Wendy Buell pulled up to the beach entrance on East Putnam Avenue in Strathmere on a hot Friday morning.
She held one end of a green-and- leopard printed surfboard while her daughter Logan Monteleone, 11, carried the other end as they made their way onto the beach toward a group kids surrounding surfing instructor Steve Beseris.
Each summer, surfers travel from near and far to catch the waves at the Jersey Shore. And some of those surfers are still in elementary school. Beseris, of Ocean City, leads a camp every year for kids who want to learn how to surf.
“This is my 14th summer,” Beseris said. "I was teaching in Upper Township and somebody came to me and asked if I was interested in doing this. I’d been doing some lessons here and there anyhow, so it was great. I got right into it.”
Monteleone, of Upper Township, had her long blonde hair parted in French braids and rocked a dark pink wetsuit for her morning lesson that Friday. She grabbed her board from the sand and carried it under her arm out into the ocean.
The board was taller than she was.
“I’ve been surfing for a while, but before that, I always thought it would be fun to try,” Monteleone said.
“She loves it,” Buell said. “I know she will stick with it.”
Beseris, who works for the Ocean City school system most of the year, teaches each camp for a week. Some of his students sign up for multiple weeks.
And when he’s out in the water surfing himself, Beseris said, he finds himself paddling among many of his past students, who have grown to love being in the water just as much as he does.
Families can ask about surfing lessons at local surf shops and sign up for specific weeks, as long as there is still space in the class. Beseris said he used to teach larger classes, sometimes more than 20 kids at a time, but eventually made the classes smaller so he could better focus on each individual student.
Out in the water, Beseris stood in a full black wetsuit while his students sat clustered around him on their boards as the waited for the waves.
A good wave came in, and Beseris pushed Monteleone’s board as the wave started to break. She popped up and rode the wave toward the shore before hopping off and paddling back out into the ocean.
Ryan Mulraney, 10, of Upper Township, paddled back and forth as Beseris helped him catch wave after wave. He was returning to surf camp for the fourth year for two weeks, said his mother, Kristen Mulraney.
“It’s something you just have to practice all the time,” she said. “He and his older brother started out together and he loves it. He’ll be with some friends next week.”
Jake Candeloro, 7, of Ocean City, was one of the youngest camp students. He wore a bright green rashguard as he practiced standing up on his board on a wave and falling into the ocean. Jen Candeloro, his mother, said it was his first time surfing, but she was confident he would want to return next year.
The students were mixed in with Beseris’ and partner Christie Pontari’s own kids. Brothers Constantine, 11, and Charlie Beseris, 7, went out in the water on white surfboards. Taylor Pontari, 11, and twins Anthony and Christopher Beseris, both 8, were in the water on their own boards or hanging back on the beach.
Surfing for Beseris is a family affair.
“The kids, they’re so great,” he said. “Some of my oldest students are the people I now surf with. They’re adults now and that’s who I meet up with in the morning and surf with before work or whatever, so it’s been cool. It’s great, the whole full circle thing.”