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What Will You Learn on an Intermediate Surf Camp?

by Octavia Drughi

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You’ve experienced the rush of catching your very first waves and now you’re hooked. You want more. But as you progress from beginner to intermediate, things start to get even more complicated. Fret not – an intermediate surf camp can make the process a lot easier.

Before you can read, assess, catch, and surf waves all on your own, you need practice. Plenty of it! There’ll be moments of sheer happiness, of doubt, and fear. Your commitment to surfing will be put to the test.

You must learn all the challenging techniques and maneuvers needed to control your board on a wave and successfully ride it from start to finish. And what better way to take your skills up a notch than by going on an intermediate surf camp?


But first, what is an intermediate surfer?


Image credit: Tiny Whale Surf and Kite Lodge

There are many stages of surfing progression, and none of them is easy. First, you must transition from beginner to intermediate – moving from surfing in whitewater (broken waves) to green waves (unbroken waves). Then, you must fine-tune your intermediate skills. Only after you’ve mastered most maneuvers can you work on progressing from intermediate to advanced.

A beginner-intermediate can catch green waves and can do simple one-turn maneuvers like the bottom turn, as well as weak cutbacks, top turns, and carvings.

An intermediate surfer can paddle out alone at a familiar location where he or she can catch and ride waves to a logical finish either frontside or backside. He or she can confidently use the three basic turns: bottom turn, top turn, and cutback.

» If you’re still new to the journey, find out what will you learn on a surf camp for beginners.


And why should you go on an intermediate surf camp?


Image credit: Homegrown

If you want to take your surfing to the next level, a surf camp offers a fun and encouraging approach.

If you don’t want to invest in equipment just yet, you’re not comfortable surfing alone and need some guidance figuring out how to correctly perform those tricky maneuvers, an intermediate surf camp could give you the confidence you need to progress.  

Furthermore, it’ll save you the hassle of traveling long distances with your surfboard and having to find accommodation, equipment rental, and transportation to the best waves of the day separately.



During the first lesson, the coach will assess your level and establish your goals for the next days. You’ll join a small group of surfers with similar abilities. Most surf camps offer personalized hand-on tuition to maximize each person’s surfing potential.

You’ll be given the right surfboard and you’ll be taken to the best waves of the day for your level, visiting various spots to gain more knowledge about the different kind of waves. Most surf camps offer free use of the surfing equipment outside the lessons, so you’ll have plenty of time for self-practice too.

A great way to progress is to see yourself. And no, I don’t mean selfies. I mean actual footage of you as you surf. Many surf camps include video coaching in their packages. This means that they take photos and videos of you while you surf. Together with your instructor, you’ll analyze this footage to find your strengths and weaknesses.


So, what will you learn on a surf camp for intermediate surfers?


First and foremost, you’ll amp up your skills as an intermediate surfer – learn the rules of the lineup, paddle towards bigger waves, generate speed, master the basic turns, and surf overhead waves.

If you’re already comfortable with these, you can take it one step further and learn other high-performance maneuvers, get barreled, and even surf double-overhead waves.


What will you learn on the beach?


Image credit: Elsewhere Surf Camps

All surf sessions start with a warm-up on the beach. Through an intensive stretching routine, you’ll improve your stamina and lower the chance of muscle and ligament injuries.

Also on the beach, you’ll practice the proper paddling and popping up techniques and learn more about positioning and timing. There’ll be surf theory and oceanography talks as well.


General safety

Each day before heading out into the ocean, there’ll be a surf theory session on the beach. You’ll go through the surfing etiquette that anyone should follow. The safety talk differs from spot to spot and depends on the conditions of the day.


Oceanography and surfing conditions


Image credit: The Surf Hotel Morocco

In order to be able to choose the right wave for your level, you must first learn how to read the waves. This will help you assess how it will break and how much speed you’ll need to ride it. You must also know the different types of surf breaks, how wind and tides influence the surfing conditions, and be aware of rip currents and danger zones.

You’ll learn about weather systems, how to read swell charts, about oceanography, and how to effectively work with the ocean.

» Not quite sure how the ocean works? Find out how waves are formed and learn the anatomy of a perfect wave.


Surfboard design and fin setup

You’ll go through technical information about the surfing equipment, learning about surfboard design and which type of board is right for you and for waves you’ll be riding. On bigger waves, you’ll need more speed, and a board with less rocker generates more speed than a board with more curvature.

You’ll also learn about different fin designs and how they affect your surfboard’s speed. For example, a twin-fin setup will be faster than a traditional thruster.


What will you learn in the water?


Depending on the location of the surf camp, you’ll be taken to either friendly reefs or points, or to more advanced beach breaks. You’ll learn how to paddle efficiently, how to position yourself in the lineup, time your take-off, generate speed, and change your direction.


Paddle efficiently


Image credit: Kali Vice Surf Villa

In order to charge bigger and more powerful waves, you must improve your paddling technique. Keep your elbows high as your arms cut into the water. You should use powerful paddle strokes and get your arms as deep as possible.

Your feet are important too. To generate speed, move your feet forward on the board. To change direction, move one foot back on the tail to make a turn.




Image credit: Kali Vice Surf Villa

Your position on the board is key, and you’ll get a solid grasp of the correct foot and arm placements, as well as the adequate bend in your knees.

Steer with your head, not your feet. Where you look and the direction in which you turn your head is where you’ll go. First, you turn your head, then your upper body, followed by the hips and the legs. For all surfing maneuvers, keep your head centered over your body.

Once you have a proper surf stance, you’ll be able to adjust your weight distribution on the board.


Generate speed


Perhaps the biggest difference between beginner and intermediate surfers is the ability to generate their own speed. This can be done by throwing the arms forward, compressing and decompressing up and down the wave’s face, and using the rails properly.

At the very core of staying in front of a breaking wave is speed control. The easiest way to accelerate is to move your weight on the front foot. To slow down, shift your weight on the back foot.

In order to accelerate, you must use the wave’s power. Your position on the wave is of utmost importance. To generate speed, you should stay close to the pocket (the top third of the wave, closest to the lip), which is the steepest and most powerful part of the wave.


Pump, trim, and carve


Pumping refers to going up and down the wave in smooth motions. This will help you reposition yourself on the steeper section of the wave (the pocket) and use its power to propel you forward.

When you go down, you should compress (bend your knees and be heavy). When you reach the bottom of the wave, you must decompress (unbend your knees to stay high and light). By repeating this maneuver, you’ll generate enough speed for your next turn or maneuver. You should surf on your rails as you pump up and down the wave.

Trimming means making small adjustments on the face of a wave, going slightly up or down to surf the shoulder in order to maintain your speed. Trimming is done by transferring your weight to either your heels or your toes, especially on your front foot.

Carving means changing your direction in open sections of the wave. In order to perform these sharp and deep turns, you must lift the nose of the board. By shifting your weight to either the heel or the toes of your back leg, you’ll raise the nose and pivot to the right or left. Carving is at the core of many most surfing maneuvers, including the bottom turn and the cutback.


Master the bottom turn


The bottom turn is a smooth yet powerful turn at the bottom of the wave. It is the first turn you make on a wave after dropping in. It transforms the vertical energy gained from dropping the wave into horizontal energy, giving you speed and direction for your first maneuver on the wave.

The bottom turn is the most important surfing maneuver. Even after years of practice, some surfers’ bottom turn could still use improvement. If you lose speed or stall when you do yours, then you need to work on it.


Learn other surfing maneuvers


Once you’ve mastered the bottom turn, you can work on learning or improving other surfing maneuvers:

  • cutback – carve on the wave’s wall, reducing the speed by going back towards the curl
  • top turn – ride to the top of the face and turn back down
  • off the lip – vertical top turn in which half the board is projected off the wave’s lip
  • frontside snap – radical change of direction in the pocket or the top of the wave
  • floater – gliding horizontally over the wave’s lip


Identify your weaknesses

Through technique correction via video coaching, the instructors will help you identify and work on your weaknesses. If you’re struggling with your bottom turn, then your coach will probably recommend insisting on it. If cutbacks are your weakness, then you’ll work on perfecting them.


Final words

Moving past beginner level and becoming a competent intermediate takes a lot of effort and commitment. You must take your time and learn from your mistakes. But, most importantly, you must have fun!


Join a budget surf camp for intermediates and surf more with less!

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