Frequently Asked Questions About Camp Surf


When does registration for Summer Camp begin?Thursday, December 16, 2021. You can register online by logging in to your "My Y Account" or by calling us at (619) 423-5850. Tell them you would like to sign up for summer overnight camp! A non-refundable deposit of $150 per week is required to hold your spot this summer.
What level of swimming ability is required?Your child should be able to hold their breath underwater, swim basic strokes, able to tread water and float, and be comfortable in the ocean. Campers are closely supervised when they are in the water. We have USLA certified Ocean Lifeguards in the towers and counselors in the water at all times. On the first day of camp your child will participate in a swim screen – it is not a test. This is so our counselors can see how comfortable individual campers are in the water and can increase their skill at the appropriate level. All campers spend a lot of time in the water and the more comfortable they are, the more fun they will have.
How important is a wetsuit?A wetsuit is recommended since it will make water time more comfortable for most children, but it is not required. San Diego ocean temperatures can be a “refreshing” 60 - 70 degrees in the summer. You know your child best, for some campers a bathing suit and rash guard are enough to be comfortable.
Do you have wetsuits available at camp?We have spring (short-arm and short-leg) wetsuits available for use during overnight camp free of charge. Day camp and weekend camp participants can rent these wetsuits for a small fee. If you would prefer to buy a wetsuit, consider buying an inexpensive one at Costco or large retail store. Buy it large enough to fit for 2 summers. Unless your child will be at the beach beyond their stay at camp, this could be an expense you want to avoid!
How do you hire your counselors?The YMCA of San Diego County conducts background checks on all staff. Counselors are interviewed and we check a minimum of 3 references. We look for demonstrated experience as a role model, the ability to hold a high level of responsibility, a focus on safety and skills, and the enthusiasm for dedicating their summer to creating a safe and memorable experience for young people. Our international counselors go through an application and screening process with an agency in their home country in addition to ours.
How do you select/train your ocean lifeguards?We hire staff with previous lifeguard and aquatic experience to go through ocean lifeguard training. Our ocean lifeguards are trained and certified through USLA (The United States Lifesaving Association), the same certification that the San Diego City and County lifeguard services use.
What is the weather like in Imperial Beach?It might be Southern California, but beach weather can be drastically different from even a few miles inland. Click here for local forecast. During the summer it is typically cool in the mornings and evenings – please pack long pants and a sweater. The clouds typically burn off and it gets warm during the day, but consistent breezes keep camp comfortable. All campers are required to wear hats and sunscreen for sun protection.
Who do I inform about my child's food allergies?First, make sure you have listed all health concerns on our Health History form. At Check-In, you can personally discuss your campers food allergies with camp health care personnel. They will make sure the information is communicated to the kitchen and counselors. Find more information on FOOD ALLERGIES and special diets.
Can we visit camp prior to signing up?Yes. For safety reasons, however, we are very conscientious of who is visiting. We operate year round programs and very often have campers on site. For this reason we ask that you call to set up an appointment for a guided tour. During the summer season, good visit-times are opening Sunday's or the Friday afternoon BBQ.
How many adults are there to how many children?We follow American Camp Association guidelines in maintaining a 2-10 ratio of staff to campers on camp at all times. In addition, we make sure there is no time when campers are left unsupervised.
What happens if my child gets sick at camp?We have trained health care personnel on camp at all times. We will contact you if your child visits the Health Center and misses program because s/he is not feeling well. This is a good space for short-term care. Often, rest and fluids are all they need to feel better and be back in camp activities quickly. However if there is a fever or other symptoms of illness, "there's no place like home" to get better. We will call you to make arrangements for you to come and pick up your child.
What if my child takes medication?We will administer medication during camp following physician instructions and also your guidance at check-in. Please see guidelines in the Parent Guide for how to pack over-the-counter and prescription medicine.
If I have two children in camp, will they see each other, or participate in activities together?We group our campers into three Villages and assign cabin groups by grade. But there are opportunities for campers of different ages to interact as part of our regular program if they choose to do so. They will see each other at all-camp events including campfires and the Wednesday night dance. The early morning "Surf Club" is open to all campers, and lunch is an open buffet where campers can choose who to sit with. We also have several choice periods where they can be together if they are interested in the same thing. We find that most of our campers do quite well away from their siblings and enjoy asserting some independence in a safe and caring environment, but the choice is theirs.
What happens if my child gets homesick?Homesickness can be a challenge for some campers. We have several steps to work with it. In most cases we will simply encourage the camper to stay busy and think positively. Most times this works quite well. The camper starts to enjoy them self and make new friends. In some cases it may take a bit more help. At those times our practice is to call parents and talk to them about what steps we're taking and what might work best with their camper. We want to make overcoming homesickness a success story for your child and may ask your help in doing so. Before Camp: It is helpful if camp is not the first experience your child has sleeping away from home. Be excited, positive and encouraging when you discuss camp. Suggesting that they can call home or come home early is counter-productive. A pre-camp visit can make everyone feel more comfortable and build excitement for the new experience.
How much surfing time will my child get each day?All campers are in the water every day for both surfing and body boarding for approximately 3 hours. During each 3 hour period there is a break midway through to reapply sunscreen and drink water. Some campers may choose to take breaks to build sand castles or not spend the entire time in the water. We follow a challenge by choice philosophy, our staff are trained to encourage campers to push themselves and set small goals to work towards but not force anyone to do anything they don’t want to. There are also additional sunset surf each week for Waterman and Teens. Campers of all ages can join the optional early morning "Surf Club" on Tuesday, Thursday & Friday mornings.
Will the Camp Store be open?Good news! The Camp Store will be open on Check-in and Check-out days. Please come prepared with a credit card as cash and checks will not be accepted.
What happens if my child does not like the food?We think our camp food is some of the best around. We encourage each camper to try what is being served but we don’t force them to eat. If campers don’t like what is being served we provide options. At each meal there is a well stocked salad bar and fresh fruit. At breakfast, a buffet with hot and cold cereal is available in addition to the hot entrée. Our staff is trained to watch what campers are eating and if a child has gone for a few meals without eating a healthy amount, they will encourage them to eat and report the matter to the healthcare staff. A protein substitute is available at all meals for vegetarians.
Can campers bring a cell phone or electronics to camp?No, we do not permit cell phones at camp. YMCA Camp is a safe place to let your children have a bit of freedom and independence. We want them to make new friends and face challenges, not to spend precious camp time calling or texting their friends back home. Parents can choose to e-mail messages for their campers via an optional online service. Experience has shown that a call to Mom and Dad can often make an adjustment problem worse, not better. Lastly, the technology of cameras on cell phones also creates the potential problem of taking pictures in sensitive areas. Camper bathrooms and changing areas are not appropriate places for cameras. If your child needs to have cell phone with them because of travel or other reasons, simply have them submit it to camp staff upon arrival. We will return it to them when they leave.
How can I contact my child at camp?Upon arrival at camp each family is given an access code to the online photo gallery. This lets you view photos taken by our camp photographer each day and uploaded that evening. You can also send emails to your child(ren). We deliver mail and emails to campers each day after lunch. Packages containing food items or items not appropriate for camp will be confiscated and held in the office. Can campers call home? There is no phone or email access for campers to contact home. We encourage you to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope and give it to your child so they can write while they are away.
What about bullies and teasing?Whenever you have groups of children together, teasing and bullying may occur. We do everything we can to prevent this from happening. Our staff are trained on how to spot this behavior and put a stop to it. We have no tolerance for this type of action and a camper could be sent home for repeated actions.
My child doesn’t know much English, do the counselors speak Spanish?Although we have some bilingual staff, they are scheduled in program areas by skills and may not necessarily be working with your child. As long as your child understands some basic English, we can utilize our staff and also other Spanish speaking campers to help translate. We do our best to make sure everyone understands what is expected and what the cabin group is doing.
How do cabin mate requests work?During registration you will have the option to request a friend to be in the same cabin. Please make sure the request is mutual, the campers are in the same program, and not more than 1 year apart in age. We will try to honor mutual requests, however our ability to accommodate multiple requests is dependent on overall registration.
What is a “holdover” and what do they do?When campers are signed up for 2 or more sessions in a row, we give families the option of having their campers “hold over” from one session to the next. During this time they participate in activities, but at a more relaxed pace than a typical camp day (the campers are usually a little tired!). We ask that you pack extra clothing for multiple weeks, since we have limited laundry facilities. When the next session begins, they join right in and are well rested to begin another week of camp. Note: Beach Comber and SOUL programs are designed in 2-week cycles. The Surf Carnival and BBQ dinner occur on the final day of their 2-week program.
What if my child is travleing by train or plane?

Note: Traveling campers may have a cell phone and/or small electronic device. We will collect these when they get to camp and store them until they leave. There is a $75 fee for one-way or round-trip from the San Diego airport or Amtrak train station.

Times: Sundays: 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM arrival and Fridays: 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM departure. Please plan accordingly. Please ensure you are aware of NEW travel policies by contacting Payton Schoonmaker before registering for summer camp. Confirmed and approved itineraries must be forwarded one month before arrival at camp. If your camper needs this option, don’t wait— available spots fill quickly! Contact Payton Schoonmaker at [email protected]

Flights: Pre-approval is required by camp's Transportation Coordinator IF your child is traveling as an "unaccompanied minor" (as defined by your airline) since the airlines have strict limitations camp may not be able to facilitate. Campers may not fly stand-by. Campers should go to baggage claim where Camp Surf staff, wearing staff shirts and carrying ID, will be waiting. You or your child can reach our airport shuttle crew at 619-316-7637 if a flight has been delayed. If you need to provide the airline with the name of the adult who will be meeting your child, contact the Camp Surf office at (619) 423-5850 on the Friday before they arrive.

Train: Campers younger than 16yrs cannot return home via the train due to requirements of Amtrak's ‘unaccompanied minor policy’. Campers age 8-12yrs are not able to travel unaccompanied via Amtrak. AMTRAK policies may change and we may not be able to accommodate all requirements so please call us with any questions. Camp Surf Staff are still allowed to PICK-UP campers ages 13-16+ who are arriving TO CAMP but Camp Surf Staff are unable to drop campers under age 16 off to return home. Campers 16+ are allowed to travel both ways (to and from camp) unaccompanied.  If you need to provide Amtrak with the name of the adult who will be meeting your child, contact the Camp Surf office at 619-423-5850 on the Friday before they arrive.

Is there a visiting day?Parent time to visit is at the end of the week for the Surf Carnival and BBQ. Obviously if there is an emergency please call so we can help you with any necessary arrangements. Camp is a great time for children of all ages to increase independence and their sense of autonomy. Visits from home often lead to homesickness and can upset their camp experience.
What forms do I need at Check-in?Please bring the following forms to check-in: Admission Form, Health History Form, and Medications in their original container … on the first day of camp.
What is the Pick-up Day schedule?Check out each Friday is from 12-3pm. Our surf carnival begins at 12:30pm and families are invited to attend. (For 2-week Beachcombers or SOUL Surfer programs this is at the end of the two week session.) Once you have parked your car you will go through a quick ID check and then make your way to the beach. After watching your camper in various ocean and land activities please join us for our 1:30pm family BBQ.