Tag Archives: review

Surf’s Up

Learning How to Surf at a Surf School Near San Diego

Catching a wave at San Elijo State Beach
Catching a wave at San Elijo State Beach

I always hated the sand dripping from my brother’s wet suit in the shower growing up in Huntington Beach. He never cleaned out the tub. I adored the smell of the surf wax on his board though. I spent about a decade living at the beach, but I never tried surfing. I regret it now, not only because I missed out on the thrill of catching a wave, but because now I cannot teach my kids how to surf.

When my daughter wanted to try surfing during a camping trip to San Elijo a few years back, a friend took her out on his 10-foot surfboard, and she loved it. The next year we gave her a certificate for a surf lesson for a Christmas gift. When summer came we went back to San Elijo, which is in northern San Diego County, and she got her lesson at the Billabong Eli Howard Surf School located right in the campground. This summer she went back to the same surf school and her younger brother took a lesson there, too. See my review of this surf school below.

The surf instructor taking my kids out to the next wave.
The surf instructor taking my kids out to the next wave.

If you’ve never surfed, but you want to help your kids want to try it, here’s some tips.

Follow basic safety precautions:

Make sure they are strong swimmers.

Make sure they have experience swimming in an ocean, not just a pool.

Make sure they know what a rip tide is, and how to swim perpendicular to the shore to get out of one.

The next step is to pick your beach and your instructor:

Pick a beach with one- two-foot waves that come in slow sets and a beach that does not have dangerous rocks. The season and time of day make a difference.

Pick an instructor who is patient and enjoys kids. A friend who surfs may work fine (and do it for free). But you might want to try a surf school for the very first time. These instructors have been trained in water safety. They also have experience in explaining a sport that is a bit hard to explain. Most important, they know how to help “launch” a beginning surfer. You will not have to buy or borrow a surfboard if you use a school as they usually have long foam boards. These board are easy to learn on and softer if they hit you in the water. Surf schools usually offer wetsuits during the lesson as well.

To find a surfing school, just Google the words “surf school” or “surf camp.”

My son's first surf lesson.
My son's first surf lesson.

The school at San Elijo was professional. It offers private lessons, semi-private, or group. They also have surf camps for summer.

A great feature of this surf school is location. You can take camping gear and make a trip out of it. Surfing lessons are not inexpensive, but if you camp instead of staying at a fancy hotel, you can save in lodging. 

The waves at his beach are perfect for beginners. The water is pretty warm . . . in late summer you do not even need a wetsuit.  The vibe is good for families. And there are great restaurants nearby if you want to camp and fall asleep to the sound of the ocean, but do not want to do your own cooking.

If you are looking for a great gift idea for Christmas, a birthday, a graduation or another special occasion, a surf lesson may be a great idea.

Pics of our surf trip are up in the gallery.

Let me know if you have other suggestions for non-surfing parents who want to help their kids learn to surf.

If you are going to be out in the sun for long, use plenty of sun block and try Zinka the kind the hard core surfers use. They sell it at the camp store at San Elijo and you can get it at Amazon.

Also, be sure to take a camera so you can capture an experience they will want to remember.

Dropping In print
Dropping In by TinkerM
Browse the prints and posters at Zazzle

Michael Jackson Memorial

Saying Goodbye to MJ

When we got the email congratulating us on winning one of the coveted tickets to Michael Jackson memorial, we had only nine minutes left to reply or lose the tickets!

In a rush we completed the transaction and got instructions to go to Dodger Stadium in person to get gold wristbands by 5 pm. Then came the emotional discussion of who should get to go. We had won two spots, but we have 4 family members.

Our 11-year-old daughter won out over our 9-year-old son, who was getting over what was probably swine flu.

My daughter and I jumped in the car and drove into LA before rush hour. Dozens of police greeted us as we approached Dodger Stadium parking lot.  But everything went smoothly.  We went to sleep that night with gold wristbands securely attached and tickets safely tucked into my wallet. We set the alarm early so we could use public transportation to get to Staples in plenty of time.

Tons of hype had surrounded this event with reports that thousands would be trying to get into Staples Center. But almost everyone we saw had the gold wristband like we had. A few vendors hawked Michael Jackson t-shirts or hastily-made programs. A small band of right-wing nuts carried hateful placards: “Michael will Burn in Hell!”  Oh, and tons of cops. LA used about 3,000, way too many  for this event.  No wonder it cost several million.

Some in the city suggested after the fact that Michael’s family or promoter should pay the millions spent on the cops. But in the end the mayor said a city that bills itself as an entertainment capitol should be willing to pay.

Seeing the casket draped in red roses while a parade of singers and other celebrities talked about Michael Jackson was a surreal experience. You weren’t sure what to make of it all.  Was the deceased “the greatest entertainer ever” as one speaker put it?  Was he a freak who had taken advantage of children? Or just a child himself, who had been abused by his own family?

The crowd was a mix that reflected LA, but the speakers extolling him were predominantly African-American. A bit of a paradox as at the zenith of his popularity, most of his fans were white.

An inside page of the Michael Jackson Memorial program. Click to view larger image.

Smokey and Berry Gordy talked nostalgically about the good old Motown days when young Michael was a phenom. But would Michael himself recall his childhood with such a glow? In interviews he had said his father would punish him physically and emotionally if he made mistakes while practicing.  Perhaps Motown and even Michael’s father should get some credit for his meteoric career.  But I could not help wondering if all this gushing about his childhood was a revisionist history of child exploitation.  Even if Joe’s strict discipline led to Michael’s success, was it worth it?

And speaking of Joe Jackson.  Michael said he was so abusive he physically wanted to throw up when he saw him.  Would he really have wanted this guy sitting in the front row with the rest of the family?  Joe, wearing gold bling, was eager to try to jump up and get in on handshakes and hugs as speakers greeted the family.  Would Michael have wanted him anywhere near his kids?

Performances by stars such as Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, and John Mayer caused some of us to shed a tear. The one that touched me the most was Michael’s big brother Jermaine singing “Smile.” The voice sounded a lot like Michael’s. So much emotion went into Jermaine’s performance. You could not help but wonder about the complex relationships that family must have had with all those talented kids growing up in the shadow of Michael’s career.

The big brothers served as pallbearers, and they all wore dark suits with a gold tie and red rose in the lapel. They all had on a single sequined glove. Seen live, these gloves really sparkled. Perhaps only these brothers had any real glimpse what Michael went through as a child star in the Jackson household.

Here’s where you can get a replica of the white sequined glove

Brooke Shields said many thought she and Michael made an odd pair.  And I recall thinking that when they started hanging out as teenagers. But as a child star, she too had an inkling of the stress of being in the spotlight so young.  As did Elizabeth Taylor.

I was impressed as well by Al Sharpton as he spoke eloquently off the cuff.  But not so much by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who blathered on incoherently so long that I noticed the teleprompter read “PLEASE CONCLUDE YOUR REMARKS” for half her speech.

Right on the ticket it said “no cameras.” So I did not bring mine.  But plenty of people did and were flashing away during the ceremony.  Seemed a bit disrespectful.  As did the people who came in raggedy or slinky clothes. But hey, it’s LA.

The cover of the program handed out at the Michael Jackson memorial.
The cover of the program handed out at the Michael Jackson memorial. Click to view larger.
A photo of the Jackson 5 when they first started out was on the back cover of the memorial program.
A photo of the Jackson 5 when they first started out was on the back cover of the memorial program.

My daughter and I will not forget the day.  We are keeping our gold wristbands and tickets as well as the memorial program they handed us as we entered Staples Center.   Michael’s songs flooded the airwaves after his death, and they still play in my mind. I ponder his legacy. I wonder if he had lived if the big comeback tour would have been a hit . . . or if the critics would have panned him.  Seems like more and more kids go into entertainment so young.  Few of them can sustain popularity into adulthood.  Many end up messed up.  Maybe those in the entertainment industry should do more to ensure that parents and the industry itself doesn’t take advantage of these kids so their talented lives do not turn into train wrecks.

I scanned the covers and an inside page of the program, but if you want to see the whole thing, I found it at scribd.

Growing up, I  took Michael Jackson for granted as he had always been there.  Now that I take the time to listen and reflect, I appreciate his music more. If you are looking for Michael Jackson music, Amazon has a whole store devoted to him at the following link:

Michael Jackson Store

When I first heard Michael had died, I immediately thought he must have committed suicide.  Then I wondered if it was a drug overdose. He was too young and healthy to just drop dead. As the LAPD investigate possible misuse of drugs he may have used as a sleeping aid, I think about how hard it must have been for him to come to peace with his life each night, especially during the tough time of his trial. To think that he had overcome his darkest hour and was coming back . . . .

As for me, my favorite song of Michael’s will always be “Never Can Say Goodbye,” a song he sang so sweetly when he was just 12. It was 1971. One of my best friends had moved the year before, and it seemed to reflect how I felt. Now it has an added meaning.

Best Web Hosting

How to Pick a Great Web Host . . . Choose Hostgator!

Before I launched creativezazz.com I did extensive research on web hosting. I ended up choosing Hostgator because they had the most good reviews (and no nightmare reviews, like several other places had), and they had a reasonable price. They also had all the features that I wanted.

This site is my first one, and I found the set up with Hostgator pretty easy. When I did have a question, they had a great forum. I have never had to call for help, but I have heard to is pretty easy to get a live person.

If you do go through Hostgator, check for coupon codes and specials, which they frequently have. Also, do not be afraid to pick one plan over another, because they will let you switch plans if you find you want a different one.

You can also register your domain name through Hostgator. I chose to register through a different company just because my research suggested this was a wise thing to do.

If you do choose Hostgator, please consider going through my link. Thanks.

Hostgator has good reviews, that’s why I chose it. It is also reasonable.

I welcome your feedback about Hostgator. So far, my experience has been good!

By the way, you can find free hosting sites. This might be a good option if you are starting a brand new website for the first time. Then once you know more what you want you can switch to Hostgator or another host. Free sites do not have all the features you will eventually want. They may not let you put up your own ads and in fact may put up their own ads. But it might be a an option just to let you get your feet wet for free. You will need to transfer all your info to the new host, however, so it might be easier in the long run just to try a low-end plan from a paid site from the start.