By Shelley Gilken
Not many camps can boast this: No shoes needed.
On the sandy shore of Delray Beach, dozens of campers each year get their feet wet with an introduction to water sports at the Delray Water Sports Surf Camp.
“Kids don’t need to be on an athletic field five miles inland with socks and shoes on,” said Patrick Heaney, director of the camp. “We’re water people.”
And the camp is not just for surfing. There is also stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, boogie-boarding and skim boarding.
“It’s an introduction to all these water sports and a hands-on experience of water sport awareness,” Heaney said. “Kids get fundamentals and supervision.”
The campers also venture out to the historic Delray wreck, where they snorkel in 15 feet of water. The Delray wreck is the remains of a British ship that sank just offshore during a hurricane in 1903. In addition to the ship’s hull, campers may spot snapper, lobsters, leatherback turtles, stingrays or puffer fish.
“It’s kids having fun,” Heaney said. “Riding the waves and seeing marine life.”
Heaney said that the campers don’t have to be physically fit or strong swimmers, but they do have to be able to swim, and some campers use life jackets. For children who are unsure whether they want to do an entire week, Heaney offers a one-day option for children that allows them to try it out.
Because of the camp’s location at the Seagate Beach Club, the camp also draws visitors from around the world. While most campers are local, Heaney said, he has signed up children from Germany, France, Brazil and Canada.
Heaney said the campers gain more confidence in their skills as the week goes on, or if they return for more than one week. Many of the campers do end up catching a wave, but everyone can excel on a boogie-board.
“I help them catch waves. I’m in the water pushing them,” he said. If campers are tired, they can play games on the beach.
The campers spend an average of two to three hours in the water in each session. There is also some instruction on the sand, as well as breaks to towel off, rehydrate and reapply sunblock.
Parents get to see highlights of the day’s activities in daily posts to the camp’s Facebook page.
And on Fridays, there’s another treat for parents. The camp hosts lunch, which is usually pizza or a cookout. Occasionally, the meal is an especially fresh catch.
“If lobsters are walking (at the Delray wreck), I pull out lobsters during camp and put them on the grill,” he said.
If going to the camp sparks a greater interest, additional camps are held year-round that coincide with school breaks. That way, campers can enjoy summer fun in the water all year.
For information on more area summer camps, please see our guide at www.thecoastalstar.ning.com
Delray Water Sports Surf Camp
500 S. Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach
8:30 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday.; 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Runs June 9 through Aug. 29
$325 per week for new students or $70 per day (discounts available for returning students and siblings)
For more information, see www.delraybeachwatersportsrentals.com or visit DelrayBeachSurfCamp on Facebook, where photos and daily updates are posted.