"Pirate" Surf Schools Prompt Crackdown

By Angie Crouch
|  Thursday, Jul 11, 2013  |  Updated 4:14 PM PDT
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Pirate surf companies have been sprouting up on Southern California beaches. These pirate companies do not have proper permits, and authorities say that is unfair and unsafe. Angie Crouch reports from Santa Monica for NBC4 News.

Angie Crouch

Pirate surf companies have been sprouting up on Southern California beaches. These pirate companies do not have proper permits, and authorities say that is unfair and unsafe. Angie Crouch reports from Santa Monica for NBC4 News.

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An increasing number of surfing instructors are setting up shop along Southern California beaches without the proper permits, a sidestep of the law that authorities and surfers say could be dangerous.

Allen King has been teaching surf lessons in Southern California since 1997. His Aqua Surf School is one of eight licensed surf businesses operating in Los Angeles County.

Surf instructors are required to pay $200 for an operating permit, meet safety standards and give the county 15 percent of their gross profits, since they’re making money on public property.

There’s a competitive bidding process for the most popular surf spots, such as Malibu’s Surfrider Beach.

But in the past year, so-called pirate surf schools have been popping up all along the coast.

“So any Joe from Craigslist can just throw up an ad and just take somebody out on a board and teach surfing; however, there are techniques and safety standards that need to be met,” King said.

Authorities in LA County are cracking down on pirate surface schools. On Wednesday, an enforcement officer from the Department of Beaches and Habors ticketed the Malibu Surf Shack on PCH for giving lessons without a permit.

The owner of the school, Sean Weber, was so upset that he called sheriff’s deputies.

He said his surf instructors actually give lessons in the parking lot, and only “accompany” students to the beach. But authorities say that’s a violation of the beach code and he agreed to stop.

“I’ll make calls and found out exactly what we can and can’t do,” Weber said. “And whatever the guidelines are, that’s what we’ll adhere to.”

Citations can cost up to $300, and legitimate surf instructors, like Allen King, say the crackdown is the best way to keep everybody safe.

“Our school has an in house 3 month certification program, we do lifeguard training and ocean rescue techniques,” King said. “We’re selective in our hiring process because we have to keep these kids safe the whole summer.”

For a complete list of permitted surf schools in Santa Monica, click here.

Below is a list of permitted surf schools in Los Angeles County:

  • Torrance Beach
    • Perfect Day Surf Camp; PV Surf
  • Redondo Beach
    • City of Redondo Beach
  • Manhattan Beach
    • Champ Camp; Freedom AOP; Learn to Surf LA; Perfect Day Surf Camp; Pure Surfing Experience
  • Dockweiler Beach
    • Black Surfers Collective;
  • Venice Beach
    • Freedom AOP; Kapowui; Learn to Surf LA: Malibu Longboards; Regents of the University of California
  • Will Rogers
    • Boarding House Mentors
  • Malibu "Surfrider"
    • Aqua Surf; Freedom AOP; Pierce College;
  • Zuma
    • Malibu Makos Surf

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