A few hours South of Byron Bay is a small beach called Arrawarra. With consistent waves ideal for beginners and barely anyone else in the area this is the perfect spot to learn the basics of surfing. While we travelled up the East Coast we spent 5 days here and left feeling confident enough to hire surfboards and try out our new skills.
Our Greyhound Coach dropped us off at around 4 am. A minibus was ready and waiting to take us to our new home for the next 5 days. On arrival, we were taken straight to our room – a shipping container with 2 bunk beds. We were told our first surf lesson would be at 10 am so we had a few hours sleep before starting our first day at surf camp.
We woke up, I found the bikini that was least likely to fall off in the waves and we headed to reception. After a brief walk around the camp, the receptionist took us to surf school. An outdoor seating area complete with hammocks and more surfboards than I could count.
A tanned guy with long blonde hair introduced himself as our surf instructor and took us through the basics. We learnt about rips, different kinds of waves and hand signals (most importantly shakas along with a loud ‘yewwwww’ when you catch a wave). We were told to pick a wetsuit from the rack. They were torn and had holes in and were all slightly damp, making them hard to put on.
After the essentials, we grabbed some massive foam surfboards and walked 5 minutes to the beach. Here we did a quick warm up before learning the most important part of surfing – the pop-up. We were all instructed to lay on the sand on our hand drawn surfboards and started paddling. After a few paddles, an imaginary wave approaches us, at it reaches our toes we do another 3 paddles before ‘popping up’. The way we were taught to pop up is to bring your front foot up to your hands, your back foot up to the knee of the front foot and stand while simultaneously turning your feet to the side.
On land, I had mastered the pop-up and wanted to test my new found skills in the water. We carried/dragged our huge surfboards into the water and waited for a wave. I was the first to attempt riding a wave but was unsuccessful. Next was Sam, he has some weird talent of being good at any sport and obviously stood up the first time. And finally was the other girl in our group, who also didn’t manage to stand. On my second go I was determined to ride my first wave, and somehow I managed it! For the rest of the 2-hour class, we took it in turns to try and stand up. Sometimes succeeding but generally falling off in some spectacular ways.
We wriggled out of our wetsuits and headed back to camp. It was almost lunch so we hung around the seating area where we would be eating. As it was still the middle of offseason the camp was extremely quiet – there were more staff members than actual guests. Eventually, someone called out that it was lunchtime and a surge of Mojo Surf staff appeared, forming a line for the food.
The surf camp food was pretty simple, just tonnes of pasta and rice and salad piled on a plastic plate. It was fine for a few days but by day 5 we were sick of eating pasta every day! After having seconds we decided to go and explore the camp. This place was quite basic – with one large room for food that gained a ping pong table when food wasn’t being served, a campfire area, shipping container dorms, a few teepees (for extra accommodation) and a brief walkway to the beach.
The thing that really made this place special was the people. On our first evening, a new group of surf beginners arrived at the camp for their lessons the following morning. We all sat together eating our pasta and discussed travelling, home countries, experiences and plans. The lack of signal and expensive WiFi charges meant everyone was happy sitting and talking without the distraction of their phones.
That evening was the weekly trivia quiz night at the nearby pub. We all decided to go along and test our international knowledge. We had quite a mix of countries in our group including English, German, Dutch and French so we were feeling confident. Unfortunately, all of the questions were about Australia and we did awfully! After 4 hours of surfing, Kangaroo Golf and a very early morning we were tired and in desperate need of a good night sleep.
When We Weren’t Surfing
Unfortunately, as it was offseason there was not a lot around camp to fill the time when we weren’t surfing. Luckily, for an extra charge, you could do other afternoon activities with the instructors. These included ocean rafting, kayaking, kangaroo golf and a 2 hour afternoon surfing session. We all opted to pay the extra and took part in most of these activities. A personal favourite of mine was Kangaroo Golf. Despite being awful at playing golf it was cool to be at a golf course where wild Kangaroos called home. Although these bouncy creatures weren’t as friendly as the ones you’ll find in zoos they let you get close enough to get a selfie.
As well as outdoor activities we also played a lot of ping-pong and made a few trips to the bottle-o. On Saturday nights Surf Camp becomes a party camp. After buying our alcohol the social/chill out room gets transformed. We ended up teaching each other drinking games from our home countries and learning loads of new ring of fire rules. The camp fire also created a perfect setting for a few beers or a bag of goon. Although our clothes did end up stinking of smoke by the end of the 5 days.
Apart from learning to surf we also learnt the best cure for a hangover. An early morning and going into the ocean. After a few nose dives, I felt as good as new. From our first surf lesson to over 20 hours of supervised surfing we had learnt to stand, slow down and speed up, turn and how to get out to the back of the set. We were also taught surfing etiquette and good warm ups before heading into the ocean.
Overall, our time in surf camp was an amazing experience and if you have enough time I would recommend staying for the 5 days. But, if you don’t have the time at least try and stay for a couple of days. Although we were ready to leave and get back to reality by the end, the isolated location made for the ideal setting for this chilled out surf camp.
If you want to have a look at booking your own Surf Camp experience then head to their website. Mojo Surf hold lessons in Byron Bay and Bali as well. Lengths of stays vary from a single surf lesson to a 3-month surf instructor course.