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How to Be the Coolest Parents in the Neighborhood

Written By: Holly Clinard

Photography By: Matt Doheny

Erik Nelsen Surf Camps



If your kiddos are looking for some true OC fun this summer, filled with adventure and excitement— something not everyone in the world can enjoy like us So Cal locals can—then we’ve got just the spot. Erik Nelsen Surf Camps is happening this June, July and August, right in our Pacific Ocean backyard. Owned and operated by life-long surfer, Erik Nelsen, his experience traveling the world on a surfboard is the driving force behind this program. Nelsen started teaching surfing to campers at his father’s Ocean Adventure Program—a kid-centered science and snorkeling experience, in 1986.

As Nelsen watched his campers take interest in the ocean, and particularly in surfing, he launched a surf camp of his very own from that inspiration. Nelsen’s crew of experienced CPR and first aid trained instructors gives kids ages 5-14 a safe and educational environment to learn about the ocean, wave riding, ocean safety, environmental activities and even some sweet beachside games. In addition to that, the goal of the program is to instill a sense of passion for surfing and a sense of true responsibility to where you grow that passion: the ocean.

Safe, organized and educational, every-day campers will learn a new lesson about the ocean, coupled with fundamental surf instruction. Nelsen brags (and rightly so!) on the large permitted beach he conducts his professional program on, where full days are spent in the sun. Not to mention the logistical perk of easy pickup and drop off carpool that so many parents find when they participate in Erik Nelsen Surf Camps. So, bring out those beach bums of yours and head down to the sand to enjoy the California sun, with an active, healthy new sport for all ages. See you out there!

949.464.0077 | @eriknelsensurfcamps


Pirate Coast Paddle Company




Pirate Coast Paddle Company in Newport Beach is unlike anything else we’ve found in the OC. It’s something you’d find in picturesque Hawaii, but instead it’s right here in the beautiful surroundings of the OC Back Bay. On a regular sunny weekend, you can find the Pirate Coast Paddle Company filled to the brim with adventurers— young and old—ready for rentals, lessons, events and excursions. Locals and tourists from all over come to this spot to enjoy the art of stand up paddleboarding here, along with the fresh air and physical exercise they need to fill up their weekend. No matter why you come out to the Pirate Coast HQ, you’ll leave with a memorable experience of seeing a side of Southern California you’ve never seen before. I think in part that’s because of the scenery, and the other part is the community here. The Pirate Coast Team is a fun mix of outdoorsmen, educators and athletes, all here to give you and your family the best experience on the water possible!

Owners and high school best buds Tim Lukei, Mark Oehlman and Terence Ngo are quite the trio of cool guys, too. One a surfing veteran, one a former pro soccer player and another, a teacher and coach—their combo of teaching, water safety and just plain fun make them a dream team on the water. Pirate Coast Paddle Company’s summer fun for the kiddos includes the Quiksilver Kids Pirate Paddle Camp—an unforgettable 5-day camp and known as one of the most unique and fun kids camps in Orange County. While taking in the summer sun, campers will learn the basics of stand up paddleboarding, each day focusing on a new skill and a new water activity. Instructors carefully guide each camper to gain balance, control, steering and paddle etiquette (important to learn at a young age!). Marine education and water safety always come into play as well, giving each camp kid a well-rounded education in being a master paddler. Confidence and skill are at the top of the list of items that the Stand-Up Paddle Camp strives to give campers, and with new moves and tricks acquired each day, along with paddle races, beach challenges, water games, relays, swimming, treasure hunts, and much more, we can almost guarantee that your little paddler will be tuckered out by the end of their day here! There is so much learning, and so much summa’ time fun to be had here at Pirate Coast Paddle Company, that you’ll want to bring your youngsters, and then come back with the entire family for a warm weekend on the water. Only in OC does it get this good!

1131 Back Bay Dr
Newport Beach, CA 92660
949.278.0011 | www.piratecoastpaddle.com


Discovery Science Center

Photo Provided By: Discovery Science Center


Dedicated to educating young minds, assisting teachers and increasing public understanding of science, math and technology through interactive exhibits and programs, Discovery Science Center is a nonprofit in Santa Ana that is making their mark. You, no doubt, have driven by the giant cube off of the Golden State Freeway, and your carpool companions have pointed and squealed at the sight from the backseat. It’s impressive from the outside, but even more so when you walk in the doors of Orange County’s Discovery Science Center. With the idea of this science center dating back to 1984 (no sci-fi reference here), the Center originated to teach kids what life was like at the turn of the century in Orange County, in an interactive way, while building a “world class hands-on science center.” Well, those 1980s visions have since come true, and the Science Center has seen hundreds upon thousands of young scientists and creative minds walk through their ever-themed doors to discover new worlds of science, math, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Sherlock Holmes and more. This summer’s upcoming events at Discovery Science Center include an exhibit on Sherlock Holmes where kids will bring to life the historic underpinnings of author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories.

2500 N. Main Street
Santa Ana, CA 92705


Ocean Institute


The vision of the Ocean Institute is “to be the world’s best experiential ocean educational organization” – and that about sums it up. Since it’s start, the Ocean Institute (OI) has been a leader in immersion-based education programming and has won some major, national awards, including the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Maritime Education, in addition to dozens of National Science Foundation grants.

The Institute, located in picturesque Dana Point, has a distinct national reputation for it’s “hands-on marine science, environmental and ocean education and maritime history programs, ” but it’s the headlining hundreds of thousands of students, ages 5-18, who participate in the Institute’s programs of learning and exploration that happen each and every year. The Ocean Institute’s summer camps are a sell-out program each year, offering field-trip programs with crafts, cruises, tidepool walks, off-site fieldtrips, kayaking and more. From those mysterious sea creatures, to the rich California history, to the study labs and live specimen sessions—Ocean Institute in Dana Point has it all. Students who walk these wet grounds can taste the salty sea spray as they observe migrating whales on watch cruises and collect scientific data to investigate the under-the-sea world below. When visiting OI’s beautiful grounds this summer, you’ll quickly see how students here obtain further appreciation for ocean issues facing our world today, as they participate in discussions on sea pollution and how we have the power to turn that around. Good stuff, right?

Although, the Institute is not a museum or an aquarium, you could easily mistake it for one with their vast collection of artifacts and animals scattered around the campus—adding to the educational ambiance for those young oceanographers to gaze at. All of this action doesn’t happen magically, but with a long list of educational facilities. The Ecology Learning Center and Children’s Theater is especially for grades K-3, with a virtual and interactive theater, stations on marine life, wet-tables with video-microscopes and a full digital imaging lab. For those in grades 4-6, the teaching laboratory of tanks of local marine life, including the ever-popular jellyfish station located at the Packard At-Sea Learning Center. The Maritime Center is another spot for hands-on teaching and an exploration of maritime history. The Folino Center for Technology and Communications on campus uses modern-day technology for distance learning programs for the nationwide education of students—something others all across the U.S. can enjoy! Perhaps one of the highlights is the Marine Protected Area that is a natural intertidal ecosystem of eight acres, adjacent to the Ocean Institute site.

24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive
Dana Point, CA 92629


Santa Ana Zoo


Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Ok ok, not quite what you may be thinking of as a summer sizzling activity for your kids, but this one is definitely a safari start to the warmer months. Just a short trip up the 5 freeway, the Santa Ana Zoo holds a ton of summer activities for your animal-lovin’ kids. The Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park (named for local businessman and original property owner, named Joseph Edward Prentice) is owned by the City of Santa Ana. The 1952-founded zoo is fully committed to educating the public— no matter what age—on conservation, while incorporating fun into learning. The exhibits throughout the zoo are exactly what put this mission into action. Spend a day (or two!) here on the sidewalks of the zoo and follow monkeys around as they lead you and your fam into the interactive learning stations in the Rainforest Adventure Maze, or the transporting waterfalls and lakes of the Amazon’s Edge, which take you into the lush jungles of Brazil. Take those youngsters to the 9, 000-square foot Amazon Aviary, where you can mingle with a wide variety of free-flying, South American exotic birds. Your little ones will “oooh” and “ahhh” at the white-bellied caique, scarlet ibis, emerald toucanet, blue-crowned mot-mot and other beautiful birdies. What a summer, huh?

Teirra de las Pampas at the Santa Ana Zoo is something new, preserving one of the most highly endangered habitats in the world, the Pampas Grasslands of South America. Walk into this beautiful environment of native plants and grasses and experience the “pampas” through physical and tactile education stations throughout. Walk a little farther into the exhibit and you can catch some big, hairy creatures like Anteaters, Guanacos and Rheas. And before you leave our favorite local zoo, stop by the Crean Family Farm on the grounds and see what real farm life is like. Yes, much to many visitors’ surprise, there are real farms even to this day in city-like Orange County! You can get a taste of that as you visit the Crean Family Farm, feeding and petting the friendly animals here. Kids (and maybe even YOU) will learn the roles each animal plays when living life on a farm, as you watch the staff care for the animals and interact on a whole new level.

1801 East Chestnut Avenue
Santa Ana, CA 92701