We get asked a lot of questions here at Corky Carroll’s Surf School. How do you turtle roll? What kind of surfboard should I ride? Are my feet positioned correctly? Where is the bathroom? Why is it raining? Can I have a donut? The list goes on. But by far the most asked question is: Who is Corky Carroll?

Well, we’re glad you asked…

Corky Carroll and Our Surf School

Our surf school is the result of one man’s awesome idea and another’s amazing career. It all happened in 1996 when local resident Rick Walker approached professional surf icon Corky Carroll with a business proposition: opening the first surf school in Huntington Beach.

Read How Rick Walker Came Up With His Surf School Idea and Why It’s Not Named After Him

The school was named after Corky, whose prolific surfing career has made him one of the most recognizable and accomplished surfers of all-time.

Today, we still use the fundamentals and techniques Corky came up with in our lessons.

So when you’re taking a surf lesson from one of our instructors, you’re also learning to surf from one of the most iconic surfers of all-time.

Which we think is pretty cool.

That said, the question still stands: Who is Corky Carroll?

Corky Carroll – The First Professional Surfer

Fun Fact: Corky Carroll is considered the first professional surfer of all-time.

So it just makes sense that the first surf school in Huntington Beach be named after him. But long before he joined Rick Walker in forming our surf school, Corky was making waves dating all the way back to when he was a little grom.

Here’s a brief highlight reel of the Man, the Myth, the (Surf) Legend that is Corky Carroll:

  • His real name is Charles Curtis Carroll. (Corky is his nickname)
  • He won over 100 surf competitions
  • He was the first person paid to surf (and put “surfer” as his profession on tax returns)
  • He was the first surfer to receive endorsements
  • He was the first surfer to have a production model shortboard
  • He was voted “Best Surfer in the World” in a 1968 Surfer magazine readers poll
  • He retired from professional surfing at the ripe old age of 24
  • He was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame. Twice. And Surfers’ Hall of Fame
  • He is the only pro surfer with a gold record (Tan Punks on Boards)
  • He wrote 3 books
  • He starred in 13 heroic Miller Lite commercials. Like this one:

While that highlight reel is impressive, the stories behind those accolades and achievements are even better. So let’s start from the beginning and find out how Corky Carroll became Corky Carroll.

Corky Carroll Learns to Surf

Corky grew up in Surfside, California. Located between Huntington Beach and Seal Beach, the Surfside Colony was an awesome place where some of the best surfers of the Golden Age of Surfing lived and surfed.

Corky learned to surf when he was 8-years-old. (The same age when groms can start at our summer surf camp. Coincidence? We think not.) His first surfboard was an 8’7″ longboard made from balsa wood. It was shaped by famous Seal Beach surfboard shaper Dick Barrymore and weighed more than kid Corky did.

From then on Corky Carroll was stoked for surfing.

Corky Carroll Learns to Shoot the Pier

One memorable story Corky tells is how he learned to ‘shoot the pier’ in Huntington Beach. As a young gremmie (that’s what they used to call groms back in the 50s), he built a makeshift surfboard rack for his bike using a red wagon.

Consider it the original surf wagon.

Surfboard Radio Flyer Wagon

Using his awesome invention, Corky would tug his huge balsa surfboard down the PCH from Surfside all the way to HB’s pier. Along the way he passed through Tin Can Beach (later renamed Bolsa Chica State Beach, and the home of our surf school. Coincidence? We think not). Paddling out into rolling 6-footers, he noticed a bunch of older surfers riding daringly through the pylons of the massive pier.

At first Corky was scared to try. You know, because death.

But then local HB surf legend Chuck Linnen paddled over and gave young Corky some sage advice on how to thread through the pier in style.

Just goes to show a surf lesson from a good instructor can go a long way.

Especially when that instructor has an awesome stache, as seen in this shot from a couple years later of Corky and his surf coach:

Corky Carroll and Chuck Linnen in Huntington Beach

Before long Corky was shooting the pier with the best of them.

And thus began a long-lasting relationship between him and one of California’s most iconic surf spots, which would one day culminate with the creation of our surf school.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Corky Carroll Learns to Win

Corky Carroll started competing in surfing contests when he was 11-years-old.

He placed 3rd in the first contest he ever entered — a junior division heat at the inaugural West Coast Surfing Championships in Huntington Beach. Held in 1959, this was the first major surf contest in California, and the forbearer of today’s epic weeklong U.S Open of Surfing that takes place every summer on the pier’s south side.

(That’s right, for awhile there Huntington Beach made competitors wear helmets in contests. Everyone hated them.)

This kicked off a 13 year career as a competitive surfer. During that time Corky racked up five wins at the United States Surfboard Championships in HB (renamed from the West Coast Surfing Championships) and was named the United States Surfing Association’s “best all around surfer” five consecutive times.

His first major win came in 1962 at the San Clemente Surf Capades. (Which might go down in history as the best named surf contest of all-time.) There was also three International Professional Championships, an International Big Wave Championship, a World Small Wave Championship, and, as Corky puts it, “a bunch of other less glorious sounding titles.”

Below Corky (center) hoists the 1967 US Surfing Championships trophy.

United States Surfing Championships Huntington Beach 1967 Award Ceremony

(Props to anyone who can name the rest of the surfers in this photo.)

When all was said and done, Corky would go on to win over 100 contests.

Corky Carroll Becomes the First Professional Surfer

With each mounting success, Corky’s reputation grew.

Soon he caught the eye of Hobie Alter, the pioneer surfboard shaper from Dana Point who a few years earlier had opened the first Southern California surf shop. Hobie decided to sponsor Corky, paying him $80 a week to use and promote Hobie Surfboards.

With that sweet payday Corky Carroll — at the age of 16 — became the first person paid to surf and the first surfer to strike an endorsement deal.

Two years later Corky kicked things up a notch when he won a $1,500/year sponsorship with Jantzen Sportswear. In other words, he was rolling in the dough.

At least as far as surfers go.

At age 18, Corky decided to make it official and put “professional surfer” on his 1965 tax return. Sure beats accountant. (No offense accountants.)

But his professional exploits weren’t limited just to riding surfboards. He was also at the forefront of developing them. In 1967, Corky Carroll’s Hobie Mini Model was introduced as the first production shortboard in America. That same year, thanks to board royalties, product endorsements and a nice bonus check from Hobie for several TV appearances, Corky earned over $30,000.

Adjusted for inflation that’s the equivalent of over $230,000 today.

Not too shabby for a beach bum.

Corky Carroll Becomes a Star

Not too many people have enjoyed the popularity that Corky Carroll was able to ride thanks to one day at the age 8 deciding to pick up a surfboard. For starters there were the countless ads he’s appeared in, like for Ocean Spray, Coca Cola, Chrysler and Jantzen Sports.

Some of them didn’t even have anything to do with surfing.

Corky Carroll Jantzen Ad 1968

Since then he’s also appeared in countless films, most of them related to surfing. These include the two most iconic surf films of all-time: Five Summer Stories and The Endless Summer. And the surf cult classing North Shore.

In 1964, as part of the promotional tour for The Endless Summer, Corky appeared on The Tonight Show to teach Johnny Carson and the rest of America how to “sidewalk surf” (aka skateboard).

He’s even voiced a character on SpongeBob. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.

Corky Carroll Retires from Surfing, Becomes a Musician

By 1972 the competitive surfing world was changing and Corky decided it was time to hang up his board (as a pro) and replace it with a guitar.

In fact, Corky had been playing music even longer then he’d been surfing. When he was 7 his mom made him take piano lessons (as moms often do). But tickling the ivory took a backseat to riding waves. That is until he was a teen attending Huntington Beach High School when he picked up music again, teaching himself guitar.

He continued to riff here and there whenever he had the time in between surfing contests.

On one occasion the Beach Boys even asked if he’d go on tour with them, believing it would add credibility if they had a “real surfer” in the band. Corky passed. Music was still no match for professional surfing.

Later on, as his pro surfing career was winding down, Corky started to pursue music more seriously, learning multiple instruments and performing in local bars and small concert venues around Orange County.

In 1971, just prior to his retirement, Corky released his first album entitled Laid Back.

Over the next thirty plus years music would play a huge part in Corky’s life. During that time he performed both as a solo act and with his many band incarnations including Corky Carroll and the Piranha, Corky Carroll and the Coolwater Casuals, and our personal favorite, Corky Carroll and the Funk Dog Surf Band.

In 1979 his musical output reached a high point with A Surfer for President.

That album included the hit single Tan Punks on Boards, which sold 500,000. As far as we can tell this makes Corky the only past or present pro surfer to have a gold-selling record. (Scroll down to track 6 in the player above to hear this gem.)

“Riding through a guitar solo or singing is much like riding a wave on surfboard. You’re climbing and dropping and tucking into little sections and it’s a lot of ad-lib and expression.” ~ Corky Carroll

At the turn of the millennium Corky was the house musician at Duke’s restaurant in Huntington Beach. Imagine that. Stop by Duke’s for a fish taco and get sung to by one of the best surfers of all-time.

Reason 10,024 to love HB.

And Corky Carroll.

Corky Carroll Stars as a Beach Bum

While moonlighting as a musician, Corky ran through a gamut of other jobs. From bartender to waiter, lounge singer, manager of a car dealership, actor, tennis pro, ski instructor, advertising director for Surfer magazine, balloon salesman — Corky made the rounds.

In the early 80s Corky started living the dream by “playing” a happy go-lucky, perpetually jobless surfer in Miller Lite beer commercials. It was part of a very successful Miller ad campaign featuring retired athletes from different sports. They were known collectively as the “Miller Lite All-Stars.”

Miller Lite Poster Featuring Corky Carroll and Beach Girls

As Corky tells it, the Miller Lite All-Stars’ main job was to tour the country spreading good times and doing such things as visiting ski resorts, skiing all day wearing “Miller Lite All-Stars” parkas, and going to nearby bars to hand out Miller Lite swag and buy rounds for everybody.

It’s a hard life but somebody’s gotta do it.

And Corky Carroll did.

Corky Carroll Helps Start Our Surf School

It all started one fateful day in 1996 at the Windansea Surf Shop in Huntington Beach.

Well actually it started a little before that when Corky appeared on a LA sports talk television show called Life in Sports. The show featured interviews with pro athletes from the past and present. It was produced by a local HB guy named Rick Walker, who for the past 12 years had been commuting back and forth from Orange County to Los Angeles and was ready for bigger and wavier things.

Namely, starting a surf school.

After meeting Corky and having the surf legend on his show, Rick saw an opportunity.

Around then Corky was splitting his time between giving tennis lessons and managing Windansea. In fact, Rick’s daughter had been taking one of Corky’s tennis classes. (That’s Kelsey, who today helps run the show at our surf school. Coincidence? We think not.) One night Rick Walker walked into Windansea.

Rick: Hey Corky.

Corky Carroll: Hey Rick.

Rick: I see you’re teaching tennis these days.

Corky Carroll: Yeah, that’s right.

Rick: Why?

Corky Carroll: I really enjoy it. I’m good at it. And people pay me to do it. What’s not to love?

Rick: [looks at Corky funny] I don’t get it.

Corky Carroll: Maybe you didn’t hear the part about people paying me.

Rick: You’re a surfer. You should be teaching surfing.

Corky Carroll: [laughs] Well, if you can show me how to make a living doing that I would be happy to listen.

Rick: [smiles]

By this time there had been no shortage of offers coming Corky Carroll’s way. So he took Rick’s idea of starting a surf school with a grain of salt. But, having nothing to lose, Corky said, “Yeah sure, you get it together and I’m in.”

Five months pass. Corky has forgotten about the whole thing. And then one day Rick shows up at the surf shop and says, “O.K., I got it all organized. We have a location, boards, permits and insurance. The Corky Carroll Surf School opens June 15th.”

And it did open. On June 15th, 1996 at an uncrowded stretch of beach in Bolsa Chica State Park.

[The conversations above are paraphrased from Corky Carroll’s own enjoyable recount of how he first met Rick.]

Corky Carroll spent most of that first summer training instructors and developing the surfing techniques that would become the backbone of our lessons.

Techniques which we still use to this day.

Corky Carroll Gets Immortalized

The same summer Corky partnered up with Rick Walker to start our surf school, he was also inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame. You’ve probably seen it. Heck, you’ve probably walked your dogs over it.

The Surfing Walk of Fame is laid out on the sidewalk in front of Jack’s Surfboards, at the corner of Main and PCH in Huntington Beach. It is a lineup of all the greatest surf legends, immortalized with plaques in the pavement. There you’ll find Duke Kahanamoku (“the father of surfing”), George Freeth (the first person ever known to surf in HB), Bruce Brown (the director of The Endless Summer), PT Townend (the first pro surf tour world champion), and  Joyce Hoffman (the first woman to charge Pipeline), amongst many other amazing surfers and shapers.

You’ll also find Corky Carroll. Twice.

On Aug 8, 1996 he was honored as the Local Hero in one of the Walk of Fame’s best classes (alongside Greg Noll, Rell Sunn, Bud Browne, and Nat Young). He was then honored again in 2004 with a second plaque as a Walk of Fame Surf Champion.

Because when you’re that good one plaque just isn’t enough.

Right across the street in front of Huntington Surf and Sport, Corky was also inducted into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame. That was in 2002 as part of the Hall of Fame’s inaugural first group of inductees. It included some other people you might of heard of like Kelly Slater, Laird Hamilton, Robert August, Joel Tudor and Lisa Andersen.

Now that’s a lineup!

Corky Carroll’s Legacy as a Jobless Surfer

To say the least Corky Carroll has earned the right to have his name (and handprint) immortalized.

His impressive career as the first professional surfer speaks for itself. So too does his impressive career as a musician. Don’t forget his equally as impressive career handing out free beer as a Miller Lite All-Star. Or helping inspire our surf school. His antics are stuff of local legend, like that time he stacked 40 surfboards atop a VW and successfully drove down HB’s Main Street. Equally as legendary is his ability to talk story, proving it every week with his rad column in the Orange County Register.

Any way you look at it, he is a fun loving guy who has embodied surfing and its lifestyle to the fullest.

Corky Carroll Holding Surfboard

Or as Corky puts it, “Yes, I still surf all the time, and no, I still don’t have a real job. Let’s hope it never comes to that.”

Because that is who Corky Carroll is.

Soft top surfboards are a great board to have in any surfer’s quiver. In fact, we’ll go so far as to say every surfer should have one. Say what you will about them, but soft top surfboards are one thing above all else: FUN!

After all isn’t that why we all started surfing in the first place?

Everyone uses soft top surfboards from world champions to the first time surfer. Jamie O’Brien shredded Pipeline on a soft top. Then he did it again at Jaws with Kalani Chapman. Mick Fanning has his own line of softboards. Big wave ripper Shawn Dollar founded the soft-top-only Wavestorm World Championships. And surf schools from Maui to Bali, J-Bay, Bells, Nosara, and Huntington Beach all use foamies as their go-to teaching boards.

To help find the perfect soft top surfboard for you, we’re going to breakdown which ones are best for which levels of surfing and wave types below. But first let’s get to know these foam topped sticks a little better.

What Exactly is a Soft Top Surfboard?

A soft top surfboard is just as it’s name describes — a surfboard with a soft deck top. Traditional surfboards are made with either a polyurethane (PU) or expanded polystyrene (EMS) foam, then covered with a polyester or epoxy resin that creates a hardened surface around the board. Hence, hard top surfboards.

Learn More About the Difference Between Poly and Epoxy Surfboards

Soft top surfboards are made with an EPS foam core (like epoxy surfboards) wrapped in either fiberglass or a synthetic wrap. The big difference is that they replace that hardened fiberglass or epoxy top layer with a soft, dentable Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA) sheet. Think exercise mats, the insoles of your sneakers, yoga blocks, and kick boards — they’re all made of the same material as a soft top surfboard.

The EVA top layer combined with the compressed EPS core make soft top surfboards lighter, float better, less susceptible to rot, and harder to ding than traditional hard top surfboards. The soft deck top also allows for a easier and more comfortable paddle. And unlike resined, hard top surfboards, soft tops don’t require wax or any additional material to prevent slippage.

Despite their most often being associated as longboards, soft tops come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For example, Mick Fanning’s Little Marley goes as small as a 29L 5’2″. But no matter how big or small they are, all soft tops are characterized as being more buoyant, lightweight, and stable than most fiberglass or epoxy surfboard of the same size.

We’re not saying soft tops are better than hard tops, but they certainly give classic surfboards a run for their money. Literally. Because they also often come with a much smaller price tag. Thanks in no small part to the king of discounted prices — Costco.

A Brief History of Soft Top Surfboards

Soft top surfboards were born from boogie boards. Reminiscent of inflatable surf mats and planked belly boards of old, the Boogie Board was invented by Tom Morey out of Hawaii in 1971. Morey, a mathematician and surfing inventor, used polyethylene foam to model (using a hot iron!) a square-tailed, round-nosed roughly 4 foot soft board that people could catch waves on while lying prone. He named his squishy topped squat board the Boogie Board (after the the Boogie-Woogie blues music he enjoyed listening to: “Boogie swung, and it had a wiggle and a jiggle to it. It was perfect.”).

During the 80s and 90s Boogie Boards took took off. These surf-riding sponges quickly became a beach staple, spawning sponsored bodyboarding teams and its own competitive contest, and becoming the new go-to wave riding brand of young beachgoers everywhere.

Surfers however were not as stoked. From the growing popularity of Boogie Boards erupted a huge bodyboarding scene. As a result, the new fad was overcrowding the waters and reignited the debate over what exactly constitutes surfing. But the bodyboarding industry ignored all that (because money) and new advancements in technology and materials soon brought the two water activities together.

In 2006, a former manager of the Boogie Board brand — Matt Zilinskas — teamed up with AGIT Global to create the “first standup experience” for surfers on a Boogie-esque board. At the time AGIT Global was the manufacturer for Boogie Boards. Zilinskas worked with John Yeh – a Taiwanese businessman and CEO of AGIT’s North America division — to develop an entirely new product applying the sandwiched bodyboard design of expanded polystyrene foam and plastic into a a full sized surfboard. They called their soft topped creation Wavestorm.

Safer and more buoyant than traditional surfboards, Wavestorm hit the market as the ultimate beginner board. And thanks to being easier and cheaper to produce the Wavestorm allowed AGIT to manufacture a high-volume priced a third of what most beginner surfboards cost. Costco, always looking for a good deal, took notice and began disturbing them in their coastal warehouses. And where Costco goes, shoppers follow. According to Bloomberg Businessby 2015 over half a million Wavestorms had been sold.

As Wavestorms ask the “Costco Surfboard” took over new players entered the soft top scene like Catch Surf, Softech, MF Softboards, the list goes on. AGIT even produces other brands including our preferred soft top for teaching surf lessons — Storm Blade. (But more on those in a moment.)

There was a time when surfers were against riding anything but massive, wooden 30 pound longboards. When wetsuits came out, many scoffed at using them. Early versions of the now-iconic Malibu Chip were chastised as “girl boards” until the guys started riding them, and fell in love. The first short boards were deemed ridiculous and a passing trend. In fact, with each new major evolution of the sport you could count on one thing — hardcore surfers balking. Then they would try it for themselves, realize how fun the new fad made surfing, and adapt it as their own.

The latest in this long line of “disruptive” surfing innovations is the soft top surfboard. Which had at first threatened to destroy all that is sacred about surfing, and now is spreading joy to both newbies and old hats alike.

A Guide to Soft Top Surfboards for Every Level of Surfing

Now that we know the who, what, and where of why soft top surfboards are so great, let’s take a look at which one is for you. In the following guide we’ll go over the best soft top surfboards, discussing which you should ride depending on your experience and the conditions.

We have used soft tops at our surf school for years and compared them all. We’ve also talked to many pro and amateur surfers to see what they prefer and tried out every high performance soft top in the surfing industry. So not only are we huge advocates of riding soft top surfboards, we love riding them ourselves.

Best Soft Top Surfboard for Beginners

We all want to have fun right? When learning how to surf you want to have a surfboard with a lot of foam. This will help you paddle easier and will let you catch a ton of waves compared to a smaller soft top surfboard. We recommend an 8ft-9ft soft top surfboard with as much width and thickness as possible.

Our favorite for learning how to surf and beginners is the 9ft Stormblade SSR soft top surfboard. 

Storm Blade SSR Soft Top Surfboard Yellow

The SSR is perfect for learning how to surf on any type of waves. With the added foam it is very buoyant and easy to learn on. Guaranteed, on a Storm Blade soft top will be standing up in no time. That’s why we us it exclusively to teach new surfers.

Why You Should Not Learn to Surf on a Costco Surfboard

It’s not just us though. Soft top foam surfboards are widely used in surf schools across the world, in particular the Storm Blade SSR. That’s because they are specifically shaped to have lots of volume and stability so you can catch lots of  waves and remain more stable when trying to stand up. They are also durable as heck, and can withstand even the harshest of beatings. And perhaps most importantly, their extra soft deck reduces the risk of accidents and injuries.

Best Soft Top Surfboards for Intermediate and Advanced Surfers

Beginners aren’t the only ones getting stoked on soft tops. Nowadays you can find any style soft top for all conditions and skill levels. For your small wave days there’s the perfect summer surf longboards that any surfer can ride, like the Storm Blades. For your medium size days there are what we call “fun shape” soft tops which are more high performance than your longboard, can make steep drops and do radical turns. Finally there are soft tops that are like high performance short boards in which you can get barreled and throw airs on.

Here is our favorite soft top surfboards for intermediate and advanced surfers:

Takayama Scorpion

Takayama Soft Top Surfboard

The Takayama Scorpion Soft Top Surfboard is one of our favorite soft tops in the surf industry right now. They ride really well in small surf but are also awesome at handling bigger surf.  The round tail helps with different wave heights but still remains loose enough to be able to throw down turns. The thermal formed EVA soft top deck allows you to grip the board comfortably but still be able to let loose in more high performance waves.

Catch Surf Odysea

Catch Surf is one of the leading soft top companies in the world right now. They have every kind of high performance soft top you can imagine. With the short board fun factor they create soft tops that will let you surf the way you want. They are super responsive in massive shore break and super cruisey on small longboard waves. You know when we mentioned earlier Jamie O’Brien conquered Pipeline on a soft top surfboard? He did it on a Catch Surf Odysea.

The quad-fin Odysea Skipper is one of the most enjoyable soft tops to shred on. They range in size from 5’6″ to 6’6″, and have a classic fish shape that allows for down-the-line-speed and stylish turns.

Catch Surf Odysea Skipper Soft Top Surfboard

Another rad Catch Surf model is the Lost Round-Nose Fish (RNF). It is designed after what is cited as the world’s best-selling fish model of all-time from shaper Matt “Mayhem” Biolos. Thanks to its winged swallow tail and tai-fin thruster setup is can rip it in everything from knee-high runners to heavy shore-break, allowing for rail-to-rail surfing and easy paddling.

Catch Surf Odysea Lost Soft Top Surfboard

INT 7’0 Funboard

INT Surfboards have been one of the new up and coming companies to master the soft top industry. Their 7′ classic funboard makes our list because it paddles like a longboard but performs like a shortboard. It gives you enough to room to paddle around the line up with ease, has pop-up stability, and is responsiveness enough to execute tighter turns or make it down steeper waves.

INT 7'0 Soft Top Funboard

Mick Fanning Little Marley

The last soft top surfboard on our list is from your very own world champions Mick Fanning. With MF Softboards, he has created his own model of soft tops that represent all the best of his surfing.

When it comes to soft top shortboards the MF Little Marley is rules the waves.

If you didn’t feel the foam on your feet you would swear you were riding a real fiberglass board. The Little Marley is for all around fun but does best in more high-performance situations. Its short, wide, and fast which make it one of the more versatile soft tops in the surf industry.

Mick Fanning Little Marley Soft Top Surfboard

Shred Hard, Stay Soft

Whether you are just learning how to surf on small waves or a legendary surfer shredding towering breaks, you will have fun on soft top surfboard. Every day they grow more popular and their designs getting better and better everyday. The latest soft top technology is set to pump foamies to the top of the surfing industry for years to come. Everyone should have at least one soft top in their quiver of surfboards and if not then you are late to the game.

Back in the day soft tops use to be frowned upon. Not just because they were seen as being for “kooks” and “noobs” but because they weren’t made to ride the way most experienced surfers would want. They were always falling apart and never had the performance level you were hoping for. 

But times have changed. New designs and innovations have made them just as sweet as regular hard top boards to ride. Now soft top surfboards are so popular pro surfers are coming out with their own high performance soft top companies. The foam logs have opened up the sport in ways never seen before, making it more accessible, friendly and fun. And with the growth of wave pools on the horizon you can be rest assured the soft top industry will only grow bigger.

Whether you are just learning to surf or a seasoned pro, you are seriously missing out if you aren’t experiencing soft top stoke.

So if you’re asking yourself should I try surfing on a soft top surfboard? The answer is a definitive YEEWWW!

Preparing For Your Surf Lesson

Have a Positive Attitude

The number one rule for preparing for your surf lesson is having a positive mindset. Surfing is about one thing above all else: having fun! Keeping an open mindset will keep you positive and focused on enjoying your surf lesson experience. By going into your surf lesson with a negative or apprehensive mindset, you are setting the tone for the rest of the lesson and it may not be as rewarding.

Be Confident

Go into your surf lesson with confidence. The first step to learning how to do something is believing you can. If you think you are going to be able to surf than there is nothing holding you back. I you think you’re capable of learning to surf than it will be easier to accomplish. Stay confident and you will be successful.

Preparing For Your Surf Lesson

Good Vibes Only

Mother Nature always Has the Final Say

Surfing is different than most sports in many ways. The waves and conditions are changing constantly throughout the day. Some days we can know exactly what the conditions should look like, but other days mother nature throws us a wildcard. Surfing demands a lot more patience than other sports because at the end of the day, the conditions will ultimately make the decision. Sometimes the forecast can read like an incredible beach day, but by the time you get there it is be so foggy that you can’t even see the waves. This is one barrier that, unfortunately, preparing for a surf lesson cannot necessarily help you with, but it can prepare you for the potential that conditions may not be favorable for a successful lesson. 

preparing for surf lesson

Understand Surfing Isn’t Easy

One of the best things about surfing is that is forces you to be in the moment. The ocean will not stop for you and it will make you have to work hard to be able to conquer it. You can be preparing for your surf lesson for months but it might take some time to learn, just like riding a bike.  You can’t expect to immediately be a pro surfer or never fall, making mistakes is key to learning how to surf faster. Surfing new spots can be tricky. That’s why it is so important to learn to surf at a good beginner surf spot.

That’s why we hold all our surf lessons at Bolsa Chica in Huntington Beach. Quite, simple it is the place to learn to surf in the area. In fact, we’ll go so far as to say it’s the place place to learn to surf in all of California.

Learn Why Bolsa Chica is the Best Beginner Surf Spot in California

The best surfer is the one having the most fun, and most of the time that isn’t the one who is the best in the  lineup.

Preparing For Your Surf Lesson


Physical Capabilities

Knowing how to swim is one of the biggest keys for preparing for your surf lesson. If you don’t know how to swim it will be a little scary while trying to learn how to surf but if you tell us ahead of time we can make arrangements for helping you learn. Here are some workouts you can do to prepare for you surf lesson. Swimming: Swimming can help build up your endurance for paddling in the water, the more endurance your arms have the easier it will be to catch waves and the more you will catch. You would be surprised that surfing is actually 90% paddling, so having good paddling endurance is a good first step.  Yoga is another activity that will help you while learning how to surf. The more flexible you are the easier it will be to learn how to stand up and the easier standing up is for you the more energy you will have to surf longer. When learning how to surf I would also look up videos or read blogs about the basics of learning how to surf to give you some insight before your lesson. 

Preparing For Your Surf Lesson


Plan in Advance

The last thing you want to do is run late for a surf lesson. It takes some time to sign in, put sunscreen on, throw a wet suit on your body, and walk down to the water’s edge, so planning to arrive on time is crucial. On top of that the instructor most likely has another lesson booked immediately after yours and every lesson must run on time, regardless of arrival time. The longer you have with your instructor the more time you have to learn how to surf.  Knowing Huntington Beach, you never know if there are events going on or maybe the freeways have traffic, so you need to make sure that you look ahead of time so you can plan your departure time accordingly. You also want to know what to pack for a day at the beach  so you don’t run into any conflicts. Another step to prepare for your surf lesson is to be well rested and eat a good meal before coming to the beach. A good meal doesn’t mean eating a lot of food, while that may fill you up it will up, it will also make you feel sick when doing exercise in the ocean. Not eating at all will make your body feel fatigued and you may end up feeling sick, therefore stopping the lesson. Just a small to moderate sized, nutrient dense food will better prepare your body for the lesson.

Surfing Quote Jon Kabat Zinn

When to Visit: Understanding Costa Rica’s Seasons

While most of the world celebrates traditional seasons like winter, spring, summer, and fall, Costa Rica experiences a wet season and a dry season. Although Costa Rica Seasons change, one season brings more rainfall, temperatures are warm year-round with the wet season yielding a little cooler temperatures.

The Dry Season: Costa Rica’s Seasons

The dry season runs from mid-November to April, with occasional showers running through December. After that, it’s cloudless and bone-dry skies with temperatures in the upper eighties until May. Offshore winds yield clean, consistent surf with waves on tap all day long. During this time of year the waves are smaller and easier to learn to surf on, while the sunsets are to die for. The best beaches to learn to surf on in Costa Rica are right near our all-inclusive Costa Rica surf resort at Playa Guiones.  It’s for these very reasons that Nosara experiences the majority of its tourism during its summer months. 

During the dry season, the jungle dries up a bit but everything is open and tours run frequently. When you’re taking a break from the surf, the town has a number of tasty restaurants and juice bars, the jungle offers a collection of hikes, and there are adventure tours aplenty.

Costa Rica Seasons

Dry Season

The Rainy Season: Costa Rica’s Seasons

After months of rain free days, the skies part in May and the rainy season begins in full force. The majority of the “green season” begins with sunny mornings, followed by showers in the afternoon and evening. September and October are by far the rainiest months—rain often falls all day long and a number of businesses temporarily shut down.

Due to the wet conditions, the rainy season tends to be less crowded and many tours and accommodations are available at a discounted rate. People ask us What they should pack for a trip to costa rica during different seasons. Although it is wet in the rainy season, it isnt cold at all. While September and October may not be the best months to visit, the rest of the rainy season can be an incredible time to visit the beach town. The jungle and surrounding foliage become green and lush and there are plenty of empty waves to be had during the sunny mornings. Waves tend to be a bit bigger and less consistent during the wet season but there are a number of days when the surf is all time. Weather is a tad cooler during the winter months but still averages in the low eighties.

Costa Rica Seasons

Wet Season

When to Visit: Costa Rica’s Seasons

Our all-inclusive surf resort runs from November to mid-August. Although Nosara has something to offer all year long, we feel conditions are ideal during these months. If you’re looking for endless, sunny days visit us during the dry season but if you’re looking for fewer crowds and occasional showers visit us during the wet season. If you are looking for travel information or which airport to fly into check out frequently asked questions about our Costa Rica surf resort. Regardless of when you choose to come, we’re confident you’ll have a great time.

Costa Rica Seasons

Costa Rica Seasons

Written by: Rebecca Parsons

Healthy Family. Healthy Friends. Healthy you.

Healthy New Year

2019 is a fresh start. It’s a fresh page in your new, favorite book. It’s a tad bit cheesy, and a tad bit cliche. Yet, this is the chance of a fresh perspective. This New Year is a chance to look back, to be appreciative, and to move forward with full momentum, and kick off a Healthy New Year! 

Healthy New Year

Healthy New Year


What’s next? What are your New Years Goals?

Maybe you’ll strive to have new, active hobbies. Maybe you want to be outside more. Maybe you’ll work on being more mindful, and take more time drawing or reading. Maybe you’ll work on being more present with your family, and maybe you’ll delete that, “time sucking app” off your phone. Maybe you’ll practice making the best, darn, vegan tacos EVER! Or maybe you’ll decide to adopt a happy, yellow-lab from your local shelter.

There’s a lot to be grateful for. There’s a lot to reflect on, and remember how exciting (and draining), 2018 was. There’s a lot to be stoked on. There’s a lot we’ve each learned personally/individually- And a lot we’ve learned as a group/business here at Corky Carroll’s Surf School.

We’re grateful for our community that teaches us so much. We’re grateful for you. We’re grateful for the chance to teach our craft, and to teach the next generation of little rippers. We’re grateful to own and love this passion, that gets us out of bed each morning.

From Corky Carroll’s Surf School, to you…


Thank you for letting us be a part of your world, and to encourage new and returning surfers to hop on a board. Thank you for reading this, and thank you for engaging with us on social media. Thank you, for being you. We’re happy as can be, to remind our California Family what lies in our backyard. (Or to be honest, reminding our family what vacation is right at our fingertips.)

Healthy New Year

New you

Now… Let’s begin!

Let’s make this year the best one yet.

We welcome you to try surfing this year. Not only will surfing brighten your day/week/month- surfing allows your body to physically and emotionally feel better. After a few times Surfing with us at Corky Carroll’s Surf School– this healthy activity will give you better stamina/cardio. Surfing works-out not only your arms for paddling- but also works out your core to keep balanced, and your legs to squat and stay level on the waves. It’s also a stress huge reliever, to hang/wade in the cool water, and listen to the calming/crashing sounds (and to laugh with friends). Oh… and did we mention how cool your hair will look afterwards (really gives that, fresh out of the salon, BoHo look…)?!

In 2019, make that “home-made, famous, vegan taco!” Eat it on the beach, and rent a surfboard. Or maybe, consider taking your family to our all-inclusive Costa Rica surf resort where we make learning to surf, easy (since ’98!)! We teach all ages, and all skill and all athleticism levels. And we’d be happy to give you 1-on-1 lesson, or teach a group lesson, for a fun afternoon with friends. We even provide videos for feedback, and to show how much you learned that day!

Want to learn more about our programs, and what we offer? Simply cruise over, and hang with us at Bolsa Chica State Beach. Or just give us a call to say hi, and talk surf. Or call and talk yellow-lab, shelter dogs. Either way, we’d love to hear from you.

Healthy New Year


Best of wishes for 2019!

Start this off with a healthy New Year, and a new perspective.

Tell us your New Years Goals, below!

Or tell us what active hobbies you’re trying in 2019!


-Hunter Rose

Poly vs Epoxy Boards: What’s The Difference?

When you buy or rent a surfboard, you probably don’t give much thought to the process that goes into making it. Who was the shaper? Where was it made? What type of foam blank was used? What type of resin was used to coat the board? While these are all valid questions the one we get asked the most often is what is the difference between poly vs epoxy boards?

Epoxy vs Poly

Epoxy(right) vs Poly(left)

Poly Technology

Polyurethane blanks (PU) date back to the 50’s, when Hobie Alter first popularized the design as an alternative to balsa wood. When compared to traditional wood boards, PU foam is lighter, easier to shape, and enhances performance. According to the American Chemistry Council, “polyurethanes are formed by reacting a polyol (an alcohol with more than two reactive hydroxyl groups per molecule) with a diisocyanate or a polymeric isocyanate in the presence of suitable catalysts and additives.” PU/PE are built using a polyurethane foam blank and then glassing it with a polyester resin. A particular draw of using PU foam is that it is closed cell—meaning it won’t easily soak up resin or water (should you ding your board), which helps keep the board light.

Poly Surfboard

Poly Surboard

Epoxy Technology

Epoxy surfboards came into the picture a bit later and it wasn’t until the 90’s that they really caught on. Typically, epoxy boards are made from EPS foam and are coated in epoxy resin. EPS foam is produced by feeding tiny polystyrene spears into a machine and then adding steam (with small amounts of pentane gas) to expand the beads and then mold them together. EPS is an open cell foam, meaning it’s extremely water absorbent. In order to keep the board water tight, shapers add extra layers of fiberglass and epoxy resin. Traditionally, most hand shapers don’t make boards from EPS foam but it is a great resource for pop-out boards.

Epoxy Surfboard

Epoxy Surfboard

Pros and Cons: Poly vs Epoxy

Like most things in life, there are pros and cons to each design. Surfers tend to like different boards for different conditions and some surfers surf better on different types of boards because of body structure. In general, PU/PE boards are cheaper than EPS/Epoxy boards. Poly boards tend to be heavier, which means they sit lower in the water, making them the ideal design for riding barrels. They are also a lot more flexible, something that has yet to fully be matched with EPS foam. Most poly boards will be more fragile then epoxy because epoxy material is harder than poly. If you want to try out certain equipment before buying it and dont know where the best wave is to do that at, go to Bolsa Chica State Beach #1 Rated Beach to Learn To Surf  to get an understanding how we at Corky Carroll’s Surf School Private Lessons  do it!

Epoxy boards, on the other hand, are much lighter, making them the perfect board for airs or quick turns. Epoxy boards also tend to be a better option for beginners as they are lighter, float better, and are more difficult to ding. EPS foam is also more environmentally friendly than polyurethane because it can be recycled and re-purposed.

There is no wrong or right choice when selecting a surfboard—do your research and decide what is the best fit for you. Before investing in a board of your own, consider renting or demoing to find your best fit.

Corky Carroll’s Surf School

If you are a beginner surfer or just need some more progressive tips but are scared to use a hard surfboard go check out why Foam Surfboards are our number one board to use! Do not buy just any foam surfboard, go check out Why You Shouldnt Buy A Costco Surfboard!

Here, at Corky Carroll’s, we offer a Surf School in Huntington Beach, California or Our Costa Rican Surf Resort in Nosara, Costa Rica. We have a wide fleet of boards to choose from and are happy to answer any questions you might have. Poly or epoxy, the choice is yours. We’re just glad you’re out in the water and riding waves.

3 Tips to Reinvent Your Surfing

Want to Reinvent your surfing? Experience the endless summer at two unique locations: Huntington Beach, California and Nosara, Costa Rica. Whether you are a seasoned surfer or new to surfing, you may have questions or doubts about equipment and/or surf coaching. Here are a few tips we’ve rounded up from years of experience on the water. Go to Private Surf Lessons if you want a detailed surf lesson teaching you how to do all the things that are mentioned below.

  1. Select the proper board: Surf Lesson

A common mistake among beginners is opting for too small of a board too quickly. When learning, you’ll likely experience the most luck on a longer, wider board. The reason it is easier to learn on a bigger board is that it has more buoyancy. The more buoyancy you have the more stable it is to be able to get up on your feet. As you become more confident in your surfing, you can try transitioning to a shorter board that still has some width and thickness to it (ex. a fish). With modern surfboard technology, you should be able to find a nice, stable board with no need to sacrifice performance. They make surfboards that are short but have as much volume (buoyancy)  as a long board has which will be your transition board. Foam is your friend, the more foam the more fun for learning! You can learn all these things while taking a surf lesson with us! Our Surfing Frequently Asked Questions page will help you determine your equipment you will need to ride waves with ease. Go check it out Frequently Asked Questions: Surfing

Variety of Surfboards

Variety of Surfboards

  1.   Find your sweet spot

Every surfboard has a sweet spot, or the point on the board where there is an equal amount of weight and volume on all sides of the board. We also call this the balance point on our board. The first things Corky Carroll’s Surf School does in their surf lessons is help the student find the sweet spot. In order to find this spot you need to go in the ocean and float on your board. If the nose of the board is in the water you are to far up on the board. If your nose of your board is to high above the water then you are to far back on your board. You look at your board as it is like boat, if to many people are on the left side of the boat, the boat will sink going left. So if you are to far on one side of your board then you will sink and you are not in the sweet spot. The sweet spot is important to note because it should be situated between your feet when riding a wave. Every board, surfer, and wave is unique so you may to play around to find your specific sweet spot, but this is a good rule of thumb for finding it.

Private surf lessons

Huntington Beach Private Surf Lessons

  1.   Know the differences between paddling techniques

When trying to reinvent your surfing you will need to learn paddling techniques. When paddling out into the lineup there are a couple things to keep in mind. Before heading out, look for channels to paddle through (finding one can save you lots of energy). You’ll also want to time your paddle—it’s much easier to paddle out between sets than in the middle of one. If there is shorebreak, you should not start paddling until you are past it. It will be easier to walk to the opposite side of the shorebreak before you start paddling. Lastly, paddle hard. When a wave breaks in front of you, you want to have some momentum going forward so its easier to get over. You are going to either have to go over the wave doing a half push up or you are going to have to turtle roll.

paddling out

paddle out

When paddling to catch a wave you’ll want to find a good position on your board—if you’re too far forward you’ll nose dive but if you’re too far back you may not catch the wave. It may take some time to master but you’ll eventually get a feel for it. When you take off, keep your head down, your legs together, tighten your core, cup your hands, and build up speed. Once you think you have the wave, execute two more quick strokes before popping up. This will all be taught by our professional instructors during the surf lessons we put on. 

Choose your location between the surf school in Huntington Beach, California or our surf resort in Nosara, Costa Rica. Each has something to offer for surfers of all skills and ability levels—whether you’re looking to ride a wave for the first time or expand your skill set, we’re here to help. If you are a beginner and or just want to get better at surfing our Private Surf Lessons can give you the confident to get out there by yourself in no time. Go Check out Private Surf Lessons . If you need a place to practice that is safe and has perfect learning waves go check out our other blogs at Corky Carroll’s Surf School Blogs


5 Artificial Wave Pools to Add to Your Bucket List

In recent years, wave pools have been popping up across the globe, defying nature and providing perfect surf in the process. Each is unique in its construction and design but all are similar in the fact that they provide surf and stoke in places where waves would otherwise be unavailable. Here, we take a look at five of the top wave pools on the planet and discuss their backstory, the technology behind them, and public access. Try not to froth too hard.


The Surf Ranch: Wave Pool

Leemore, California


In 2007, Kelly Slater founded the Kelly Slater Wave Company (KSWC) with the goal of creating a soliton wave, or a wave that maintains its shape while moving at a constant velocity. In 2015, Slater’s dream came to life when the first footage of the artificial wave was released to the public. The technology behind the wave is simple yet wildly complex: a 100-ton hydrofoil is pushed along a 700-yard track, resulting in six-foot waves that last about a minute. The wave is often regarded as one of the most perfect waves on the planet and in September of 2018, the CT hosted its first event at The Surf Ranch. For now, the wave is invitation only but expansion plans should open the wave to the public in the near future.




surf ranch ca

surf ranch ca


The BSR Cable Park

Waco, Texas


The BSR Cable Park put Waco, Texas on the map as a premier surf destination in early 2018 when footage of Seth Moniz doing a massive backflip on the wave was released. The park features multiple breaks, with waves suitable for beginner, intermediate, and advanced surfers. From the minds of Jamie O’Brien and Cheyne Magnusson, the pool is fueled by 24, 10-foot wide air chambers. The result: 240-feet of wave generating area. In addition to waves, the park offers a lazy river, an epic water slide, and an on-site hotel. The park is open to the public and one-hour sessions run from $60-$90, depending on your wave choice.




BSR Cable Park

seth moniz backflip



 Surf Snowdonia

Conwy, North Wales, United Kingdom


Surf Snowdonia was born in North Wales, United Kingdom in August of 2015. Set against a backdrop of forests and mountains, Surf Snowdonia offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced waves to satisfy surfers of all skill levels. The wave features Wavegarden technology through which a hydrodynamic wavefoil powered by a gearless drive system displaces water under a pier to form glassy swell. In addition to waves, the park offers lessons, food, and unique lodging options. The park is open to the public and hour-long sessions cost somewhere in the ballpark of $60.




surf snowdonia


Austin, Texas

 Founded in 2016 by Doug Coors, NLand made its mark as the largest surf park in the world. In an effort to be as energy efficient as possible, the park features Wavegarden technology. To further their efforts in sustainability, the lagoon is 100% self-sustaining and uses a state-of-the-art water filtration system that meets or exceeds the standards set by the World Health Organization and the Environmental Protection Agency. The park is open to the public and features beginner, intermediate, and advanced waves as well as surf lessons from expert coaching staff.


Nland Surf Park





Unit Surf Pool


 Born in Cologne, Germany, Unit Surf Pool is the first floating surf pool as well as the most efficient artificial stationary wave on the planet. The Unit Surf Pool brings a surfable wave to any body of standing water, meaning an endless water supply and no need for chemical water treatment. Pumps pull water to the surface where gravity then creates a powerful stream heading down the ramp into the wave generating section of the pool. When the stream meets the body of water, a stationary deepwater wave is created. The Unit Surf Pool can operate in any standing body of water with a minimum depth two meters, is available in five sizes, and can be up and running in less than four months.

unit surf pool

unit surf pool



Wave pools offer a controlled platform, with perfect waves on a loop, making them the ideal place to learn to surf or hone in your skills. While scoring surf in landlocked regions is certainly worth experiencing, there’s something to be said about the magic and unpredictability of riding waves in the ocean. There are thousands of waves to choose from but two of our favorites are in Huntington Beach, California and Nosara, Costa Rica. When you’re ready to put your wave pool skills to the test, come join us at one of our kids’ camps or all-inclusive retreats—our expert coaches will help ease the transition from manufactured waves to everything the ocean has to offer. Go to Huntington Beach Surf Camp for our summer surf camp in Huntington Beach or go to Costa Rican Surf Resort for our international surf retreat.

Written by: Rebecca Parsons