Airlines extort high fees for traveling with a surfboard. What if you could leave your board at home, secure in the knowledge that your hotel would set you up with a surfboard and even take you to a local break when you arrive?
When I visited southern California earlier this month and stayed at a hotel near LAX, surfing couldn’t have been easier. My boyfriend and I were driven to a well-known beach break and provided with pre-waxed, quality surfboards. A local briefed us on the spot before we all paddled out and when we’d surfed our fill the van was waiting to take us back to our hotel. Our very own surfing concierge.
Surfers have long cursed the confusing and exorbitant fees handed out by airlines for transporting their boards. Even Kelly Slater, Bob Hurley, Carissa Moore and plenty others have bemoaned the current state of affairs, calling out Hawaiian Airlines in particular this year. While some carriers like Qantas and Lufthansa allow boards to travel for free as part of the checked bag allowance, others such as United and Delta can charge $300 for a surfboard to make a round-trip – sometimes nearly as much as a seat on the plane or even a new board altogether.
For surfers unwilling to part with that much cash, visiting a surf destination without a board poses its own challenges. Surfboard rentals may be nonexistent or inconvenient and it can be hard to find a decent board in a sea of soft-tops.
One hotel is trying to take the pain out of surf travel: the Westin LAX. Earlier this year, that location added a surf concierge to the chain’s slate of physical activity concierges which include running, hiking, golf, tennis and skiing assistants. For a small premium over the flexible rate (with a little less flexibility), guests can book the Surf Package. Beginning surfers get a room and a 90-minute private lesson with instruction by Camp Surf at El Porto in Manhattan Beach, just a ten minute drive from the tarmac at LAX. The rate covers transportation and all gear, including wetsuits and surfboards.
Intermediate surfers currently find the program a bit more complicated. Although the hotel has a small quiver of new surfboards available for loan, surfers of all skill levels are required to participate in a lesson before checking out a board. One of our concierges, Jenny, told me this is because the hotel is trying to ensure that no one gets hurt.
Brad and I only had one morning to surf, so we weren’t able to just grab loaner boards and hit the waves. Instead, Jenny drove us to the beach for an 8 a.m. lesson with Wyatt of Camp Surf. While we changed into the wetsuits we’d brought (Camp Surf also has a selection available for guests), Wyatt pulled a few boards from the back of the surf school’s van. True to the concierge’s promises, he wasn’t handing us dreaded foamies. He set Brad up with a bright green and yellow quad fish that was a bit shorter than he’s used to riding. I got something more narrower and a little longer than the shortboard I have at home. As it turned out, both boards were from Westin’s loaner collection.
On the sand, Wyatt asked what we’d like to work on during the session. I’m trying to make my turns tighter and increase my paddle power to get into more waves. Brad was just there to surf. Eschewing his usual beginner briefing, Wyatt told us general features of the beach break and said we’d gotten lucky. “This is one of the best surf days of the year.” The glassy waves were up to head-high, and the peaks were clotted with countless city surfers making the most of them.
Out in the warm water, Brad and I soon dialed in to the boards while Wyatt watched, occasionally riding a wave himself. He offered me a breathing tip when paddling for a wave: quick inhales, long exhales. I wasn’t certain, but it seemed to help. “I’m not sure what else to tell you,” he said, “since you both know how to surf already.” Indeed, while we enjoyed Wyatt’s company, the lesson was largely wasted on us. But with that requirement checked off, we’ll be able to use those loaner boards the next time we travel to LA and book Westin’s Surf Package. We can leave behind our own surfboards and the hassles of transporting them – the surf concierge will have us covered.