Calling All Campers

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SoLag Skim School’s camp_Gabe Sullivan
SoLag Skim School’s camp, offered through the city | Photo by Gabe Sullivan

Long summer days are the perfect time to meet new friends while playing sports, making art and having adventures together in one of Laguna’s diverse camp sessions.

By Jennifer Pappas Yennie

 

Believe it or not, summer is just around the corner, which means it’s time to start thinking about how the kids are going to spend all those glorious, idle hours while parents are away at work (or, heaven forbid, getting a little alone time). Luckily, Laguna Beach has a little bit of everything: nature, art, science and athletics. The right camp, filled with new experiences and lasting friendships, can be the perfect recipe for creating the type of memories that linger for a lifetime.

 

Sports Life

Camps focused on athletics abound in Laguna during the summertime, so it’s really about choosing the right fit for your child. This year, the city of Laguna Beach has a diverse slate of camps scheduled, including Baseball and Beach Camp (which combines baseball fundamentals with a post-lunch swim at nearby Divers Cove), Skyhawks Beginning Golf Camp, and both Beginning/Intermediate and Advanced Youth Beach Volleyball—plus options for soccer, tennis (including one that brings together tennis and swimming), skateboarding, cross country, and track and field. New to the programming this year is Laguna Beach Lawn Bowling Youth Rollers, a fun camp designed for older kids ages 11-18 looking to give the typically exclusive sport of lawn bowling a try. According to the camp description, “teens will develop their playing skills and game knowledge through social play, modified games, drills and support instruction.”

Pro Touch Soccer Camp_Dusan Stevanovic
Pro Touch Soccer Camp | Photo by Dusan Stevanovic

The Boys & Girls Club also offers myriad sports camps, including two sessions of Basketball Camp for kids in second through sixth grade that focus on the fundamentals of shooting, dribbling, passing and rebounding. Attendees will get to show off their new skills in scrimmage games. Those looking for a more urban sports experience might be interested in the specialty Skateboarding Camp (grades K-8) with professional skateboarding instructor Eric Mickelson of U SK8, offered through both the city of Laguna and the Boys & Girls Club.

BGCLB Skate Camp (2)_Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach
The Skateboarding Camp at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach | Photo by Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach

More traditional summer camps, which present a wide range of activities, from sports to games and art projects, are also offered by the Boys & Girls Club, with beach and pool days as well as field trips. The Laguna Canyon Enrichment Center hosts kindergarten through eighth grade campers while the Bluebird Enrichment Center hosts sessions for kindergarten through fifth grade students.

 

Sun & Sand

In a town graced with gorgeous beaches and limitless opportunities for outdoor adventure, there are countless ocean and nature-themed summer camps to choose from. Laguna Ethos offers two exciting beach camps (separated by age group, 5-7 and 8-12) that transcend the one-note, surf camp experiences proliferating Orange County. “The whole ethos is to get kids together under the supervision of professional watermen and women to facilitate camaraderie-building, ocean awareness and etiquette,” says Justin Behrendsen, founder and CEO of Laguna Ethos.

To that end, camp starts each morning with the daily surf report (read by a different camp member), followed by an excursion to one of Laguna’s many beaches. Once there, kids can explore tide pools, swim, build sandcastles, make seashell crafts or play beach games. Kids can also paddleboard, kayak or go on a snorkeling scavenger hunt on days when the weather is calm and conditions are safe. Trolley rides and trips to south Laguna for cove exploration are also on the agenda. Regardless of the activity, Ethos camps are specifically designed to be educational, inclusive, fun and interactive. “We’re not a surf camp,” Behrendsen reiterates. “We’re a summer camp. We educate our kids on all things ocean-related: safety, conservation, littering, how to respect the tide pools. … We don’t focus on a one-size-fits-all approach. We just don’t do that.”

Beach Camp Laguna_no credit
The city’s Beach Camp Laguna

Beach Camp Laguna is another local favorite that offers two different camps grouped by age. Little Mermaids & Sea Cubs is for kids ages 4 ½ to 7, while Beach Camp Laguna is designated for kids ages 7-14. Like Laguna Ethos, Beach Camp Laguna is more than just fun and games, (although there’s plenty of that, too). Campers are also taught ocean safety and awareness while activities range from short swims past the ocean breakers to fun lifeguard-related games, paddleboarding, bodysurfing, snorkeling and more. Parents can register for the weeklong camps online through the city of Laguna Beach.

Laguna’s Junior Lifeguards Program is a perennial favorite best suited for kids ages 8-15 looking for a challenge. The program hinges on ocean safety, rescue techniques, physical fitness and teamwork. All newcomers must pass a swim test before getting the green light to enroll, so the first step would be to make an appointment (Fridays and Saturdays only) at the Laguna Beach High School and Community Pool on one of the dates posted online throughout the spring and first week of summer.

The city also offers skimboarding camps, taught either by champion rider Paulo Prietto and staff from his SoLag Skim School or The Vic champion Johnny Weber with Leo Bushman and Victoria Skimboards owner Tex Haines assisting. The SoLag camps take place at Treasure Island Beach—walking to Aliso Beach if conditions are better there—focusing on everything from basic skills to advanced maneuvers. The Victoria Skimboards camps roam along beaches from Thalia to Bluebird, teaching water safety, wrapping waves and advanced tricks for every level plus tide pool exploration and beach fun; both camps offer loaner boards and feature a ratio of five campers to one instructor.

Last, but not least, the Boys & Girls Club’s Action-Packed Adventure Camp Week, Aug. 5-9, is a special opportunity for kids in fifth grade or older to embrace the great outdoors via hiking, kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, pitching tents, cooking and gathering around a campfire to roast marshmallows, plus other activities like indoor rock climbing. Camp culminates with an overnight experience that kids are sure to be talking about once school starts again in the fall.

 

Artistic Endeavors

Looking for something a little more artistic for the little ones this summer? Laguna Art Museum and Laguna Playhouse have it covered. This summer, the museum is focusing on weekly day camps held every Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for kids ages 6-12. First up is Art Adventure Day Camp on June 24. “Top Secret,” the program blurb teases, “channel your inner spy and adventurer as the museum transforms into an immersive code-breaking space, equipped with cryptic clues and yarn lasers.”

art projects at Laguna Art Museum_no credit
Art projects at Laguna Art Museum

Mini camp add-ons from 3-5 p.m. are also available after the day sessions. Parents would be wise to keep checking the museum website for the staggered release of additional summer programming, but Museum Educator Katherine Morton promises they’ve got a ton of fun things planned. “Each program will be different,” Morton says, noting that some will mix in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. “Think … the chance to blow things up in the art museum, allowing kids to make a mess in a space that usually feels more restrictive.” As an added bonus, the museum is closed to the general public on Mondays, so kids get full, free reign of the entire museum space.

According to Morton, the types of children who thrive in the art museum’s programs are “kids that are open to exploring, that have a lot of high energy, that want to learn more about art, but also more about Laguna Beach as a whole. We try to capitalize on that high-energy excitement while also focusing on art skills that can only really be taught by an art museum.”

LAGUNA PLAYHOUSE - YOUTH CONSERVATORY - 1_courtesy of Laguna Playhouse
A Laguna Playhouse youth performance | Photo by Laguna Playhouse

This summer, Laguna Playhouse is offering three different Theater Camps (with musical and nonmusical, half- and full-day options) for ages 4 to 19. Divided into three separate age groups, each camp has its own theme (Musical Villains, Rock Musicals, Acting for Laughs) and culminates in a free showcase for friends and family. Some of these sessions will be held at the city’s Community & Recreation Center, which opened recently on South Coast Highway, while others will be held in the Playhouse’s rehearsal space, so parents should take note when registering.

Joseph Alanes, director of education and outreach, explains that the Playhouse camps, like its school-year classes, focus on the process. “We work towards creating a positive environment where diversity can flourish and confidence and empathy can grow,” he says. “We encourage students to create without judgment and learn to work as a team—skills that they can use in multiple aspects of their lives. We create a safe space for the ensemble to develop trust in each other so they can take risks, learn and grow together.”

 

It’s a STEM World

Just because the kids are out of school doesn’t mean learning has to stop—quite the contrary, actually. Summer is the perfect time for kids to pursue a passion or pick up a skill in a fun, low-stakes environment focused on STEM. The city of Laguna Beach offers a variety of different Lego camps that focus on everything from engineering and physics to architecture and robotics. These full-day, weeklong camps allow kids to combine real-world building concepts with relatable content like Minecraft and Pokémon video games.

lego camp Brick City engineers 2_no credit
A Lego-focused camp offered through the city

Additionally, the Boys & Girls Club’s weeklong Destination Innovation Science Camp, from July 29 to Aug. 2, promises “an immersive, hands-on experience exploring the day in the life of a true scientist and engineer” for kids in grades 3-6. Outside-the-box thinking and problem-solving skills are encouraged, and gone are the constraints of the classroom walls, allowing kids to perform science experiments, create their own inventions and follow their curiosity wherever it may lead them.

BGCLB BLUEBIRD DIY STEM (1)_Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach
Kids involved in STEM at Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach | Photo by Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach

Meanwhile, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, which normally hosts Camp Pinniped, will not have any in-person camps this summer as the facility is closed for renovations. Until PMMC’s summer camps return in 2025, there are several online education and outreach options. These distance-learning programs, geared toward school classes, scout troops and other groups, run all year long to help spark children’s interest in marine life and immerse them in the underwater world found right along the coast of their hometown.


Save the Date

Local camps offer multiple sessions throughout the summer and registration has already started for many of them.

Mini League’s Baseball and Beach Camp
Mini League’s Baseball and Beach Camp, a city offering

Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach Summer Camps

Dates: June 17 to Aug. 16

Registration: Opens April 1 at bgclagunabeach.org

 

City of Laguna Beach

Dates: Camps start June 17.

Registration: Open now; parents can register in person at the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Senior Center on Third Street, or using the link on the Recreation page of the city’s website, lagunabeachcity.net. For Beach Camp Laguna, sign up through the city before June 1 for a 10% discount.

 

Laguna Art Museum

Dates: Every Monday from June 24 to Aug. 5

Registration: Open now at lagunaartmuseum.org

 

Laguna Ethos

Dates: June 10 – Aug. 9 (weekly and one-day drop-in rates offered)

Registration: Open now at lagunaethos.com

 

Laguna Playhouse

Dates: Session I: June 24-28; Session II: July 8-12; Session III (a full two weeks): July 29 to Aug. 9

Have more than one child wanting to participate? The Playhouse offers a refer-a-friend discount of $25 off for siblings/friends.

Registration: Open now using the link on the Recreation page of the city’s website, lagunabeachcity.net; more info: lagunaplayhouse.com

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