Photo: Ernesto J. Torres

AMISurf - Surf Instructors Get Certified

Long famous for its surfers, Puerto Escondido is now also a favorite destination for people who want surf lessons. For many national and international tourists, the classes are part of the Puerto experience.

Clearly, the growing demand has been a bonanza for Puerto’s surf instructors, but it has also created problems. The Capitanía del Puerto has received complaints of sexual assaults on the sea, and some teachers know nothing about surfing or teaching or ocean rescues, or even first aid.

And let’s not get started on the issue of the etiquette of the waves. Theoretically, surfers are supposed to line up for a wave, but — can you believe this? — people cut in line.

AMISurf Evaluation committee. Photo: Barbara Joan Schaffer
AMISurf Evaluation committee. Photo: Barbara Joan Schaffer

Fortunately, members of the local surfing community have organized and formed AMISurf — the Asociación Mexicana de Instructores de Surf. Their goal is for all of Puerto’s instructors to meet professional standards.

AMISurf certification is not easy. Each applicant must pass four courses: first-aid is taught by the Red Cross; aquatic rescue, by the life guards; introduction to tourism (how to interact with tourists in a professional way), comes courtesy of the Oaxaca Department of Tourism; and, finally, there are classes in how to teach. This last course requires passing tests in body surf, body board, short board, long board and stand-up boarding. Certification is for one year, and instructors will be required to take courses to keep their licenses.

AMISurf instructors. Photo: Barbara Joan Schaffer
AMISurf instructors. Photo: Barbara Joan Schaffer

I was skeptical when I heard about all the requirements. Even the thought of Puerto’s surf instructors unifying in an association seemed counter-intuitive. But when I attended a meeting of the evaluators’ committee, the numbers spoke for themselves. So far 52 instructors have been certified and 20 more are in the process of completing the courses. There are around 100 surf instructors in Puerto. The major hold-outs are the instructors in the Punta. But AMIsurf is certain that with time they will get on board.

Although AMIsurf does not receive funds from the state or local governments, it is working with the State Tourism Department and the local municipal governments in order to get their support in the future for keeping uncertified instructors from the beaches.

The group also assists the local community with beach cleanups and helping to clear the access roads to Puerto. It offers free surf lessons to children, and it donated food to the victims of last year’s earthquake in San Mateo del Mar.

AMIsurf will soon have an information booth on Zicatela to help people find certified instructors and to handle complaints. You can find a list of instructors on AMISurf Puerto Escondido on Facebook.

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