Frequently Asked Questions About Camp Surf

When does registration for Summer Camp begin?

Wednesday, November 15, 2023. 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.

When is my balance due?

Balances are due by June 3, 2024. If you set up an auto-draft, please note that the credit card or checking account you selected at the time of registration will be charged on Monday, June 3, 2024. If you have any questions about your upcoming draft, please call our offices at 760-765-0642 or 619-423-5850 or email us at [email protected].

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. Campers may 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. You can check the local weather on your favorite app or website by searching for "Imperial Beach, CA". 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 camper's food allergies with camp health care personnel. They will make sure the information is communicated to the kitchen and counselors. 
Can we visit camp prior to signing up?Yes. It's a big commitment to send your child to camp. We'd be happy to show you around and answer questions. We operate year-round, often with other campers or guests on site. For the security of our guests, we ask that you call to set up an appointment for a guided tour.
What is the ratio of adults to children?We meet or exceed all American Camp Association staffing and supervision ratios in both cabin and activities. There is no time when campers are left unsupervised. 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 they are 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. All parents and campers who bring medication to camp will meet with our Health Center staff 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. In most cases a little encouragement to think positively and stay busy works quite well - they start to enjoy their time and make new friends. In some cases, however, it may take a bit more. We may give you a call to check in about how things are going, what steps we've been taking, and work together to come up with a plan that might work best with your camper. Overcoming homesickness can be a great success story for your camper. 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. Water quality is checked daily and the schedules are adjusted accordingly including alternate programs or bussing to other San Diego area beaches.
Will the Camp Store be open?Good news! The Camp Store will be open on Check-in and Check-out days. You are able to pay with cash or credit cards. However, please do not send money with your child as the store will NOT be open during the week.
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 send email 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 a cell phone with them because of travel, health, or other reasons, please contact us beforehand.
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 camper(s). 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 traveling 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 pickup and/or dropoff from the from the San Diego airport or Amtrak train station.

Times: Please plan for arrival times on Sunday between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm and departure times on Friday between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm. 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" (defined by your airline). The airlines may have strict limitations and 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?Please join us on check-out Friday to see your camper participating in activities at the Surf Carnival and family BBQ. During the week, 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. If there is an emergency at home, please call so that we can help you with any necessary arrangements.
What forms do I need at Check-in?Please bring the Admission and Health  History forms to check-in. We will collect any medications at this time as well. Please ensure all medications are in their original container. See the planning guide for more info.
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 or other activity areas.. After watching your camper in various ocean and land activities please join us for our 1:30pm family BBQ.
How will the ocean water quality affect the camp week and activities?While the camp experience extends far beyond just ocean activity, certainly our direct access to the ocean is a part of what makes Camp Surf unique. The safety and well-being or our campers is always first and foremost. We will NOT put campers into the water when under an advisory or closure or if we think conditions may be unsafe or unhealthy. The Camp Surf waterfront can be affected by trans-border water pollution, with recent years bringing more frequent advisories. We receive testing reports daily and whenever ocean conditions change and adjust plans accordingly. You can check for yourself at sdbeachinfo.com for the Silver Strand Guard Shack testing site. 

When we have closures during a camp session, we have buses reserved to take campers to other San Diego area beaches. Due to permits and logistics we are currently able to transport each camper 2-3 days during the week. Counselors and camp lifeguards travel with campers to ensure their supervision and safety. We’ve also expanded access to some of our alternate programs, including our on-site skatepark and off-site bike trips.