Every summer we go to Higgins Beach in Maine for a week, and every summer we watch the surfing community come out en masse there. Known as having the best waves in Maine, there’s a steady stream of surfers throughout the day climbing into wet suits and lugging their boards way out in the ocean.
Last summer, two things happened as I was sitting on the beach at Higgins spacing out: I saw a young girl, maybe 8 years old, taking surf lessons, and I watched a video on Facebook of a friend’s 6-year-old daughter surfing.
So I asked my daughter, now 7 and a strong swimmer unafraid of the ocean, if she’d be interested in surf camp. She unequivocally said yes. After making a few enquires, I found Summer Sessions, a surf shop in Rye, NH, that runs surf camp all summer long for kids ages 6 to 16. I couldn’t wait to sign my daughter up, and we spent many a cold winter day trying to contain our excitement for surf camp to begin.
Each session runs Monday to Friday for two hours a day. It’s pricey, at $195 a week, but includes the daily rental of a wet suit and surf board. There are two sessions a day, at 9:30 a.m. and at 12 p.m. I waited too long to sign up for the morning session, so we settled for the 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. session during the last week of June.
What a week it was. I’ll never forget it. Every day the kids and I drove up 1A to Rye, about a 30-minute drive from Newburyport along some of the region’s prettiest coastline. We packed snacks and loaded on the sunscreen and became beach bums. Thanks to a flock of (extremely good looking) counselors who were patient and sweet, Hannah learned to get up on her board and became even more brazen in the ocean, all the while hanging out with other kid surfers and learning how to “paddle, paddle, paddle,” and “pop up.” She loved every minute of it and held her own just fine, even though she was one of the youngest kids there.
Getting her O’Neill black wet suit on (and later off) was the hardest part of the camp. An hour was spent surfing, followed by a snack and a group game of capture the flag. Another 45 minutes of surfing followed. By that time Hannah was water logged and asking for soup and hot tea.
The logistics were a tiny bit tricky, since the Sawyers Beach, where the camp is held, does not have a public parking lot. You have to pay for metered hourly parking by credit card at Jenness State Beach, my new favorite beach, and then walk 100 yards south down the beach to Sawyers.
One of the afternoons we checked out the Summer Sessions Surf Shop, and I could have sworn I was in California or Bali. The surfing culture feels very different from everyday life – relaxing and mellow. It was a nice form of culture shock!
Summer Sessions, like many other area surf shops, offers private and semi private lessons to kids and adults. They also host ladies’ nights, which I’ve heard are tons of fun. This summer on our Maine vacation at Higgins, Hannah and I just might have to take a surfing lesson together.
Jill Oestreicher Gross isn’t sure how she feels about putting on a wet suit. Her daughter doesn’t mind wearing one at all.