Santa Cruz Surfers Protest Local Surf Instructors

posted by / News / September 6, 2005

“If You Ride A Foamie, You Ain’t My Homie”“Sport of Kings, School of Kooks”“Surf Schools Are Kook Factories”

These are just a few of the hand-made signs carried by over 50 Santa Cruz surfers protesting the recent outbreak of surf schools crowding their local lineups as they marched between Pleasure Point and The Hook on the East Side of Santa Cruz this past Labor Day weekend.

Protesters said that they don’t begrudge anyone the opportunity to learn surfing, but that instruction should be one on one and not the one-to-fifteen ratio now becoming common at the easy-to-surf pointbreaks prevalent throughout the area. They accused surf schools of profiteering, with some schools charging as much as $85 a head for a two-hour group lesson.

“It’s not fair to the surfing community,” stated local surfer Pat Farley. “How can one instructor teach 15 people how to surf? That’s what they’re doing, and they’re in the way.”

“We hate surf schools,” added protest organizer Joe Henry. “Basically, surf schools bring so many people to the lineup that it becomes hazardous.”

Protestors also complained that schools were coming from as far away as the Bay Area, and weren’t concerned with teaching beginners about etiquette, environment issues and the community aspects associated with the surfing lifestyle.

“My Waves Are Not For Sale” read another sign.

And “Surfing Is A Lifestyle, Not A Class”.

Local surf school owner Ed Guzman, who’s been instructing surfers since 1983, now takes his students outside of town to learn because of problems now coming to a head at what he jokingly calls “Pressure Point”. “It’s not fair for people just learning the sport to be exposed to bad vibes,” he says.

“I’m pretty sad,” said Richard Schmidt, owner the 27-year-old Richard Schmidt Surf School, which runs camps and classes and down at The Hook. “I’ve taught there for a long time and feel like I’ve done a pretty good job. It seems like kind of a bummer that they’re taking it to this point.”

But they did. They marched. They chanted. And after an hour or so, they went surfing.

Local surfer/artist Aaron {{{Van}}} De Kerchove, who snapped these photos as the protest passed his house, shrugged a resigned ambivalence towards the issue. “I guess, I’d probably rather have kooks in the lineup who’ve at least had a few lessons than kooks straight from the rental shop without a clue at all,” he said. “It’s gonna be crowded either way.”

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