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Meet Kai Sanson of Zuma Surf & Swim Training in Malibu, Santa Monica, & Venice Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kai Sanson.

Kai, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Growing up on Point Dume in Malibu, surfing, diving, spearfishing and other ocean sports have been a part of my life since day one. In 1906, my great-grandmother came to Los Angeles and in 1948 she had the vision to make the waters of Southern CA a central part of our family’s life. It has been that way ever since. For 32 years, I have been surfing up and down the coast of California. I have also had the opportunity to surf all over the world, yet I still vividly remember the first wave I stood up on at “The Gully” at Little Dume.

All through high school and college, I worked at a local surf/ocean skills camp in Malibu where I taught surfing, wake boarding, windsurfing, snorkeling and other ocean skills. After college, I had a 6-year tour in the Action Sports Industry managing international distributors for a skateboarding shoe company. I found out that I much preferred the ocean over concrete.

Like many people, the corporate life wasn’t working for me, so I decided to make some changes in order to spend more time outside. Zuma Surf & Swim Training was born and it grew from there. We started doing most of our lessons in Malibu, but now do lessons in Malibu, Santa Monica, and Venice. Each year we employ a few rad surf instructors. Our other main surf instructor, Colin, is a true waterman as well, filling his time surfing, paddling, ocean swimming and shaping boards.

Providing surf lessons is a way for us to pass along our extensive knowledge and experience with the surf and ocean dynamics in the Los Angeles area. This is what we enjoy doing and we hope that we are helping people to embrace, understand and respect everything that the ocean has to offer.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Zuma Surf & Swim Training has had a relatively smooth road. Our business has grown organically over the years through word-of-mouth and media exposure in the New York Times, LA Weekly, Chicago Tribune and working with organizations like KCRW, Life Rolls On and other non-profits. The majority of our clients are residents of Los Angeles who have decided that they really want to get into surfing and because of this, we are not heavily exposed to the fluctuations of the tourism business.

Daily struggles in the surf lesson business include broken boards, big surf, occasional poor weather conditions, too much sun, stingrays, the wind and not much else. Minor stuff really. It’s pretty smooth.

The main challenge we have faced, liked many other surf schools, is navigating the local agencies’ permitting process. Fortunately, each year we have been able to secure permits with LA County and the City of Santa Monica. This allows us to focus on enjoying the ocean and offering proper instruction, giving each client the best possible experience with every lesson.

Please tell us about Zuma Surf & Swim Training.
The New York Times ~ “36 Hours in Malibu”
“Kai Sanson of Zuma Surf & Swim Training takes his fun seriously. Mr. Sanson, 35, a Malibu native, was named LA’s Best Surf Instructor last year by LA Weekly. He’ll size you up with a glance and gear the instruction to your skills.”

We have been a successful local operator of surf lessons and ocean swimming training for over 12 years in Malibu, Santa Monica, and Venice. The goals of our lessons are to give people the skills to know the ocean dynamics that are happening around them, learn the basics of surfing and of course have an unforgettably fun experience!

We always approach the lesson with the mindset that we are giving clients the skills to get out in the water on their own while having a high level of awareness of everything happening around them. This in-depth understanding of the ocean is what sets us apart from the rest. For each lesson, we spend a full 20 minutes talking about waves, ocean dynamics, currents, etiquette, and safety. We firmly believe that the more each client understands the ocean, the more successful they will be surfing, and the better experience they will have in the water.

In addition to surf lessons, we also provide:
– Ocean Swimming training. We train people who are getting ready for the ocean swim portion of the Malibu Nautica Triathlon (as well as other triathlons). We also offer ocean swim lessons for those who want to gain some safety skills and confidence when in the ocean, in general.
– A kids surf group on Sunday mornings for kids progressing to the intermediate level.
– Kids surf birthday parties
– Large corporate group lessons.

Our company continues to grow and we are thankful for all the amazing clients we’ve had over the years. It’s rewarding to see our past clients out surfing so well on their own and/or with friends, while we are giving lessons to other surfing newcomers!

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite childhood memory would be surfing with my friends after school. We would spend massive amounts of time in the water. It didn’t matter if the waves were good or the water was freezing, we were out there. If the surf was flat…we were spearfishing or trying to catch lobster!


  • 1 Person – $120 (gear included, 2hr lesson)
  • 2 People – $180 (gear included, 2hr lesson)
  • 3 People – $240 (gear included, 2hr lesson)
  • 4 People – $280 (gear included, 2hr lesson)
  • 5 People and above $65 per person (gear included, 2hr lesson…possible longer depending on the size of the group)
  • Gift certificates and multiple lesson package rates are available.

Contact Info:

  • Address: Malibu, Santa Monica & Venice Beach
  • Website:
  • Phone: 310-455-6900
  • Email:

Image Credit:
Credit: James Liu Photography (for James Liu photography.jpg, James Liu photo2.jpeg and James Liu photo4.jpeg)

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