With warm temperatures and clear blue skies, summer is the perfect time to get wet in San Diego. Whether your kids enjoy swimming, surfing, sailing or just splashing around, you can find their favorite watery activity at one of San Diego County’s many aquatics-based summer camps.
Children attending aquatics camps can improve swim skills, learn about ocean and beach safety, spend time in or on the water, and experience the health benefits of being outdoors and physically active. They will also have opportunities to make new friends, build screen-free communication skills, decompress from school-related anxiety, and generally have a great time.
IN THE POOL
Whether your little fish dreams of diving off the blocks at the Olympics, wants to improve competitive strokes for swim team or simply loves to spend time at the pool, swim camps are an excellent summertime option.
“Swim camps offer a unique opportunity that allows young student-athletes to interact with and learn from some of the best coaches and swimmers in the sport,” says Daniel Perdew, former camp director of UC San Diego Swimming Camps. “They give young aspiring swimmers a firsthand look at what they could reap from their hard work and serve as a motivating tool upon return to their daily routine.”
There are a number of privately owned swim schools (such as Aqua Pros and Floaties) that offer lessons or camps, as well as local community pools, high schools and universities that offer swim programs.
Water enthusiasts might also enjoy camps that visit waterparks—think Sesame Place, SeaWorld, Legoland, the Wave—where kids enjoy exhilarating waterslides, floating in lazy rivers and wave surfing machines.
AT THE BEACH
Can your child identify a riptide? Does he know what to do if stung by a jellyfish? Fortunately for local families, a number of Junior Lifeguards (JG) programs are offered each summer through San Diego’s city and state beaches, and can provide the answers. Junior Lifeguards receive essential ocean safety education from seasoned professional lifeguards—all in a fun, recreational environment.
"JGs spend many hours learning about ocean awareness, marine life, basic first aid, CPR, sun protection, how to detect skin cancer, lifeguard skills, body surfing, body boarding, surfing and teamwork through a variety of fun beach games and competition,” says Patty Mackle, Junior Lifeguard coordinator for Torrey Pines State Beach.
Most JG programs are designed for kids ages 9–17; some also offer Junior Grommets for ages 7–8. Kids who love the program and return year after year often become lifeguards themselves—an excellent summer job for teens. Learn more about the various junior lifeguard programs available in San Diego County at www.sandiegofamily.com/resources/summer-camps-and-programs/junior-lifeguard-programs.
If your child’s main goal is to learn to surf, try a specialized surf camp. There are plenty of day camps for all ages and abilities offered up and down the San Diego coastline. Kids learn surfing basics such as paddling the board, catching waves, standing up and surfing etiquette; more advanced surfers work to improve technique. Experienced coaches keep kids safe, while providing instruction on ocean safety.
Local sleepaway surf camps, such as YMCA-operated Camp Surf, include a range of traditional camp activities.
If your child loves boating, consider a specialty camp that teaches kayaking or sailing, or high-speed thrills such as wakeboarding or waterskiing. One week at a watersports camp likely involves all of that, plus surfing and paddle sports. Multi-sport camps are often at a single location, such as Mission Bay Aquatic Center.
“So many of my fondest childhood memories revolve around the water,” reflects Josh Cantor, CEO of Carlsbad Lagoon’s Camp H20 Extreme. “We work very hard to facilitate those lifelong memories.”
Other aquatics programs introduce STEM education and coastal explorations via kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Older kids and teens can even learn to snorkel or scuba dive to experience the underwater world.
“A marine science camp gives students the opportunity to develop their love for the ocean or explore the possibility of pursuing marine biology as a field of study in the future,” says Amy Bergen Zerofskim, SEACAMP San Diego director.
CAMPS FOR KIDS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
The nonprofit organization, Surfing Madonna, offers a surf camp for kids with special needs in Oceanside. Sessions are free to participants and run from June through August. Campers receive one-on-one surf lessons from professional instructors. Visit www.surfingmadonna.org for more information.
Autism Society San Diego holds a specialized surf camp at La Jolla Shores for ages 5 to adult. Learn more at www.autismsocietysandiego.org/surf-camp.html.
Several regional aquatics programs offer inclusive camps that provide aids and/or special equipment to campers with special needs. Check community organizations and aquatics centers well in advance to explore the best options for your child.
Lisa Pawlak is an award-winning contributing writer living in Encinitas. Her two kids love to swim, surf, and generally splash around.