Richard Schmidt

Richard Schmidt

Founder/Owner, Waterman & Head Surf Instructor

Photo Credit: Jay Watson |

Marisa Schmidt

Marisa Schmidt

Co-owner, Office Manager & Yoga Instructor

Meet our team of surf instructors — some of Santa Cruz’s best!

Helping Richard in the water are a team of accomplished, world-class surfers. All instructors have a genuine interest in helping you acquire the necessary skills to pursue surfing on your own. All are CPR-certified and have been trained in the water by Richard. Not only will you learn basic fundamentals of the sport, but also etiquette and how to deal with potential hazards. Each instructor also brings his or her own unique approach to surfing that creates a more in-depth learning experience. So whether you’re a first-timer or an advanced shredder, it’s always a good idea to do a follow-up lesson with a different instructor to help get you to that next level in surfing. Here are brief bios on each coach:

David Schmidt

Dave (and brother to Richard) has been a mainstay in the Santa Cruz surfing scene for many decades. Through the years Dave and Richard have shared countless days of epic surf together. In the early to mid-80’s on the North Shore of Oahu, with David being a goofy foot and Richard a regular foot, there was always a constant battle on where to surf; the rights or lefts, Sunset or Pipeline. Dave’s tall frame seemed to fit perfectly in the big North Shore surf. He was definitely one of the best at Pipeline during this period, also a standout on many days at Sunset and Waimea.

On Jan. 22, 1990, Dave and Tom Powers were up at Ocean Beach (San Francisco) admiring, perfect 15′ A-frame peaks going off, unfortunately with no channel to paddle out in. Jeff Clark pulled up and said, “You guys want big perfect surf with a channel? Follow me.” Although Jeff had surfed Mavericks for years before this day, this was the first time he was able to share it with other takers, up until this day a hard commodity to come by.

David was shell-shocked. “I saw so many waves that you could fit 18-wheelers inside of! I never imagined anything like that in California!” Jeff’s comments on Dave that session: “Dave caught a beauty that day and S-turned his way all the way through to the inside rock.”

This happened to be the same surf that produced an epic Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational event the day before in which Richard Schmidt placed third. According to Jeff, “That day definitely changed everything.”

Dave’s knowledge of the ocean is invaluable to the school. His “SSA’s” (struggling surfers assists) are the most powerful in the business. Besides teaching surfing, Dave is also very active as a real estate broker for Lighthouse Realty. He can be contacted directly for any real estate needs.

Cell: (831) 227-3679
Office: (831) 425-7355

Richie Schmidt

Richie grew up in the surf school and camps, observing his father teach endless adults and children how to surf. He caught his first wave on the front of dad’s board at age two. His boundless, wild energy was a perfect fit with surfing and the ocean’s boundless energy. His surfing is beautiful to watch. Classic, pure lines with speed, power and flow beyond his years. Growing up a talented young surfer has had him pursuing contests. His most recent accomplishments include 2014 Scholastic Surf League Champion; #2 ranked surfer for the 2015 NSSA Northwest Open Series; and 2nd place in the 2015 State Championships. We are thrilled he shares his family’s passion for sharing the stoke of surfing.

Photos Credit: Dave “Nelly” Nelson |

Zoltan “The Magician” Torkos

Zoltan grew up on the Westside of Santa Cruz as a grom charging from a young age. The neighborhood he grew up in was a “surf stoked” environment. His next door neighbor was Shawn “Barney” Barron, David Schmidt and Robert “Wally” Waldemar lived across the street. Zoltan was inspired to want to surf at a young age. Dave Schmidt remembers Zoltan as a young fired up helgie on a tricycle hitting him up for surf stickers. His surfing matured quick as well as his skateboarding skills. He decided to mix his two passions and developed a “kick flip” on a surfboard in honor of his late best friend Carl Reimer. As of press time he is still the only person in the world to be known to accomplish this creative, high-risk move. Even though he is now an adult and family man with two daughters he still has that enthusiastic grom stoked spirit he shares with his students.

Shaun Burns

It was natural for Shaun to surf growing up in Santa Cruz with an enthusiastic surfing dad, Mike. During his younger years he had a very successful amateur surfing career and could have easily gone pro as did his good friend Nat Young. He ended up putting that on hold and went to Cal Poly to pursue an Environmental Science degree graduating May 2015. His most recent accomplishment is second place at the highly-competitive 2014 O’neill Cold Water Classic, a WSL Qualifying Series. It was no surprise as Steamer Lane is his favorite wave he grew up surfing. Students love Shaun for his patient, relaxed attitude and wealth of surfing knowledge.

Chris “Bradda” Foxx

Chris grew up in Hawaii born on the Big Island but grew up on Oahu. His passion for surfing on a daily basis developed his skills as a world class surfer. Over the years he surfed incredible waves on the North Shore including big Waimea and Pipeline on old school single fins for the soul and challenge of it. Being the quintessential waterman his strength in the water is awesome to witness. In Hawaii he shared his aloha with the public running ATV tours and teaching surfing. We are fortunate that he now lives in Santa Cruz and brings that aloha to our clients.

Miles Clanton

Miles was born and raised in Santa Cruz and has loved the ocean since he was old enough to walk. Started surfing Cowells around eight years old and slowly worked his way up to The Lane. His surfing is creative and spontaneous with incredible aerial maneuvers. He loves traveling for surf whether it’s Indonesia or Mexico and has a passion for adventure and scoring perfect waves. He enjoys competitive surfing and won a few contests as a youngster. When not surfing he loves to fish and golf. He enjoys sharing his passion of the ocean with others and we’re fortunate to have such a skilled instructor.

Photo Credit: Santa Cruz Waves

Anuttara Denlay

Tara grew up in Malibu, CA, she is the classic “watergirl.” Her water skills include coaching the Malibu High School swim and water polo teams, and teaching all levels of swimming. She spent a few years with Baja Surf Adventures. Her responsibilities included driving a 15-passenger van from San Diego into the Baja peninsula, managing food, water and electrical supplies, along with helping provide a sense of security in a remote place. Her background and solid surfing skills combine to make Tara an awesome instructor. We have received many compliments from students on Tara’s positive and helpful teaching qualities. Tara has been with the Surf School since 2005, and she’s also our Head CounselorSanta Cruz Surf Camps.

Jim Richards

Jim grew up in San Diego first surfing as a kneeboarder, before learning to stand up. As a result, his tube riding skills are honed to perfection. He has an innate sense of where to be for maximum tube time. He moved to Hawaii when he was 20 and lived and surfed on the North Shore of Oahu for 39 years. Richard and JR shared many days surfing together during this time. Jim’s heaviest waves were caught at Waimea and Pipeline. He wasn’t afraid to catch somemutant backdoor bombs on big days when most people were just surfing the lefts. Jim and family, wife Cheryl and daughter Lily (also surfers) relocated to Santa Cruz in 2013. Jim’s water skills garnered from years of charging the North Shore make him an excellent surf instructor. When not teaching you can find him sharing the beautiful breaks in Santa Cruz with his family.

Ben Coffey

Being the son of longtime Santa Cruz surfer/shaper Ward and surfer Mom Sue, Ben started surfing around the same time he could walk. Many days were spent on the beach surfing with his family including brother Sam. Having great boards from his Dad who is also a surfing coach has had Ben push his surfing to a high level. His accomplishments include Scholastic Surf League Champ 2012, 2013, 2015; 1st place 2014 California State Championships; and 3rd place 2015 NSSA National Championships. He is also on the USA Surf Team and Junior Lifeguarding Team. He was State Paddle Champion for 6 years in a row. In addition to teaching surfing he is also a beach lifeguard for the City of Santa Cruz. Although he is one of the younger members of our staff his water and surfing skills make up for his age.

Rachel Roehl

Rachel grew up in Santa Cruz so becoming a surfer was only a matter of time in Surf City. She enjoys surfing with feminine grace on her longboard rather then the aggressive style short boarding offers. She has been enjoying Hawaiian surf lately, where she is attending University of Hawaii. Summers are spent in Santa Cruz where her positive energy and infectious smile contributes to the stoke of her students.

Kenny D’Andrea

Kenny grew up surfing in Santa Cruz. In addition to surfing he has been training in Tae Kwon Do since age 4. He graduated in 2010 from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Business Management Economics. He loves to travel and experience different cultures and surf. He has been teaching with us since 2008. He brings a light-hearted, patient approach and is always an enthusiastic and knowledgeable teacher.

Devin Murphy

Devin journey as a surfer began when he first attended Richard’s Surf Camps for many years as a youngster. He knew surfing was going to be part of his life. Later he joined the surf club at his middle school. When he became old enough it was natural to become an instructor having been familiar with the program for so many years. He recently graduated from UC Berkeley, as well as the farming program at UC Santa Cruz. When not helping with the school Devin enjoys surfing on his own, spearfishing and growing good things to eat on land he leases for his organic farm.