Learning to Surf in Barra Da Lagoa
As I mentioned before, I got the idea of coming to Florianopolis to learn to surf from listening to Tim Ferris a few years ago. He mentioned that it was 'a beautiful place, a lot safer than Rio' and that is where he learned to surf as well. I have also tried and miserably failed to even get up on the surf board when my friends were trying to teach me the basics in Florida and then again in Costa Rica, so I looked at this as another challenge for myself - learn to surf in a couple of weeks.
Floripa's Surfing Beaches
While trying to figure out where exactly to go once I arrive to Florianopolis, I was a bit surprised by the lack of information online about the surf schools in the area. In retrospect, I think it is a good thing. There are definitely plenty of them, no matter which of 42 beaches you will end up (well, most of them at least). The general consensus seems to be that Barra da Lagoa is a good place for beginners with smaller waves, Praya Mole is where most people go after they get bored with smaller waves, and Joaquina beach provides good waves for competitive surfing.
All three of the above beaches are a fairly quick bus ride away from Lagoa da Conceição where many accommodations are located, but the Lagoa itself is very shallow with really tiny waves not suitable for surfing. The city of Florianopolis is even farther away from the beaches and it can take a good hour to reach them by bus. I have not personally experienced the northern beaches since that area is a more developed one and I had no desire to go there, but Nexus Surf school has a good map with brief description of most beaches there.
Another note for those considering all-in-one packages that include lodging, lessons, gear, etc. I was also considering getting one of those, even though they seemed a bit pricy. Thankfully, I was talked out of that. It turned out far less expensive to get a hostel and then arrange for the lessons locally. Furthermore, the few truly all-in-one places I saw while there seemed to be in the worst condition and locations compared to all other hostels.
Surfing Schools in Barra da Lagoa
Since I was the absolute beginner, I settled down on Barra da Lagoa which had three options for the lessons. There are two schools right on the beach which also provide some discounts to people staying in local hostels. And then there is Evandro Santos. He was recommended to me by someone that went to Barra da Lagoa to learn to surf before me and I was cautioned that he is a bit more expensive than other schools in the area, but is totally worth it.
While the beach-side schools charge by the hour and have a very limited selection of (mostly) foam boards to use, Evandro's lessons start at his house with a good hour devoted to explaining the various concepts, safety principles, and dry-runs, all in a friendly hang-out atmosphere. Evandro also makes his own fiberglass boards and that is what you get to learn with right from the start. It is debatable whether foam boards or fiberglass ones are better for beginners, but I found I was simply too heavy for even the large foam boards - they were sinking every time I would get up on one, so I was glad Evandro is using quality fiberglass boards from the start.
Still, the biggest difference I noticed between Evandro and the beach-side schools is that he is really focused on providing a good all-around experience, while the lesson at a beach-side school was very impersonal and I truly felt being takend advantage of. Evandro does charge almost twice the price, but instead of one hour, our lessons would normally total up somewhere between 2.5 and 3 hours, so I still think it is a much better bargain. Oh and did I mention his wonderful wife Vanessa that took a ton of pictures, while also providing coaching from different vantage point? You would not get either from the beach schools.
I Did It!
As I mentioned, I have tried surfing before with no luck, but towards the end of my first lesson with Evandro, I was able to get up on the board and ride a few waves! It really was an amazing feeling.
For the first two lessons, Evandro wanted us to get used to getting up on the board and properly position ourselves on it without being overwhelmed by the need to pick and choose the waves and then catch them properly. He had us laying down on the boat and then gave us a push (so we did not have to paddle) and told us when to get up.
Third lesson was when the wave catching and paddling were added and the first time I was able to put it all together on my own, it was the greatest feeling of accomplishment! The only thing I could think of to compare it to was how I felt during my first solo flight and the first time I was flying hull sailing a Hoby Cat.