surfing encuentro


The question of ‘what level of surfer am I?’ inevitably crops up when you are selecting where to travel, and when to travel to a surf destination (tip; if it doesn’t occur to you, it should). After all, most surf destinations/countries have different surf seasons which may suit different surfing abilities.

If they don’t actually have different seasons, then at least there will be different surf breaks and or tides to consider and match up to your own surfing ability.

what level surfer am i

Here at Swell Surf camp, and at our sister surf hotel, Swell Bali in Indonesia, we are very often tasked with helping a student identify their ‘level’ of surfing and what they are trying to achieve with their surf lessons or surf guiding.


In our experience, most often a student will class themselves as an ‘intermediate’ surfer when they have had a few surf lessons before, but it’s actually not that straightforward. Overestimating your skillset as a surfer will almost inevitably lead to problems/frustration at the very least, and when the ocean is involved there’s an obvious element of danger too. We really want to avoid giving any student a frightening surf experience which could end up putting them off surfing for life.

what level surfer am i
So for us, there are many things which help define what level of surfing you are at. For example, you might have only been surfing a short time (perhaps a few months), but have been lucky enough to get loads of water time, plus the right surfboard and good surf conditions, in which case your progression could have been quite rapid.

But perhaps like many novice surfers we encounter, they’ve already been trying to surf for a while, but just haven’t managed to make any big ‘leaps’ forward.

This could be for any number of reasons. Some examples would be; regularly visiting a surf break which doesn’t enjoy good waves, and/or going out on a board which is too small, and/or choosing to surf in the wrong conditions (which don’t suit your ability), and/or not being very skilled at wave selection and/or (hopefully not) poor surf instruction initially which might have led to you developing some bad habits.

As a result of all these factors, it’s clearly not reliable to accurately define our level of surfing ability just by considering the length of time you’ve been surfing or the number of surf lessons you have taken.

Instead, we can gauge with far more accuracy what level of surfer you really are by actually assessing the skills you have managed to master so far in the water.

What do we mean by that?

In our many years of experience giving surf lessons at many different levels, we usually find surfers classing themselves in one of the 4 following categories; Beginner, Intermediate, Expert or Pro.

But we don’t agree with only using 4 categories as it takes an awful lot of water time and good conditions to progress from Beginner to Intermediate: It is widely accepted that an Intermediate surfer already possesses a lot of surfing skills.


For us at Swell, we feel there should actually be 7 stages of surfing. We find it really useful with our surf lessons or surf guiding to very accurately assess someone’s surf skills by using these 7 categories, clearly stating the skills mastered within each stage.


  7. PRO.

Experts and Pros don’t need our help of course, but we do find the subtle changes and skill sets required, especially to get from the Beginner to the Intermediate stage, are worthy of being defined and given their own name as there are so many nuances to take into account with a surfer’s development, especially in the early stages. Let’s talk about those stages and what they mean to us.



A beginner is exactly that, someone who is just beginning surfing, new to the sport, with no previous surf lessons or surf experience. You will have no idea at all about any aspect of surfing and need complete surf instruction right from the very basics (no shame in that by the way). We love complete beginners at Swell and always give our beginners some exercises they can begin at home to prepare for the rigours of paddling especially, plus tips on how to pop up so that by the time they arrive for their surf holiday/vacation they have a bit of a head start.
beginner surf level

You will be needing to learn:

  • The names of the various parts of the surfboard
  • Aspects of water safety
  • Whether you have a ‘goofy’ stance or a ‘regular’ stance
  • How to lie on the board
  • How to sit on the surfboard in the water
  • How to paddle
  • How to pop-up
  • How it feels to catch a wave and be ‘propelled’
  • How to stand up once you have caught a wave
  • How to improve your stance for balance as the wave carries you
  • Basic theory about how waves are formed
  • How to identify a good wave to catch
  • When to start paddling for the wave

Recommended board for a beginner, adult, average weight :

9’0” long  Soft top surfboard with lots of volume

Ideal wave height:

1′ to 3′ (half a meter to 1 meter) white water / broken waves.


The NOVICE stage applies to you if you have taken some surf lessons before or even visited one or two surf camps in the past and have already mastered the skills listed above. You should also be able to;

Paddle into white water waves or even small green waves unaided (i.e. not being pushed into the wave by someone else)
Able to pop-up on the surfboard and ride for a few meters without falling
Paddle yourself back into position ready for the next wave
Novice surf level

You will be aiming to do the following:

  • Start to read and select waves (learning which ones to leave and which to paddle for)
  • Improve your stance on the surfboard to get ready for;
    trimming (turning slightly) the surfboard to start to ride ‘down the line’ instead of only going in a straight line
  • Learn about surf etiquette

Recommended board for a novice surfer, adult, average weight :

8’0 to 9’0”  Soft or hard top top surfboard

Ideal wave height:

2′ to 4′ (half a meter to 1.2meters) white water / broken waves.


The progressive stage applies to you if you have already mastered the skills of the BEGINNER AND NOVICE surfer levels above and are now out of the whitewater (i.e. you are now able to ride shoulder/head-high green, unbroken waves). To recap, we would refer to you as a progressive surfer if you can already do the following:

  • Paddle easily out to a break
  • Understand and able to follow priority/surf etiquette in the line-up
  • Read waves and make correct decisions whether or not to take one or not
  • Paddle unaided into chest/head-high waves
  • Pop up quickly with ease
  • Have a good stance on the surfboard
  • Speed up the surfboard on the wave to enable gentle turning:
  • Able to surf a ‘wavy-line’ along the face of a wave, keeping ahead of the whitewater when a wave is not closing out
  • Paddle back out to the line up unaided after taking your wave

Progressive surf level
As a progressive surfer, you will be aiming to achieve the following:

  • Learn how to make a more drastic top turn and bottom turns
  • Taking steeper drops (paddling into larger waves)

Recommended board for a progressive surfer, adult, average weight :

7’0 to 8’0”  Hard top surfboard

Ideal wave height:

2′ to 4′ (half a meter to 1.2meters) unbroken waves.


An intermediate surfer will have mastered all the skills above; to briefly recap you are an INTERMEDIATE surfer if you can already do the following:

  • Paddle into overhead or larger waves
  • Keep your speed up on a wave to stay ahead of the white water
  • Make more drastic top turns and a bottom turns

As an intermediate surfer, you will probably be aiming to achieve the following:

Intermediate surfer level

  • Learn how to do ‘cutbacks’ (a sharp turn back into the steep part of the wave to make more of a wave’s face)
  • Begin to ‘stall’ yourself on the wave to try to get ‘barrelled’
  • Start learning how to climb on top of the wave’s lip, referred to as a ‘floater’
  • Learn how to come ‘off the lip’ sharply and back into the wave

Recommended board for a progressive surfer, adult, average weight :

6’8″ to 7’8”  Hard top surfboard

Ideal wave height:

3′ to 5′ (1 meter to 1.6meters) unbroken waves.


A surfer who is at an advanced stage is already able to do the following:

  • Has excellent wave selection
  • Can make controlled high-speed bottom and top turns
  • Can round-house cutback into the steep part of the wave
  • Can get barrelled in medium-height waves
  • Can easily manage a larger, wider bottom turn to rush ahead of a close-out section and re-enter an unbroken part of the wave
  • Can make off-the-lip manoeuvres
  • Floaters

Advanced surfer level
Recommended board for an advanced surfer, adult, average weight :

6’0″ to 6’8”  Hard top surfboard

Ideal wave height:

4′ to 7′ (1.2 meters to 2 meters) unbroken waves.


Expert surfers, and of course Pro surfers, don’t need to have an explanation of what they can achieve on a wave as they have inevitably mastered all the techniques described above + a lot more. 360’s, aerials and being barrelled in huge waves are usually all in their repertoire.
Expert surfer level

This article is aimed more at explaining the difference between the first 5 stages of surfing so that as a surfer with less experience, you can let surf camps or surf hotels like us correctly judge where we should be advising you to surf, what type of surf lesson you might need, or whether you are better off just going out with a surf guide.

Recommended board for an advanced surfer, adult, average weight :

5’5″ to 6’5”  Hard top surfboard

Ideal wave height:

5′ and up


It’s a really terrible idea to overstate your surf experience; not least because you will very likely end up in the wrong surf spot for your ability which can inevitably lead to serious injury, or worse.

Having a frightening experience in waves too large for your skillset can set you back for months if not years. Any good surf coach or guide will quickly progress you through stages if they can see you are able: Noone is going to deliberately hold you back and many surf coaches will naturally push you a little out of your comfort zone as that is generally how we all progress. Surfing is a life-long commitment of learning: Even Pro’s will tell you they are still honing/improving skills on every single wave they take.

We are in the process of making an interactive level guide to help you identify your current surfing-skill set.

Once you have correctly established where you are in your stages of learning, come and see us at Swell Bali, or Swell Surf Camp in the Dominican Republic; we’d love to help you keep getting better! Our luxury surf coaching holidays have taught 1000’s of people the sport of surfing in a safe, fun and quick way. If you need any more assistance in ‘diagnosing’ your surf level, just drop us a line and we will try to help out.

We hope you like this article of “what level of surfer am I?” if you do, you might also like the following article: different surfboard and which boards are best suited at which stage of your surfing level, have a look at this page: Different surfboards
Our luxury surf coaching holidays have taught 1000’s of people the sport of surfing in a safe, fun and quick way.

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7 Reasons to Ride the Waves and Learn to Surf

Picture this. The sun’s shining, the palm trees are swaying, and you’re riding your first ever wave over the crystal clear Caribbean water. There’s no doubt about it, nothing beats surfing!

In addition to having fun and embracing a new challenge, surfing comes with a whole host of other benefits. From improved fitness and better core strength to reducing stress and encouraging you to get outdoors, what’s not to like?

Regardless of age or ability, it’s never too late to learn to surf. You’ll learn to trust yourself and your instincts like never before. We’ve rounded up 7 ways of how surfing will help you live life to the fullest.

Read on to learn more!


You’re Going to Get a Whole Lot Fitter When You Learn To Surf

learn to surf holidaysSurfing comes with many physical health benefits, which is great news for all of you looking to get fitter. In fact, surfing is the perfect combination of strength and cardio training.

When you learn to surf, you’ll be doing a lot of paddling to get used to the board and feeling of the water below. Although this can be a little tiring at first, it’s a killer cardiovascular workout. You’ll have some pretty toned arms by the end of your holiday, that’s for sure.

Your shoulders and back are also going to get stronger and stronger every time you paddle out to catch a wave.

Every element of surfing pushes your strength, agility, balance, and stamina.

Once you’ve learned to pop up on the board (you’ll get there, trust us), your legs and core are going to be working to keep your body balanced and standing upright. That feeling when you’re riding your first wave – however short that moment may be – is something you’ll never forget.


You’re Going to Feel Happier and More ‘Present’

happy surf campSurfing is a fantastic outlet for releasing stress and tension.

The endorphin’s released through physical activity provide a natural happiness high and immediately make you feel better about the world.

A study of 107 surfers in California investigated the mental health benefits of surfing by asking them to describe how they felt before and after a session. They reported feeling calmer and more tranquil afterwards.

When you’re surfing, there are no distractions of modern life. It’s just you, the water and your board.


Taking on a New Challenge Is Good for the Mind, Body, and Soul

Eleanor Roosevelt famously said: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

When we learn a new skill or sport, we’re challenging our mind, body, and soul. And when we are faced with something new, we have to work that much harder to get it right. When we achieve our goal, the reward is that much sweeter.

Remember when you learned to ride a bike? It doesn’t come immediately, but before you know it, you’ve got the hang of it! It’s the same with surfing. One day it will click, and you’ll wonder why you’ve taken so long to give it a go.


You’ll Learn More About Yourself

learn to surf holidayIt takes courage to leave your comfort zone behind and connect with something bigger than yourself. Venturing out into the open waves for the first time can seem daunting and alien. But trust us when we say that you will learn more about yourself in an hour learning to surf than you will by lying on the beach trying to get a tan.

You could surprise yourself with your patience, determination, and love for the ocean. Nobody is perfect and learning to surf encourages you to push through fear and doubt.

As in all parts of life, continuous effort and a positive attitude can take you anywhere.


You’ll Meet New People

surf schoolFor many people, surfing isn’t just a sport but a way of life. In fact, surfing is one of the oldest sports on earth and is thought to have originated in Polynesia in 2000 B.C.

Out of a sport marked by salty hair, sandy toes, and colourful boards, a major subculture has emerged. From surf art, surf tourism, and international contests, surfing has captured hearts across the globe.

When you learn to surf, you’ll inevitably meet new people, make new friends and experience the culture of the sport.

Getting Outdoors Is Always A Good Idea

sunrise surfingGetting close to nature  and really enjoying the natural environment around us is something we should all prioritise. Those who surf often speak of the feeling of overwhelming freedom when they are in the water.

When we’re outdoors, we gain perspective on life. Even when you’re in the beginning stages of learning to surf, you’ll be immersed in the rhythms of the ocean and the great outdoors.


It’s Never Too Late To Learn A New Skill

Nobody wants to reach 80 and think “I wish I done X, Y, and Z.” If learning to surf is on your bucket list, why not get ticking?

And you don’t have to be 21 to learn to surf either!
We have taught people in their 40’s – 50’s and 60’s how to surf

One British man, Paul, learned to surf when he was 61 years old and hasn’t looked back since.

“It’s opened up a new dimension in my life. A feeling of freedom. You’re basically on your own, on your surfboard in the sea…one to one,” Paul said.

At Swell we aim to be the best surf camp for adults who want to learn the sport of surfing.


Final Thoughts

Staying fit and active is always beneficial, but when you’re outside doing something you love and learning a new skill in the process, it feels that much more rewarding.


Have a look at the following pages to see if the learn to surf holidays we offer are something that would suit you.

Swell offers adult surf camps for people people that are looking for the best place to learn to surf



Check out our prices here.

How about a Family Surf Holiday?

In the popular kids vacation weeks, christmass, summer holiday we are also open for familiy surf holidays to join Swell.
Ready to buy your first surfboard? read our guide on choosing your first surfboard

Single / Solo Traveller? Read this article why Swell is the place for you

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Best summer camps

best surf vacation

Spring has begun and we at Swell Surf Camp already get a lot of inquiries and bookings in for the summer.

Maybe it’s because we got mentions on a lot of external / independent websites for offering awesome summer surf camp holidays.


Needless to say we are very happy when we get a mention in the media, another thing to say is that we never pay for media coverage or let anyone have a free stay in return for a write up. These reviews of Swell Surf Camp are genuine.

What’s going on in Cabarete?

Winter has provided us with lots of top quality surf days at Playa Encuentro, and the kite surfers have also been happy days with plenty of windy afternoons. With summer coming up: if you have been wanting to learn kitesurfing, the next few months is the time to come over to Cabarete for a kite surfing lessons / course. Steady trade winds in the afternoon will be a steady fixture all the way until the end of August for kiteboarding

Want to learn to surf ? Summer months provide excellent learning conditions for beginners with waves in the waist to chest high range.

Did we mention the Yoga Surf Camp ?

Need more activities? have a look at the active adventure holiday page.


We hope to see you in Cabarete, the action sport’s capital of the Caribbean this summer.

For those interested in learning to kitesurf on their caribbean, here’s a good starter guide

If you are looking for more info on the seasons in the Dominican Republic:

Best time to visit the Dominican Republic

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Surf Season in Full Swing


Here in the Dominican Republic, the surf season is in full swing, we had a great xmass and new years with another full camp of people learning to surf.

The surf conditions at Encuentro have been very good so far in January.



Some days with sizable surf in the overhead + range, but also plenty of days with clean and glassy surf conditions in the 2-3 foot range, ideal for beginners and intermediate surfers at Playa Encuentro

Aaron, our ISA qualified head Surf coach has been taking lots of pictures for our clients, and his picture package (40 USD) is in high demand.



A new surf instructor has arrived.
A first for Swell: Charlie is the first qualified Surf instructor at Swell from New Zealand.

From the cool surf town of Ragland, he is a superb surfer with year of surf instruction under his belt.

Loves to play his acoustic guitar and is also up for a party in Cabarete once every while.

Here’s some picture of what’s been going on at the #1 Surf Camp in the Caribbean in the month of January
Interested in joining us in the Dominican Republic?
We have some spaces left fro February and March, so if you want to you Swell for an incredible surf holiday, send Clare an email today.

Want to learn to kitesurf in Cabarete, we offer that too. Want to see what other activities are on offer with Swell, have a look at this page. Interested in a Yoga Surf Camp holiday? We offer that too



  • Swell is the only purposely built surf camp in the Caribbean.
  • Swell is the only surf camp that employs qualified surf instructors.
  • We are located at the best location in town, close to bars and restaurant.
  • Best food
  • Clean, comfortable and stylish
  • But most of all, Swell has the best vibe!

See you soon

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Learn to Surf


Learn to Surf


More info about our Learn to Surf Holiday can be found here >>

What is the core business of Swell Surf Camp? Hard core surfers? Travelling surfers? Nope, teaching people that are completely new to the sport of surfing all the basic essentials of how to ride the waves. We want to provide high quality surf lessons for our clients, and one way to ensure this is by using quality surf material: Safe big soft top boards for the first time surfers, rashguards, leashes but most importantly by using  internationally qualified surf instructors that are fluent in English.

Our surf  instructor to student ratio is pretty much guaranteed to be below 6 students for 1 instructor. We have 2 international surf coaches working at Swell with years of experience teaching surfing in a safe, fun and structured manner.

Besides those 2 coaches we also have a permanent Dominican Surf instructor, who is widely regarded as one of the best surf instructors in the country: Neno, He speaks English fluently, is very patient and an all round nice guy  with a huge smile.

Quick tip:  Swell is a popular place and as a result we can sometimes fill up months in advance, so if you are interested in joining us, don’t wait too long; send us an email today.


Learning Surfing

What kind of people take lessons with Swell? Well we only give lessons to the clients that stay at Swell, to ensure that the student / instructor ratio is kept low. So unlike  other surf schools and surf camps in Cabarete, we do not give lessons to non clients.

Interested in a yoga surf retreat holiday? Visit our Yoga page

Swell Clients:
What else sets the surf lessons from Swell apart? Besides the actual beach lessons, we also give at least 2 surf theory classes per week at Swell. These are highly informative classes that go in depth into things like: How waves are created, tides, currents, dangers but also about positions in the line up that are best to sit in order to catch the best waves.


More info about  learning to surf with Swell Surf Camp

Have a look on our ‘Surfing’ page to find more info about the learn to surf camp packages we have created. Interested in a surf & yoga holiday? See this yoga & surf page

So what are you waiting for? Cross one thing of your bucket list , and learn to surf with the professionals in the Dominican Republic on your next surf holiday

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