Planning a Surf Trip with Rapture Camps

Surf’s Up! Planning a Surfing Trip this Summer

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My first solo trip abroad 20 years ago was five weeks in Europe, during which I backpacked around on my own, no real agenda in mind, going wherever the wind took me. I went canyoning in Switzerland, I climbed a mountain in Northern Italy, I jumped out of plane in Spain. More recent years have found me planning a surfing trip to Barbados or learning how to dive in the Bahamas

Planning a Surf Trip with Rapture Camps

I guess you could say I’ve always been drawn to active vacations; while I like to wander around town on a self-guided photo tour, I’m most in my element when out and about doing something.

Now that I’ve overcome my fear of the ocean, many of my adventures abroad include water sports: diving, SUP yoga and even surfing. I first tried my hand at surfing when I was in Barbados many years ago and subsequent attempts in Hawaii and the Caribbean gave me the bug—and now, after meeting Simon and checking out some of the options out his way, participating in a full-on surf retreat is on my immediate to-do list.

Planning a Surf Trip with Rapture Camps

Being a California boy, SVV has surfed since he could walk. Our first big vacation together was 10 days in Portugal, which is still our favorite shared travel experience to date, and I watched him paddle out into the blue crush and ride wave after wave in. I was jealous of that ability to just hop up on a board and become One with the sea. And, I’ll be honest, my competitive spirit makes me want to get better so I can go nose to nose with his board.

That said, surfing is one of those sports that, unless you’re an athletic savant, doesn’t come easy. Learning the basics like paddling, laying on the board, bouncing up, wave timing and essential safety when handling a large piece of fiberglass in an unpredictable and fluid environment is critical to you not only picking up on it fast, but also whether you’ll actually do it again—and get better.

Planning a Surf Trip with Rapture Camps

And the truth is, I’m never going to get better just taking out a board once every year or two on vacation. So I’m thinking that SVV and I will just have to return to our favorite spot, exactly 10 years later after that initial visit, so I can become a pro on a board just like him—don’t you agree?

Planning a Surf Trip with Rapture Camps

Here are some prime spots to learn how to surf:

Portugal. On our trip, SVV and I were flitting about the southwestern coast on the Algarve staying in pensão run by cute, little retired women, but we’ve had our eyes on a Portugal surf camp located just north of Lisbon—one of my favorite European cities, I might add—is also in an amazing spot, and literally footprints away from the surf. If you don’t know this already, then you can thank me later but coastal Portugal is one of the last places on earth to find an authentic travel experience free from the clutter of typical destinations’ tourist eyesores.

Planning a Surf Trip with Rapture Camps

Most of the locals speak some English if you’re hesitant to tackle the language barrier, the transportation system has benefited from European integration in an immense way and OMG the food and sangria is absolutely sinful—and cheap. (Still dreaming of those couple carafes we shared while still getting to know each other. We haven’t been able to replicate them yet either!)

Planning a Surf Trip with Rapture Camps

Bali. Neither of us has been to Indonesia, but some of the most epic surfing (and beaches) on the planet exists there. You know that picture perfect wave you’ve seen on the interwebs, extreme television or gracing the wall of your therapist’s office? Ninety-nine percent chance it was taken out on the sandy stretches of an Indonesian coastline.

Planning a Surf Trip with Rapture Camps
Planning a Surf Trip with Rapture Camps

Having been to that part of the world, however, makes me appreciate the thought of this little enclave of surf culture amid the more well-known vacation spots that typically lure in the tourists. They call it “the true Bali experience,” and after watching videos on YouTube, it’s tough for me to argue with that.

Planning a Surf Trip with Rapture Camps

Planning a Surf Trip with Rapture Camps
Planning a Surf Trip with Rapture Camps

Planning a Surf Trip with Rapture Camps

After thinking about this a little harder, I feel the only real way to get better at surfing is to try out both of these. Obviously. Care to join me?

Planning a Surf Trip with Rapture Camps

Have you ever been on a surfing retreat? What would be your dream surf destination if you could go anywhere?



How to Plan the Perfect Surf Trip This Summer

  • February 17, 2016

    I had my first surf experience a couple of months ago in Bali. They told us Kuta was the best place for beginners that time of the year, so we took a couple of lessons and practiced a couple of days on our own. It feels great to be able to catch a (small) wave (more or less), but it takes a lot of failed attempts to get there. The ocean is relentless and I have never gotten so much salt water in my nose. I hate that it looks so easy when someone else does it. I’m not sure if I want to try again, but my boyfriend loves it. We’ll see!

    • February 29, 2016

      I think that’s exactly what I need to really get a feel for surfing. Barbados was good for that, too, but man Hawaii and California were NOT ideal places for beginners. The waves are way too big there! Bali it is =)

  • February 18, 2016

    Nice post! thanks for the sharing…

  • February 18, 2016

    I did some surfing and SUP when I lived in Maui but would loved to do a retreat like this! Thanks for sharing.

    • February 29, 2016

      How were the waves on Maui? I tried on the North Shore of Oahu and they were way too scary for a beginner like me.

      • March 1, 2016

        The North Shore of Maui was way too intimidating for me. There are a few awesome beginner spots: The Cove on the South side and Launiopoko/Oluwalu on the West Side.

  • February 19, 2016

    I attempted to surf in Samara, Costa Rica. Not only were the waves often too tiny; I had difficulty on land to jump on the board let alone in the sea 🙂 I had planned to go to a surf retreat a long time ago, but lately I’ve not been thinking about it. The destination I was looking at was San Sebastian in Spain.

    • February 29, 2016

      Which is not far from Portugal! Let’s do a San Sebastian-Portugal combo trip. I love SS; it’s my favorite city in Spain!

      • March 5, 2016

        That would be great! I’ve never visited the Northern part of the Iberian peninsula and I would love to try some of the famous Pintxos! 🙂

        • March 8, 2016

          SO GOOD. Now you’re making me hungry for pintxos at 9am 😉

  • February 19, 2016

    I have never surfed, though it is a popular sport here in Sardinia where I live. I would love to try it in fact. All I can say, though, is this: don’t expect too much from Bali. I visited last October and found it to be too crowded, too dirty, too commercial.

    • March 8, 2016

      I bet the waves are just right in Sardinia. I have been to Sicily and Corsica but I still need to make it to your lovely island!

      Duly noted re: Bali 😉

  • February 23, 2016

    Wonderful and insightful! Wow, the places you’ve been! I’m a San Diego surfer myself. Southern California is a huge draw for waves and (various) ways to ride them.
    A really cool retreat is in Laguna Beach, California – a program called Shape Surf and Stay- you get lessons in surfboard craftsmanship and once you’ve created your own board, then you get surfing lessons. The stay part involves two nights at a cute beachy hotel that offers the package.

  • February 23, 2016

    Surf’s up! What an awesome article– I just arrived in Australia and plan to take on surf camp next weekend! Bondi Beach has some awesome waves…native Australians embrace a large surfing culture here! I’m glad Bali has many options as well, I hope to travel there and surf as much as possible in tropical Indonesia!

  • February 24, 2016

    I’ve lived in California my whole life and have never felt the need to go surfing. I lack the coordination required. Lol

    Great pics!

  • March 4, 2016

    Cool article! Surfing (and other water sports) are such a great way to get outside and get some exercise, plus it’s just plain ‘ol fun! Great shots too!


  • March 6, 2016

    I want to take lessons but I don’t know why I am so scare

  • April 8, 2016

    Thanks for sharing 🙂 And your photos are brilliant 🙂

    • April 23, 2016

      Thank you so much, Glenn! That’s sweet of you to say.

  • April 22, 2016

    I am pretty excited you wrote this, I am actually taking my first trip to Europe & I am leaning towards Lisbon, I always come here to check out if you have visited where I am thinking about going and I am glad you say it is one of your favorite European cities. I have always toyed with a surfing trip myself, so it is nice seeing all these places I can go and learn.

    • April 23, 2016

      Ahhh thank you! Let me know where you end up going there; there are so many cool surf towns along the Algarve/southern coat. I LOVE Lisbon so much, you can’t go wrong. Scott surfed while we were there for the first time in 2006, but unfortunately I was but a bystander. Next time, though, I’m in =)

      • April 25, 2016

        Yep, I think you sealed the deal for me. I am going to go ahead and plan on Lisbon for my 34th b-day 🙂 Now to start working out so I can be ready for those hills. I have literally read NOTHING bad anywhere on Lisbon. I think it is great choice for my first trip to Europe especially since I will be solo.

  • June 9, 2016

    As a surfer,there are many fears surrounding surfing but my only secret is to stop being afraid!I always push myself to improve. My first surfing can be a scary experience but i think my fears go away when I started to have fun and I never go into surf that I can’t handle.

  • September 8, 2016

    These are all wonderful destinations! I recently visited Bali with my fiance, and it was beautiful and so much fun! Nice overview! Thanks so much for posting this!

  • November 13, 2016

    I’ve always wanted to go to Bali, I didn’t know that they had good surfing there too. Definitely added to my bucket lis.t

  • November 15, 2016

    I just showed my wife these pics, that water is so blue. We live by the beach but the water definitely isnt that pretty

  • December 2, 2016

    To Bali or not to Bali….I guess that’s the question. I, too, am looking for the best place for beginners surfing but I don’t enjoy the big crowds. Thanks for the great pics. They keep me inspired.

  • January 12, 2017

    Amazing photos!!!

    Many new surfers will take their first surf trip with the purpose of learning to surf by finding a good surf camp. A simple search online will reveal hundreds of surf camps around the world. There are many surf camps in places. These surf camps are often a week long and are staffed with skilled surf instructors.

  • February 5, 2017

    Growing up at the beach and having a fear for the ocean I learned to surf a non-traditional way. I’d take a lesson here and there when I got the nerve to go deeper than my knees in the ocean. As you can guess it took me years to surf. Looking back I wish I had gone to a surfing retreat not only to learn to surf but to overcome my fear. Have you fully overcome yours?

  • March 14, 2017

    Awesome pictures and post. Thanks for sharing this blog post. I really want to try surfing even just once in my lifetime. It looks hard though with all the balancing thing you need to do. But i bet the experience will be extraordinary. I am just wondering if I can do surfing if I don’t know how to swim, I can float though. Can you surf when you don’t know how to swim?

  • March 31, 2017

    Hey Buddy,

    How are you doing??

    First of all thank you so much for sharing this wonderful post. It was very informative, but the thing that I liked the most was—those amazing pictures. I am a big fan of surfing, but due to my busy schedule, I could not take much time off for surfing. But your post has inspired me so much that I am planning to go to Fiji in the coming month. I hope I would have a good surfing time over there.

  • April 26, 2017

    Living vicariously through these images. Always wondered how Bali and the rest of the Southwest Pacific was.

  • November 7, 2017

    Want to embrace true Bali. Magnificent pictures and posts. Am happy Bali has numerous alternatives to surf. Actually am bit scared but after seeing your pictures am tempted and want to surf once.

  • November 2, 2021

    This is fantastic! Amazing guide and wonderful photos! It’s making me crave to be on a surfing holiday again! The spots in Portugal is breathtaking!

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