer to pick-up and drive kids/customers, also illegal. They may also have a ‘shop’ where you’d meet, make payment, and do all the basic land instructions, so as to not call attention to themselves on the beach. Remember that anyone can put up a nice website and get a business...

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The Stingray Shuffle

Posted by on Apr 6, 2014 in Surfing

The Stingray Shuffle

Confession: I may be the only surf instructor in Huntington who hasn’t been hit by a stingray. I’ll credit this to two things: • My good habit of ‘shuffle and stomp’ to let them know I’m coming, • Limiting the area that I/we are occupying, • and my vulcan atomic force-field :). For surf instructors, it’s not a matter of ‘IF’, it’s ‘when’; We’re much more vulnerable than most because of the huge amount of time we spend in the water, walking around where most surfers would jump and paddle, avoiding stingrays. Our area in south Huntington Beach has fewer stingray problems than areas to the north like Bolsa Chica and Seal Beach. Banzai customers with stingray injuries total just over a handful a year, and that’s mostly during the springtime, when the bottom is stirred up with short-period swells. That’s a pretty small percentage, when you consider that we see over a thousand customers per year. Still, it represents one of our more common injuries, and it’s fairly preventable: • Any time you’re walking on a sand bottom, SHUFFLE your feet. I would add a little stomp to that, but ONLY (of course) in the area you’ve already cleared and ‘claimed’. This scares them away. Rays don’t want to be stepped on, and in fact, are timid. We may be approaching this all wrong: There are areas in the Bahamas where the rays are a tourist attraction; They’re handled, fed, and actually seem to enjoy contact with humans. A stingray injury hurts more than a bee sting, sometimes much more so, but is almost never fatal. Treatment for stingray injury involves hot water, and lots of it. The heat breaks down the protein venom. The hotter the better – generally above 110º F. During the peak summer months, the lifeguard headquarters become ‘social clubs’ full of ‘SRV’s (Sting Ray Victims), seated with their feet in warm buckets, trading stories about the big one that didn’t get away. At Banzai we’ve also treated people by applying mustard, which is a good addition to your beach First Aid kit if there’s a delay getting to hot water. It works; I’ve done some research, and this may have something to do with the turmeric in mustard. (Turmeric is being used is some snake antivenoms) I’m currently working on a balm that I hope to have ready to test this summer at the nations’ stingray capital, Seal Beach, CA. Meanwhile, do the rays a courtesy and keep shuffling.         – Jaz...

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More Surfer Jokes

Posted by on Mar 18, 2014 in Surfing

More Surfer Jokes

A little boy is learning to surf, and when he and the father get to the beach, once again, the waves are windy and sloppy. The boy asks, “Daddy, what makes the wind blow?” Father says, “It’s caused when daddy puts on his wetsuit”. Did you hear about the guy who was new to Huntington Beach? He got pulled over because his tide chart was expired. Q: How do you get a surfer to school on time? A: Tell him the waves are crappy. Q: What’s a surfers favorite piece of clothing? A: Tube socks. Surfing is one of the few sports where you can pee whenever you want. That’s why they call them ‘wetsuits’. A surfer is watching the waves with his wife, and he can’t help but to talk about the waves the same way he talks about women: “Wooo! I’d like to ride THAT one.” Just then his wife pipes in, “Ahhh, you’d just blow it on the takeoff anyway”. How can you spot a surfer at a wedding? He’s the one that’s not there. The Farallon Island shark rumors are greatly exaggerated; The surfer population there numbers four and a half. Q: What’s the difference between a surfer and a large pizza? A: A large pizza can feed a family of five. Q: Why did the surfer invest in oil? A: He heard he could get a barrel for ninety-eight bucks. Three old surfers are standing on the beach. The first one says, “Jeez, surfing at my age is getting more and more like sex”. The second one says, “You mean you hardly do it anymore?” The third one says, “No, he wishes he had a bigger board”. – Jaz...

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Buttons Remembered

Posted by on Nov 2, 2013 in Surfing

Buttons Remembered

One of my oldest friends passed away today. Buttons Montgomery Kaluhiokalani lost his fight with cancer. He was 54. Buttons had a list of surf contest credits, but those become incidental when compared to the playful exuberance that led him to become one of the most inventive and influential surf legends ever. Many people know him only as ‘that guy who got busted by “Dog the Bounty Hunter”, but his appearance on that show was an insult to Button’s legacy. I first met Buttons back ‘hanabada days’, at the Waikiki Beach Center, when we were both young teens. At the time, Buttons was this scrawny little kid. He was already hanging out with life-of-the-party Mark Liddell, years before they traveled and ‘starred’ in surf movies. Bertlemann made an occasional appearance, and Reno Abellira’s little brother Remi was a regular. Then there were the Waikiki alpha-male’s: Cippy Cabato, Little Al, Buckwheat, Bobby Mendoza… We were once labeled by the Honolulu Advertiser as ‘the Beach Center Gang’, and even got our group shot on the front page. That was pretty funny. We did make some ‘pilikia’ from time to time; Sometimes, if the waves weren’t happening we’d start fights with the tourists. (Uh, that “we” is confined to a very few :). I didn’t see Buttons for a long time after I started high school, when I left the Waikiki crew for Ala Moana park. I remember talking to him out at Ehukai on the north shore during the 70’s. That day looked like it wasn’t worth surfing, so I grabbed my fins and went out bodysurfing – Buttons was on a period single fin. We were the only guys in the water. He was taking off and carving 360’s on closeouts, and I had a front row seat. I was getting jealous and blown away all at the same time. He’d come such a long way. I left for California in the 80’s to do standup comedy, and only ran into Buttons once in a blue moon on my return trips. I shared my show biz stories, and once even tried to convince him that they’d like ‘his look’ in Hollywood, and I could connect him with my agent. He wasn’t the star-struck type. Now I feel stupid for bringing it up – it was such an ‘LA thing’ to do. I opened Banzai Surf School in 2010, and we quickly became ‘sista’ schools and shared customers. I always thought it was kinda funny, after our long and different life paths, that we both wound up in the same business. His passion for the sport and aloha spirit will be missed. The hardest part about his passing is that Buttons takes with him another piece of my oldest memories of Hawaii....

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What about Sharks?

Posted by on Aug 4, 2013 in Surfing

What about Sharks?

If you’re worried about a shark attack in Orange County, you might as well start buying lotto tickets; You’ll have better odds. Yet I still get calls, questions, and even customers cancelling their surf lessons (whu?!), because of fears about sharks. On top of that, at Banzai our surf lessons take place on a sand bottom in (what is usually) waist deep water. That’s hardly the happy hunting grounds. Today is the official start of “Shark Week” (which the Discovery Channel cleverly schedules in mid-summer), and that doesn’t help much. It’s become a summer tradition along with barbeques and higher gas prices. I should mention that my attitude towards sharks is pretty casual; I went on a ‘shark dive’ in the south pacific, and found sharks to be less aggressive than most car salesman and attorneys. During the pre-dive briefing, I asked if we could pet the sharks. Everyone laughed. I was serious. I will add though, that getting snorkel gear on while peering down at those toothy dark shadows swirling beneath you, sets off every old Hollywood alarm bell in your head. I’ll admit it: I wasn’t the FIRST one in the water, but I was the last one out. The truth is, sharks are a non-issue in Huntington Beach. That is (according to the International Shark Attack File), in the past eighty years, there’s been ONE shark attack in Orange County. Think about that: ONE attack in eighty years. When you consider that statistic against the tens of thousands of bathers and surfers that enjoy the beaches in Southern California every summer, it’s almost a sad indication of our lack of sea life, or, … excitement. But what I think has happened, is that sharks (if they see you at all, which is unlikely) view surfers and bathers as common flotsam; To the shark, we don’t really appear to be food. Which brings me to my favorite shark diving safety tip: Don’t act like food. Now, that’s not to say that sharks aren’t out there. Of course they are: cute little sand sharks, pretty leopard sharks, … all kinds of PET sharks – squirrelly shy little bottom feeders who didn’t make the cut as ‘MAN-EATERS’, and got laughed out of the shark fraternity and sent to Huntington. When to worry … The biggest clue that you have a shark problem is if there’s a guy named ‘Stitches’ at the surf shop trying to sell you a wetsuit with a leg missing. So, I stand by my original statement: It’s a non-issue. And I can recite all the goofy statistics: • “You’ve got better odds of being struck by lightning”. Not so comforting a thought, as I sit here wearing my chromium antenna hat. • “You’ve got better odds of dying from a falling coconut”. (Never mind that there aren’t any coconut trees in SoCal, but perhaps that...

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