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The winter water at Bondi Beach was far warmer than I expected. It was downright balmy, in fact, compared to the biting chill in the air that morning in Sydney, Australia.
Squeezed into a full-length wetsuit, I was face down on a soft-top surfboard, paddling over a gentle shore break behind Marty Williams, my instructor for the next couple of hours and the coaching director at Let’s Go Surfing.
“There’s a bit of a rip over here,” he told me. “That should make paddling out a whole lot easier.”
Before long, the two of us had hitched a ride on one of Bondi’s many riptides, using the current like a conveyor belt. The force of the tide took us out to a lineup of larger waves not much more than 50 yards from the shoreline. A few moments later, Williams directed me into a promising set of crests. A bout of furious paddling ensued, and I was riding down the face of my first Australian wave.
Founded nearly 20 years ago, Let’s Go Surfing is the only officially licensed surf school on Bondi Beach, but the organization goes further than helping visitors pop up on their first wave. The staff also provides a guided introduction to the iconic Sydney beach community.
“We do whatever our clients want,” explained Brenda Miley, director and founder of Let’s Go Surfing. “If it’s a really nice day, they might just want to surf all day, and we’re happy to do that. If it’s not so nice, they might want to surf a short while and then try something else.”
In addition to their standard two-hour lessons, the company does half-day and full-day programs for couples and families. These longer surf sessions might bring participants to beaches beyond Bondi. There’s also time included to sample fare from local restaurants, do some sightseeing, go shopping or do yoga.
“The whole idea of these tours is to show people what it’s like to be a local in Bondi for the day,” Miley said. “We take them to the places that residents go and we do things that locals do.”
Ranging in price from $99 for a two-hour lesson to $649 for private tours, Let’s Go Surfing products are commissionable for travel agents, and the company is a regular partner of U.S.-based wholesalers Swain Destinations and Down Under Answers.
“As long as people have some physical ability and they like to be a bit adventurous, Let’s Go Surfing products fit perfectly into most itineraries,” said Kirk Demeter, president of Down Under Answers.
Demeter rode his first waves with his daughter during a Let’s Go private session at Bondi Beach.
“It’s great for a wide range of ages, as well,” he said. “Kids love it, but you’d be surprised at how many people in their 50s and 60s participate and love it just as much.”
And based on my experience, the activity can certainly be booked year-round.
“Our winter water is probably as cold as California’s summer water,” Miley said.