Raven Surf School is an ASI (Academy of Surfing Instructors) approved school and Training centre which has been running for 14 years in the UK..
Mike Raven joint owner and head coach is an ASI Level 4 Master Surf Coach which is the highest attainable in the world. He is also an ASI Instructor Trainer Assessor and an SLSGB (Surf Life Saving Great Britain) Trainer Assessor. Mike has been a British, English and European champion at times throughout his surfing career which includes 5 years ago being British Champion in the over 28's category. He has travelled all over the world developing his surfing ability and knowledge and feels theres nothing more rewarding than passing some of this excitement on to our Raven Surf School customers!
Raven Surf School has been established in Portugal for 5 seasons offering surfing lessons and surf coaching to individuals, families and groups in Lagos, Portugal.
Our focus is on teaching beginners, improvers and more advanced surfers to have fun and progress at their individual level. Lessons are for 3 hours split into 2 sessions, all equipment is provided and included in the cost as well as a pack lunch. Safety is a paramount factor within our Surf School from start to finish, we hold a 100% safety record over the 15 years that we have been operating. All lessons start with a warm up and safety talk, then a demonstration on the beach, followed by time in the water to have a go at surfing for yourself!.
Mike started surfing in Cornwall on the beaches of Bude and Widemouth Bay in 1975, his Mum introduced him to surfing when he was just 6 years old! Once in to his teenage years he found surfing to be a great way of escaping his sometimes challenging home life, he could immerse himself in the sport and enjoy the euphoric sense of freedom he would feel when practicing this activity.
He went on to enter competitions and to be sponsored, as his ability grew. He entered the Cornish and Open at the age of 14. At 15 he was chosen for the English team and placed 3rd in Europe in the under 18’s category in Jersey. That same year he was picked to join the British team in California and placed 15th in the world! Highlights of his surfing career are-
European Champion at 17 years (still a junior) in the open, ages 18 and over. • 3 British titles. • 3 English titles. • Picked to surf for Britain 3 times. • Has won many Pro-Am competitions. • Captained the Cornish team at Widemouth Bay in the Celtic Watersports Festival, in which the team won.
Mike and Nicky meet
Mean while Nicky was working in London at the Maria Montessori Training Organisation in Belsize Park Hampstead. She worked full time and trained part time to be a Montessori teacher in the college school, which she loved being part of for 8 years. She met Mike in their home town of Bude in August 2002 and they had a long distance relationship for a year until Nicky left teaching and returned to Bude. In 2003 Nicky now at the age of 28 and Mike 34 they decided to get married. On their four week honeymoon to Sri Lanka Mike showed Nicky how to surf and she took to it quite quickly. In past years Mike had considered opening a surf school and this only proved to them to be a good time to put his ideas in to practice.
Starting the surf school
In 2003 after being granted a licence by the local council and Mike gaining the necessary qualifications their journey began! With just 6 surfboards and a few wetsuits Mike started offering surf lessons, piling surfboards on top of a small car and cramming wetsuits inside, which later became 2 vans and a trailer with 100 surfboards and 400 or so wetsuits. Raven Surf School UK ran successfully for 14 seasons and became the number 1 attraction on Trip Advisor in North Cornwall.
During this time Mike gained a Level 4 Master surf coach qualification and a Level 4 Surfing Great Britain certificate and is an SLSGB Trainer Assessor. Mike has run surf instructor and Lifeguard workshops in various locations within Europe. .
Clubs and projects
Not only offering surfing to those wanting lessons they opened up various groups to cater for young people in the area. First came ‘groms’ club with local children. Grom or gremmie comes from the term Grommet which is a young participant in extreme sports usually a beginner at the sport and the younger within a group. It later went on to be called Rippers which is also a surfing term known in the surf community.
To cater for surfers in the local area with a higher level of ability they now formed an Elite squad which was for more advanced and intermediate level surfers. This over time helped to produce some great champions!
They developed a scheme with a local charity called C.A.T.S (community action through sport) and the local police which they named The Urban Surf Project. Young people in the local area would be referred to the scheme by teachers, social workers and the police if they felt they could benefit from taking part in the 8 week programme. They may be referred because they are experiencing social or emotional issues, causing problems in the community, suffering some form of abuse or being a carer for a family member and need some timeout. The individual would need to commit to one session per week over the 8 weeks otherwise the place would be given to someone who would. Each week, beach and surf safety was discussed by the surf instructors and students before going in to the water and having a practical session. The students would be asked questions that covered information they had in a small booklet devised by ASI (academy of surfing instructors) once they completed both the practical and theory to a good standard they would at the end of the 8 weeks receive level 1 and 2 ASI certificates. Other charities they provided surf lessons for on a regular basis were The Wave Project and Active8. Both groups with individuals experiencing mental, social and or physical issues in their lives.
In August 2008 during a busy summer surf season baby Taylor Raven arrived! The end of an uncomplicated 9 month pregnancy turned out to be a very traumatic experience as Nicky and Taylor both nearly died due to a rare life-threatening complication, with just a 1 in 15000 chance of it happening! With amazing medical intervention and care things eventually turned around and both are still here to tell the tale!
In 2014 Mike started to research other possible countries in which to start another surf school in and came across the Algarve in Portugal. One of the biggest attractions for doing so was to live in the sunshine as Mike had always dreamed of doing so. Possibly because he had the fortune of experiencing many countries such as Hawaii, California, Spain, France and Portugal to name but a few, during his time competing. They came up with the necessary documents and business plan required by the Portuguese Maritime Police and a few months later in May were granted a licence. By June Mike was living in Portugal! During this time he kept himself very busy and made contact with businesses such as hotels, campsites, B n B’s and hostels who could possibly send their customers to his new surf school by paying them a commission from the lesson fee. He also created the website as he had done for the UK surf school and completed the paperwork needed to run the surf school. The first season was fairly slow but showed great potential and with the 5 star reviews he received on Tripadvisor it went on to grow busier year by year, with them now just completing the 5th season in Portugal!
It’s been a rollercoaster of a journey and at times they have wanted to give up and go back to England but with great determination and teamwork from Mike, Nicky, Taylor and Nell they’ve made it a success. With Taylor now at Portuguese secondary school and speaking fluently with his friends, surfing when he and his Dad can, it’s what makes life living in the sunshine even better!
Some of the projects Raven Surf School has created and been involved with.
In 2011 in the UK we developed a scheme called the Urban Surf Project. Bude C.A.T.S community action through sport, alongside Budehaven secondary school, Bude Police and Raven Surf School all played a part in the project. The young people would be referred by the school or possibly the police if they thought that the individual would benefit from the scheme. The main objectives were to offer an 8 week course of surf sessions to the young people, which they needed to fully commit to, otherwise the place would be given to someone else. We provided all of the equipment for the sessions. The instructors would cover beach/surf safety, care of equipment and there was also a 50 metres swim alongside the practical time in the water. The course followed the ASI academy of surfing instructors training booklets and once completed the young people gained level 1 and 2 ASI certificates. We ran 3 projects in total with a very successful outcome. All went away, we felt having achieved something, whether it be better communication and social skills, a love of a new healthy activity, making new friends and committing to completing things in life.
At Raven Surf School UK we ran a surf club for children of 8 years to early teens. It was called Rippers and at times we had about 30 participants. The youngsters would use their own equipment or at first use ours if they didn’t have their own. They would come once a week after school for 2 hours and have some coaching from us and fun with their friends at the beach. It was a great way to meet new people and make new friends and if they wanted, progress in their surfing ability at the same time! We would split the children in to groups of 8 and they would have an instructor with them. They would be in small groups with children at a similar level to them. Each week they would build on the skills they gained the week before.
At the end we would give out stickers and small prizes for everyone and then their would be someone chosen from each group that the instructor felt had for example most improved or overcame an obstacle maybe. We used work booklets alongside the practical training which where provided by ASI Academy of surfing instructors. The booklets covered elements such as beach safety, surfing etiquette and the instructors would go over this with the children at the beginning of the session. Once children completed certain parts of the training they would receive certificates level 1-3
The Elite squad we ran initially with Harlyn Bay Surf School and offered sessions in Bude and then Harlyn on alternate weeks. We originally had funding from Sport England and then went on to fund it ourselves. The decision to open a more advanced coaching facility was made when some of the children from our Rippers club began to show great potential in their surfing development. The squad helped to build some great talent of which some individuals went on to become British and English Champions who continue to do well to this day in their surfing career.
The Wave Project is a charity which organises surfing for people who are facing challenges in their lives. They may have emotional or physical issues or special educational needs or even be experiencing personal difficulties that impact on their general wellbeing. The students maybe referred to the wave project by doctors, health care workers, teachers and psychologists as a type of therapy that helps them focus on positive things, overcome challenges, make new friends. The results being that they are more able to manage their own behaviour and self-regulate, focus and re-engage with their peers, experience better relationships with family at home, have more confidence and self esteem.
Active8 is a registered charity giving young individuals with physical disabilities the chance to meet up with peers and experience a range of fun, exciting and challenging activities. Surfing being one of them, we provided the equipment and surf instructors to enable this to happen. These sessions were very rewarding for surfers and instructors!