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With 42 years of experience, Island Water Sports has continued to share its love of surfing with the South Florida community along with travelers looking to catch some waves off Deerfield Beach.
Island Water Sports has been a surfing ambassador for the sport and provides plenty of opportunities for the public during the spring, summer and winter months, offering surf lessons, camps and trips.
This summer there were over 800 children who received an introduction to the sport at one of the weekly or daily surf sessions offered at Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton and Boynton Beach.
The surf camps started in early June and concluded 11 weeks later in late August. Island Water Sports has partnered with the city of Deerfield Beach to offer the camps to the public.
The Deerfield Beach camp is located just north of the International Fishing Pier, while the Boca Raton camp is at Red Reef Park and the Boynton Beach surf camp is at Oceanfront Park.
Parents were pleased to have a healthy alternative of sending their children to an outdoor camp with safety protocols in place. The beach, saltwater and a wide-open ocean lend themselves to a healthy environment. The eligible age for campers to join in on the fun was 6-14 and all skill levels were welcome.
This was the vision of the Island Water Sports founder the late Kirk Cottrell, who introduced thousands of Floridians to the surfing lifestyle. Cottrell’s legacy continues with his children sharing and passing on their father’s passion. Cheyne, Karly and Linsey Cottrell run the family-owned operation.
“We had sold out for every surf camp week, and it was awesome,” Linsey Cottrell said. “We are really excited to grow the program more and more and happy to see people surfing again. With COVID, we were one of the few camps that was able to stay operational because we were outside with the saltwater and the kids were naturally social distancing being on the beach and on the ocean. This was a safe environment to send your kids to during the pandemic.”
Parents got to drop off and pick up their children at the Kirk Cottrell Pavilion where they were met by camp counselors.
Getting hooked on surfing becomes a lifestyle choice for many of the campers. There is more to learn than just surfing. On the calm and placid days when there aren’t any waves, there were other activities like paddleboarding, skimboarding and snorkeling.
“We have a huge team that ensures safety and makes sure it all goes down smoothly,” Linsey Cottrell said. “We teach the kids the importance of the marine ecosystem and preserving the environment. We always keep it fun and mix it up for the campers with Slurpees, watermelon day and a pizza party during the week. I would say this is the most successful summer we have ever had. We are definitely seeing growth and the kids are looking to enjoy the outdoors with the chance to socialize in a safe setting.”
There was a 6-1 ratio of counselors to surfers at the surf camp. Over the three locations, the camp utilized a 50-person staff during the summer season.
One of those surfing counselors overseeing the campers was Kaleb Okyn, a 16-year-old Boca Raton high school student who is a lifelong surfer.
“In the last four years I’ve really gotten more serious about surfing and anything to do with the water like boating or fishing has been my passion,” Okyn said. “I want the kids here to have a good time and learn all about surfing. I teach them all about popping up on the board, foot positioning and dealing with the water conditions. You learn all that and you will be able to ride the waves.”
Okyn said he enjoys being around the young campers and wants to share his knowledge of surfing with them. Keeping them safe and entertained throughout the course of the day are his main priorities.
“We start very early and will play a lot of games on the beach like dodgeball, volleyball and just about everything,” he said. “I love what I do and get to be on the beach every day and surf and get to travel to places like Ecuador and Costa Rica. I also make a lot of friends with other surfers.”
Teri Ann Guadagni was at the surf camp with her two grandchildren Jade and Zoey and has been coming to the camp for five years. The certified yoga instructor guided the campers and counselors with some yoga on the beach instruction.
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“I even got to share my yoga skills with the kids and counselors today,” Guadagni said. “I love surf camp and the kids are outside all day and kept occupied. The counselors are always teaching them many things like surfing but also about being patient and courteous. I love how they communicate with the kids and it’s nice to see everyone helping each other out. All the kids develop social skills. Every year we do two weeks of summer camp, and this is just the best.”
Island Water Sports has been offering free surf and paddleboard lessons at 7 a.m. every Saturday.
Another affordable option is the Surf Clinics that are offered every Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. and are maxed out at 15 surfers for a cost of $25.
Surfing trips to destinations like Cocoa Beach or Costa Rica are another popular adventure for the surfing crowd.