March 15, 2023




An Interview with Christian Marcher of Progressive Surf Academy

 You’d be hard pressed to find someone more stoked on surfing than our friend and local ripper Christian Marcher. Big boards, small boards, soft tops, surf mats, hand planes, you name it and this guy rides them all at a very elite level. The best part about Christian is that he is always the nicest guy in the water and he pushes the boundaries of what you think is possible on a surfboard every time he paddles out.

With over 30 years of surfing experience, Christian has built Progressive Surf Academy into one of the most well-respected surf schools anywhere on the West Coast. He and his team use a very unique approach that dives deep into ocean safety, technique, and ethics in the lineup that you don’t see anywhere else. Christian delivers a premium surf experience for all ages and has been a part of the Bing family for a few years, so we sat down to chat and learn a bit more about the man and his love for the ocean.


Who is Christian Marcher and how did you end up in Leucadia?


I grew up surfing in Florida, which was great when I was a little kid, because the waves were typically small and not scary. As I got older and started competing and traveling, I began to see what was really out there in terms of surf. It didn’t take long before I was sick of living in Florida and traveling just to get good waves. I decided to move to the north shore of Oahu where all I had to do was make rent to be able to surf the best waves in the world. My friend lined me up with a job teaching and making videos for Sunset Suratt Surf Academy. When you work for Bryan Suratt you have to be the best at what you do every day. I worked alongside some of the best surfers in the world (Makua and Koa Rothman, Eli Olson, Billy Kemper, Sunny Garcia, Buttons, and Kala Grace just to name a few). When your taking people surfing on the North Shore there is little room for error. Over the years I worked my way up and sharpened my skills as an instructor and a coach. I would take coaching lessons out to Sunset, Rockies, Velzyland and sometimes even the Pipeline stretch if the waves were small. Not an easy task trust me. My time in Hawaii is really what shaped me as a teacher of surfing as well as a person in general. Eventually I met my wife, who is Canadian. We wanted to start fresh somewhere and we ended up settling here in Leucadia (Encinitas). To me it was the perfect place to start my business, but more importantly start a family. I’ve taken a lot of the methods I learned in Hawaii and adapted them to Southern California surf. The variety in surf here is incredible and reminds me of the North Shore in many ways.


How long have you been surfing?


I started surfing when I was 5 in a pair of speedos and a boogie board. I was so scrawny I was able to stand up on the Boogie in the whitewash. I was hooked from the start and 32 years later I’m still hooked and trying new things!




You ride pretty much anything and everything. What does your quiver look like?


I do enjoy a wide variety of surf crafts. I have lots of twin fins ranging from 5’2 - 9’6. Of course, I still have a few high-performance thrusters, but I only ride them in certain exceptional conditions. I have quite a few mid lengths ranging from 6’6-8’6 which I ride when the waves get bigger. Twinzers, twin fins, quads, asymmetric, 2 + 1, and of course single fins. They all have a different feel and have a particular purpose depending on the waves. Of course, I have a couple logs, but as you know gliders have stolen my heart. I have more than a few. Oh, and I have a Boog and a hand plane. Bodysurfing can be the best!


Can you tell us about the people and or places that inspired you to teach surfing?


I definitely get most of my inspiration for teaching surfing from my time spent in Hawaii. Surfing is such an important part of the Hawaiian culture. Obviously surfing started in Hawaii and Duke Kahanamoku brought surfing to the world. He was one of the original beach boys who would take people surfing in Waikiki. You can still walk down the strip and watch all the surfers and surf lessons going on. It’s pretty classic. Timeless really. When I teach and give people the gift of surfing, I feel like I’m carrying on this tradition. In Hawaii its more about being good in the water no matter what you’re riding. No surf craft is looked down upon. There’s no taboo. There are so many ways to ride waves and the Hawaiians love it all! It’s definitely what sparked my love and exploration into different surf crafts. This mentality is what I try to pass on to my students.


Give us a rundown of Progressive Surf Academy and your methods of surf coaching.


Our goal is to improve your ability no matter what level you’re at. We assess each person individually as everyone is unique. We try to build upon your strengths as well as breaking down your bad habits and weaknesses. For beginner lessons we go Hawaiian style and use bigger boards than necessary. Often 10- and 11-foot boards and work you down to the right size board for you. Starting with boards that big gives you the fundamentals immediately instead of spending a couple lessons just trying to stand up. We are often teaching people to catch unbroken waves in the first lesson assuming the conditions cooperate. Once you get the basics we start to build on that foundation and the building never really ends. There’s always something new to work on. I have clients I have pushed into their first wave and over the years we have built them a proper quiver. We work with lots of intermediate/advanced surfers who have been surfing 10-20 years. Often, they are stuck on a plateau and can’t seem to get better and/or they have formed bad habits they are unaware of. We typically incorporate video analysis with these types of lessons. It’s really good for highlighting the small details that are often so important. I would say the most important thing we teach for all levels is how best to approach the ocean in general. There are different strategies for different spots. Swell direction, interval, size, tides, and wind are all factors you need to understand. There are places to surf and places not to surf depending on your ability. We always prioritize how to safely and respectfully approach a lineup.


What types of lessons and coaching do you offer?


At our surf school, we provide customized lessons for individuals of all ages and skill levels. Whether you're a young child, older adult, adaptive surfer, or competitive athlete looking to enhance your performance, we have a lesson plan tailored to your specific needs. Our coaching sessions are further enhanced with video analysis to provide personalized feedback and help you improve your technique. In addition to our traditional lessons, we also offer half-day and full-day tours along the coast, where we explore different surf spots and enjoy the natural beauty of the ocean. However, our true passion lies in our surf therapy program. We partner with mental health facilities for youth and adults to incorporate surfing and mindfulness into the recovery and treatment process. Witnessing the positive impact that surfing has on people's mental wellness and happiness is truly rewarding for us. Through our experience, we have seen how surfing can bring profound benefits to those struggling with mental health issues.




What are your top 5 favorite surf spots in San Diego and why?


Of course, a couple of them are kind of secret spots, but ill name the obvious favs. (1) Cardiff Reef- it’s always good no matter how big or small, or what the tide is. There are multiple peaks that act differently depending on the conditions. Everything from barrels and airs to carvy walls and noserides. You can ride every board in the quiver. (2) Beacons- it’s a pretty mellow spot, but it does have a big variety of peaks varying from high performance to longboard waves. For me it’s more about the good vibes and beauty. It probably helps that it’s the home break LOL! (3) Seaside Reef- if you want to see the best surfing happening in north county this is the spot. It’s the hotbed for progressive surfing. Somehow no matter what there’s always rip-able waves every day. If you don’t feel like dealing with the crowd there’s multiple spots on either side of the main zone. It’s always good to have a backup plan. (4) Swamis- It’s THE point break for north county San Diego. It truly is an incredible wave, but getting a good one is no easy task. I have to be in a scrappy mood to surf here. (5) Sunset cliffs- It has it all! Big days, small days, big boards, small boards you name it! Its about as beautiful as it gets and has a certain raw adventure feel to it! There are so many places to explore. You can always find good waves with nobody around if you’re up for a little walk/paddle.


8) What should people look for when researching surf schools?


There’s lots of cookie cutter large operations around. I would try to avoid those. Look for someone with lots of experience surfing, teaching and a good reputation with the local community. They should really know the area and how all the different conditions affect the spots. It’s really about finding the right fit for you, which is why we get as much info as we can from each student to best match them up with an instructor.


What’s has it been like filming with some of the Bing team lately?


It’s been a blast filming the the Bing team! It’s just fun. There’s a genuine excited vibe in the water which naturally translates to good surfing. I’ve been on both sides of the camera over the years and sometimes things can feel forced. With the Bing shoots we’ve been doing it feels like everyone is just having fun, riding new boards and trying to figure them out. There’s no pressure. It’s more like a collaboration of surfers playing with boards and filming it. Just simple fun.


You mentioned offering surf guiding and surf camps in the future. Tell us about that.


The surf guiding is something we have been doing for a while now. We just haven’t really advertised it yet. We have a big Ford Transit van with custom interior board racks that seats up to 6 passengers. We can lock all the boards up to 12 feet long which allows us to adventure while keeping everything secure. We offer half day and full day tours of San Diego County specifically designed to the wants and needs of the customers. Depending on what you’re looking for we cover anything from San Onofre to sunset cliffs. We hit up the local favorite eats and maybe stop by a local brewery on the way home. We even offer stand up tours in Mission Bay ending at the Barefoot Bar. It’s always good times! We also have a couple rental units on our property in Leucadia just a few blocks from Beacons. That would be the all-inclusive experience. You have all the boards and suits at your disposal and you can include whatever lessons or day tours you want. Its can really be the ultimate customized experience.



To learn more about Christian and his team visit: www.progressivsurfacademy.com

or follow him on social media @progressivesurfacademy


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