Learn How to Catch a Wave At Erik Nelsen Surf Camp
Written By: Desirae Holland Erik Nelsen Surf Camp
Besides being home to spectacular views, amazing vegan restaurants and the most lively night scenes, California is widely recognized as a destination spot for catching the best waves. From the relaxing coastal town of Malibu to the high-energy waves found in San Clemente, surfers religiously come to various spots in California to skim the waters. In helping to foster generations of water people, Erik Nelsen, also known as “Frog, ” started the Erik Nelsen Surf Camp at age 14 to motivate and provide a safe environment for kids to the learn the sport of surfing. For the last 30 years, “Frogger” has taught over 8, 000 students, in partnership with his father, Jeff Nelsen’s, Ocean Adventure Program, how to surf safely and with confidence in Newport Beach, CA. We sat down with Nelsen to learn more about him and his commitment to teaching young people the holy grail of ripping the waves.
Q: How did you get the nickname “Frog”?
Erik Nelsen: While in junior high school, a group of friends, maybe 10 or 12 of us, each put five dollars in a hat for a surf contest with the winner taking it all. In determining who would win, we judged ourselves. I ended up making the finals with one other guy. At the particular spot we were at, the waves went left and right. So the other guy mentioned he would go left and I told him I would go right. Somehow as we were performing I end up going behind him and, in a sense “hopping” him. I end up winning the competition and the title Frog, because I hopped him.
Q: What was your first win like when you used to compete in surf competitions?
EN:I competed in surf competitions when I was younger because most of my friends were competitive. I found that competitive surfing wasn’t my cup of tea. I fell more in love with the overall experience of surfing because it didn’t need to be contest based. I did it more for pure enjoyment and as a way to be active. I faded away from the contest scene but most of my friends pursued it. This is when I put more energy into my surf camp business as some of my friends pursued their professional carers.
Q: You have traveled many places around the world, what areas in the United States and abroad have the best waters to catch great waves?
EN: The best place that I found to surf is in Fiji on Tavarua Island. It has excellent world-class waves. I’ve been a host and volunteer lifeguard there for 20 years. It has the nicest people in the world there and the most beautiful climate. In the United States, I like to surf locally, so here in Laguna Beach, the waves aren’t the best, but usually surfing with a handful of friends is really more enjoyable.
Q: Do you remember your first time surfing, and what was the experience like that kept you doing it years later?
EN: I learned how to surf with a small group of friends. My friend Hans’ father, David Hagen, took us all out when I was around the age of eight. His dad took us to the beach and taught us how to stand on a board and ride waves. From that experience we were all jazzed about learning how to surf and I fell in love with it, so I wanted to pursue it more. I had such a good experience at Dave’s camp that I wanted to share it with other kids growing up.
Q: You started your own business at 14, what sparked your commitment to want to do this?
EN: My dad started Ocean Adventure Program in 1977, which is an ocean science initiative. At a young age, I would attend the program and teach the kids there how to surf. I loved my dad’s ocean science program so much; I started my own surfing camp and integrated ocean awareness into my camp. The initial camp experience was brought to me by my father, which helped me launch my own.
Q: How important was it for you to integrate ocean science teaching into your surf camp?
EN: It’s important to apply ocean safety and awareness into my camps because we aren’t just teaching kids how to surf, we want them to have a broad understanding of how the ocean works. We want them to understanding the tides, waves and the directions of the waves. We want them to know how to spot a rip-tide, how to keep the beach clean, how to stay safe and respect the beach. It’s also important that they have an understanding of the certain flags that hang on a lifeguard tower, which gives warning about the conditions of the water.
Q: What’s the significance in creating a separate All-Girls Surf Experience?
EN: I created an All-Girls Surf Experience understanding that girls in a group setting would feel more comfortable learning to surf without having boys around. It’s neat to see all the girls together, and it was kind of a demand, the girls wanted to be together and enjoy each other in the surf.
Q: How is it to have support from a popular brand such as Hurley?
EN: It’s great to have support from Hurley. Some people that I am working with are Evan Slater, Pat O’Connell and Bob Hurley. They all support surfing and support me because they believe I am providing education and surfing as a healthy sport for the up-and-coming ocean people. I’m not necessarily teaching pro-surfers but just giving people a better understanding and education they need to be well-rounded ocean people. The Hurley team sees the value of me giving this education to the youth within the Orange County area.
Q: What do you want everyone to know about the camp?
EN: I’ve been running this camp for the last 30 years; it is a well greased machine, it’s very organized and safe. We have excellent staff members and all of the staff go through a background check with the Recreation Department of Newport Beach. We give the kids a well-rounded experience, we teach the kids to surf and about the ocean. We project good energy and vibes.
Native Knowledge: Most of the counselors that help teach are former campers that came back to share with the kids what that learned through the program.
Erik Nelsen Surf Camp offers a plethora of services from the Co-Ed Surf Camps and All-Girls Surf Experience to the Ocean Adventure Program, which provide kids ages 5-14 an all day fun filled learning experience. Each program is a week long and is instructed by First Aid, CPR certified professionals that have passed the mandatory City of Newport Beach approval process.
Erik Nelsen Surf Camp
Between Seashore Drive and Nordina Street
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Erik Nelsen Surf Camp: Spreading the Love of Catching Waves