'They misnamed the sport; they should have called it paddling instead of surfing." "Is that what a lot of it is, paddling around the ocean, looking for the next wave?"
I'm speaking to Pat Weber of San Diego Surfing Academy. He and his wife Lynne -- a championship tandem-surfing team in the early
'90s -- started the business in 1995.
Weber says, "The bottom line, if you want the wave of the day, you got to pay your dues to get there."
"Pay your dues, meaning, wait on it?"
"You might wait years," Weber laughs. "If you want the wave of the day at Swami's, you've got to have the juice and judgment to be in the right place at the right time, so when that Mac Daddy swings in, you're in the spot. And you better go, or you're not going to get respect from the rest of the crew, and the next time another one comes through you're going to get shut down because...you blew it."
Sounds like authentic surfer ethics. "How many students per year?"
"Well, we've had over 10,000 transactions since 1995."
"What's a transaction?"
"A sale. That could be a private lesson or it could be a group of 20."
Looks like Pat's made himself a good gig. "How about San Diego residents? They've been around beaches all their lives. What makes them decide to learn how to surf with you?"
"I think it's being able to offer a supportive atmosphere," Weber says. "Surfing can be intimidating. You read reports about surf rage. You don't want to go to a place like Swami's or Windansea or Sunset Cliffs, which is experts only. You're going to get run out of there if you don't have the skills, because you're not safe. But if you're going to a place that's going to be supportive..."
"Nobody's going to kick sand in your face at Pat's school."
Weber laughs. "Something like that." Silence. "It's more like, 'Let's get you started the right way.' Most of us need a mentor, somebody to point you in the right direction."
I mention that his website claims South Carlsbad State Beach as headquarters.
Weber says, "We are permanent, insured, authorized, bonded, certified in safety, to be at that location. We're there 7/24 from June to September."
Weber's made himself a great gig. "And the idea of a surf camp is to have a place where students can hang out, get something to eat, take a nap..."
"That's surf camp."
"How's the surfing?"
"Excellent for beginners. It's consistent year-round. In the summer, when some beaches like Cardiff are flat, South Carlsbad is two feet, and it has a level, sandy bottom, which means no chunking up your feet on rocks.
"We're set up there. That's our base of operation. During the rest of the year, we'll meet you there by appointment. Like today. Had my guy from Boston today, two hours. Had this stretch of pristine beach all to ourselves. It really is cool because you don't have much development across the street; you don't have a big community nearby like Pacific Beach or La Jolla or Ocean Beach where everybody can ride their bicycle and walk over to the surf."
I wondered how long it would take someone -- say, 35 years old in half-ass shape -- to get up on a board and ride a wave.
"Depends on what kind of physical condition they're in," Weber says. "Whether they're 25, 35, or 45 years old. What kind of natural ability they have. If you've got a go-for-it attitude, that's gonna help. Here's the short answer: if you're athletic, you're going to be up on the first go-out with us. You're going to be standing and surfing."
Ah, but we want more. "You're standing and surfing, and then there's a bump up from there. There, you can stand and surf and do something else. What's the next something else up from standing?"
"Riding across the wave. Standing in front of the white water. Using the wave like a canvas and the surfboard as your instrument of expression. That's when it gets fun."
I ask Weber where he found surfing. He says, without hesitation, "I was six years old. My dad's coaching buddies at Cocoa Beach High School nudged me into a wave on a giant surfboard. This was your father's surfboard. Huge. That free ride and that exhilaration of being propelled by a natural force with no effort, that's what addicted me.
"Now I'm 45 years old and I'm as stoked as I ever was. It doesn't get old. Take today, for instance. I'm giving my lesson. Not more than ten feet away from us, a pod of dolphins emerge. Popped up. You don't get that on the Internet. You don't get that sitting in front of your TV."
Weber also runs surf camps in Baja and Costa Rica. Visit www.surfsdsa.com or call 760-230-1474.