Get Your Feet Wet

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La Vida Laguna Founder, Billy Fried (left) and Doug Oyen, who handles day-to-day operations. | Photo by Jody Tiongco

Lessons and tours offer a way to try a watersport before buying a board.

By Sharon Stello


In addition to lessons offered by some of the surf shops in Laguna Beach, a few other companies also provide these services. This is a great way to test out different activities and equipment before making an investment.

A longtime business, La Vida Laguna, is a one-stop shop for watersport lessons and tours; group and private sessions are available in addition to corporate team-building outings. Options include stand-up paddleboarding lessons and tours, surf lessons and kayak tours as well as guided hikes and walks focused on local art, architecture and counterculture history.

The company was founded 15 years ago by Billy Fried—who started the operation out of his garage, bringing a few kayaks down to the beach to offer an experience for area hotel guests. As he says, not everyone can surf, and many find kayaking is an easier way to get out on the water and view sea life. “We really think it’s still the most family-friendly activity,” Fried says of kayaking. “It doesn’t require the skills of surfing or paddleboarding.” He calls it a “magical experience,” seeing dolphins, whales and brightly colored fish while cruising around kelp beds after launching from Fisherman’s Cove.

La Vida Laguna doesn’t offer rentals; Fried believes a lesson or tour with a skilled instructor or guide is safer and makes for a better experience than going out alone with a rental kayak or board. Guides are trained to make the trips both enjoyable and educational, talking with participants about the marine ecosystem and how our actions on land can affect plants and animals in the ocean. “We try to make them better environmental stewards,” Fried says.

For those who want to try surfing or paddleboarding, La Vida Laguna also offers those activities—and beginners are welcome. Surfing is taught at Thalia Street Beach in private sessions and semiprivate groups limited to three students per instructor. Meanwhile, SUP tours start at Fisherman’s Cove, which is protected by a reef, making the water calmer. “[And] the route in north Laguna is really more picturesque,” Fried adds, noting that groups will pass scenic Emerald Bay, Heisler Park and Seal Rock. He knows that for many beginners, these outings are an opportunity to get over a fear of being in the water. “I think we give them a sense of feeling secure and safe with our guides,” Fried says. It’s also a unique experience to be unplugged and untethered from our many electronic devices and be out, as he says, “in the stillness and majesty of nature.”

“There’s no question that the greatest joy we get,” he says, “is sharing our love of the ocean with others and to see them transformed.” (949-275-7544;

Laguna shops offer gear for surfing local waves and clothing to embrace the surf style.

Shops from A to Z

You’ll find everything you need to live the wave-rider lifestyle right here in town. Laguna’s surf shops all have different stories to tell. We’ve rounded them up, from A to Z. Follow this link to read more.

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