CAROLINA BEACH — Camps and vacations are the highlight of summer for most N.C. students. At Carolina Beach, professional surfer Tony Silvagni is combining camp and vacation into a week-long experience he hopes proves that “anybody can surf.”
Silvagni is a professional surfing champion who calls Kure Beach home and calls the beach just south of Carolina Beach’s boardwalk — and world-famous Britt’s Doughnuts — his office. Silvagni started the Tony Silvagni Surf School in 2008 while he continued to pursue his dreams as a highly ranked longboarder. Since then, Silvagni and his team of surf instructors have expanded their on-the-water skills training to five-day surf camps, individual surfing lessons, paddleboarding lessons, group yoga and surf classes.
While his business has been making waves, Silvagni has been riding them. His most recent surfing season included victories at the Belmar Pro longboard competition in New Jersey and a win in the Open Pro Longboard in the Guy Takayama Pro in Oceanside, California. Those wins and his consistent surfing resulted in Silvagni finishing 2017 in ninth place in the world for professional longboard in the World Surf League.
Silvagni is off to a strong start in 2018 with early top-five finishes in the Surf Relik in Malibu and the ISA World Surfing Games in China. In China, Silvagni joined Team USA along Rachael Tilly, Tory Gilkerson and Kevin Skvarna in what ISA President Fernando Aguerre called a “dominating performance” to win the team gold in the Aloha Cup at Riyue Bay in Hainan, China.
When Silvagni is not surfing competitively, he is riding the waves with first-timers and long-term students on N.C.’s southern coast. He is constantly in the water and on the beach and is actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the school. His title could be “surfing dean” as his surfing faculty has grown to the point that on some days as many as 10 instructors are in the water with classes, camps and individual lessons.
“I started this business at age 21,” said Silvagni. “I had great coaches and I wanted to give back to the sport.” Silvagni admits that maintaining a business while competing at a world-class level has challenges. “It’s difficult with a seasonal business to make it,” he said. “We had to diversify to make this a year-round business.”
That year-round business does the bulk of its work in the summer months with camps stretching to mid-Sept. As the tourist traffic wanes, Silvagni and his team focus on his heavier competition schedule and individual lessons with more experienced surfers.
But Silvagni says he is primarily focused on the youth of the sport. “My target audience is kids with the camps,” said Silvagni. “Adults take part in the group lessons and the individual lessons — and adults are key to the rental business.”
The youth-oriented camps include 10 hours of professional surf instruction over five days. Those lessons include water safety and shore-side instruction on balance and the lexicon of surfing. While every student may not be able to hang with the professionals, everyone can “hang ten” off the coast of N.C. according to Silvagni.
“Anybody can surf. It’s all in your mind,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are; you can learn to surf.”
The Tony Silvagni Surf School offers surfing camps from April to September in Carolina Beach. You can find more information on their website, surfschoolnc.com.