Surf's Up at Disney!
It's day 1 for my 5 favorite things at Disney. These are in no particular order for the most part but If you're the athletic/adventurous sort, this may truly be the very best thing at Disney. Surf lessons at Typhoon Lagoon are AMAZING! For $190, you get about 2.5 hours of lessons, partially on land but lots of wave riding too. All lessons take place prior to park opening which makes for a very early morning. We arrived at 6:45am which meant we had to Uber there (or Minnie Van but Uber was WAY cheaper at around $8). The class of no more than 12 meets just inside the entrance and once everyone is there, you're led to the wave pool. Although a typical group is about 12 students, they will still conduct the class with less (we had 6). Less students = more waves since it's a timed activity, so that was awesome. Of course, more waves can also mean being more tired, but you can take a break if needed. They warned us of "noodle arms," which are common. Because you do a good amount of pushing yourself up and also carrying the board back to the starting location, arms can get pretty weary. My daughter, however, didn't experience that. In fact, no one seemed utterly wiped out at the end of the session, and some folks were considerably older.
You'll have 3 instructors from a local surf school, who were truly the embodiment of surfer dudes. They were fantastic! You'll get an overview of what to expect and even how the wave pool works. 85K gallons of water rush through gateways in the bottom of the pool wall to create those monster waves! We also met the lead engineer who controls all that stuff and the timing of the waves. They can control the direction, size, and frequency of them. For our class, the waves were 105 seconds apart which provided time to get the board into position, ride the wave, and return to the starting point for a second wave. Most classes ride 2 waves before exiting the pool and getting back in line for another run. With a half class, they got 4 waves before having to exit.
Before even getting into the water, you'll be shown a 3-step process for getting up and properly positioned on the board. Then each student practices several times on two boards on the sand. This is where they determine if you're "goofy footed" or not (has nothing to do with the character LOL). Then comes the paddle test. You'll be put on boards in the deeper end and told to paddle toward shore. This gives the instructors an indication of which size board you should use. Beginners use larger boards than seasoned surfers. Students are also taught how to carry the board Hawaiian style (on the head). The fins on the bottom of these boards are plastic rather than fiberglass since they're practice boards, but they work fine.
Two instructors had the not-so-enviable job of being positioned in the water, treading water, for over an hour. The lead instructor drops the student's board into the water next to the steps at the deep end of the pool (6.5' w/o the wave), the student paddles out to the first instructor where he rotates you into position, holds you in place, then gives you a shove at just the right time. He also tells you when to "pop up" - go through the steps to stand on the board. Our class rode 2 waves with one instructor and 2 with the other before exiting. There were 2 students in the pool for each wave. You get the choice of riding the big wave (the first big push of the water) or the small wave (the one that follows the big one). Everyone starts with the small; advancing to the big wave is optional. By the end, every student should be able to get up on the board for at least a second before falling into the water, and everyone in our class thoroughly enjoyed it whether they were able to fully ride the wave or not. The first words out of my daughter's mouth when she was done were, "When can we do this again?!" It's now her favorite thing to do at Disney, and definitely my favorite thing to watch.
They don't allow life jackets (not sure why), so participants need to be confident swimmers. There are lifeguards at the ready on each side of the pool, and it's certainly a much safer environment than doing it in the ocean. You can see straight to the bottom of the pool, the lifeguards are close, there are of course no sharks or other fish in the pool, and the depth is known. Students can wear over-the-eyes type goggles but no face masks that cover the nose.
The package also includes continental breakfast (before surfing and the ability to grab some on the way out) and digital pics. Our breakfast included 3 varieties of small pastries, fresh fruit, OJ, juice boxes, water, coffee, and tea. Not bad but not necessarily worth the $10 cost if you're a bystander (optional so I'd probably skip it next time). When the session is over, the lifeguard who checked everyone in escorts everyone to the main entrance because admission to the park isn't included. The sessions wraps up right at opening time (10am). You also get a Surftificate of Achievement.
What an incredible way to start a day and learn a new sport!