Surf Education Academy doesn’t want students to simply ‘go surfing’ but to ‘become surfers’

A student at the La Jolla Shores-based Surf Education Academy takes to the water.

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At the La Jolla Shores-based Surf Education Academy, instructors go beyond the basics of surfing. Using a custom curriculum that focuses on surfing as a conduit for long-term life skills, SEA aims to build confidence and well-rounded surfers.

“We have a unique approach to the way we teach and work with our students,” founder Sean Brody said. “It’s not just about teaching the safety and the technique, but developing proper habits for a lifetime of surfing and real-world life skills like confidence, critical thinking and emotional regulation … both in the ocean and on dry land. Students take that to the schoolyard and later the workplace. When they do something really challenging and gain confidence there, they can gain confidence in other areas of their lives.”

SEA recognizes that not all surfers come with the same goal, but whatever the goal is, the instructors are there to help them reach it, Brody said.

“We help the students identify and set their goals and we help them progress along the way,” he said. “We take an individualized approach to help guide them, and we have a methodology we use to help our students achieve success, no matter how they define that. We like to help our students not just go surfing but become surfers, so we include surf etiquette, surf history and surf culture in our lessons.”

Summer camps at SEA start in June and run all summer in 3½-hour sessions Mondays through Fridays. There are morning and afternoon sessions. COVID-19 protocols include social distancing, mask-wearing while on the beach, equipment sanitation, wellness and temperature checks for surfers and staff, and surfers participating with the same group and instructors throughout the week.

Further, SEA works with surfers with disabilities using adaptive equipment.

“We modify the approach and the equipment as needed,” said Brody, who works with the Challenged Athletes Foundation and is the head coach for Team USA’s parasurfing team. “Making surfing available to people from all walks of life is something we are passionate about, and we have helped other organizations with their surf therapy events.”

Surf Education Academy founder Sean Brody
Surf Education Academy founder Sean Brody says “it’s not just about teaching the safety and the technique, but developing proper habits for a lifetime of surfing and real-world life skills.”

Brody said he believes in the importance of making surfing available to as many people as possible.

“We work a lot with school-age kids in providing mentorship and positive role models,” he said. “There is a misconception that the only surfing pathway is to go professional or nothing. But there are several ways to have surfing, and all the benefits that come with it, be a major part of their lives without pursuing a pro-surfing pathway. We encourage volunteerism and have other community events we are going to have in terms of beach cleanups, events that are going to be focused on niche groups like foster youth and at-risk youth, to make surfing accessible for those that have a harder time getting to the beach.”

Having grown up in San Diego — and taking his first waves at La Jolla Shores — Brody knows the personal and social benefits that can come from surfing and has built a decorated career in the industry. He has a master’s degree in hospitality and tourism management with an emphasis on sustainable surf tourism from San Diego State University and worked for the International Surfing Association.

In 2016, Brody was invited to the Global Congress for Peace in Vatican City to deliver Pope Francis a surfboard and discuss surfing as a tool to improve lives.

“We have a lot of experience in the surfing world,” Brody said. “We want to bring that to the community.”

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