Surf Instructors

Jason Brickhouse

"Brick" has been with us since 2000. He was promoted to head of the surf school in 2011 and we couldn’t be prouder. Brick considers himself lucky to have found a job that allows him to share something he loves with other people. “Sharing a passion is one of the most rewarding things about the job,” he says, “and the look on everyone’s face when they do something that they didn’t think they could do ... Oh, and we get paid to surf.” His favorite surf spots include Marbella and Ollie's Point in Costa Rica, and his own backyard here in Corolla. But we're not letting the exact location of that secret spot out. Other than teaching surf lessons, his dream job is to be a stay-at-home dad. But until he meets that sugar momma, we’re glad to have him here. Quick stats: Years surfing - 20; years with CSS - 14; years teaching - 10

Jeanne-Marie DeStefano

 "JM" has been with us since 2001. Her competitive swimming upbringing led her to a summer job as a lifeguard on the OBX in 2000, where she started surfing, fell in love with Corolla, and moved to the area full-time after graduating from Virginia Tech in 2003. She was promoted to the director of the surf lesson school in 2006 and ran the program until 2011 when she accepted a scholarship to attend grad school. We’re not really sure what she's still doing in Corolla after earning her masters degree from UNC in 2013, getting hand-picked by the vice president of CNN news to be an intern and winning a national award for her academics, but we’re glad to have her back! Maybe it has something to do with being able to spend her winters in exotic surf destinations like Hawaii, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico?! Or maybe it's because she was fortunate to find a career that she enjoys, and the courage to accept it when it's not the traditional career path. Or maybe she just likes to play in the water! Quick stats: years surfing - 14; years with CSS - 12; years teaching - 12.

Andy Grossman

Andy, or "Sandwiches" as he more commonly known, came to us from Ohio in 2005, during the summer of his sophomore year at Xavier University. It was his first time ever on the Outer Banks, and it was enough to convert him. He moved to the area full time in 2007 when he graduated as a political science major (or as he calls it, “political stupidity”). Andy has chosen to spend his days teaching surf lessons because, according to him, “I’m engaging in something I enjoy and am passionate about, not just doing a job to get paid for it. It's active and for most of the year its outdoors, I’m not sitting at a desk all day.” He takes advantage of the slow Outer Banks winters by traveling. In the winter of 2008, he worked and snowboarded in Winter Park, Colorado. In 2009, he spent the cold months surfing and teaching surf lessons in Maui. Andy has also taken surf trips to Oahu, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and California. He's not very fond of raw tomatoes. Quick stats: years surfing - 10; years with CSS - 10; years teaching - 8.

Phil Clayton

Phil was introduced to Corolla during a family vacation in 2001. Lucky for him (and for us), his family loved the area enough to eventually purchase a summer home, allowing Phil and his siblings to spend holidays and entire summers surfing in Corolla. When he graduated from Colgate in 2011 (with a degree in geological engineering), he moved to Corolla full-time. He started working for the shop in 2007 and he has been teaching surf lessons with us since 2010. Phil played football in high school and college, but don’t let his stature fool you, he can do a front-hand-spring like a gymnast! He is an expert on finding surf breaks in the 4wd area in Corolla, but he’s also surfed all over the world. Just this winter alone, he took surf trips to Indonesia, Costa Rica and Hawaii. If you know Phil, you know he is not short of words, but when we asked him what he liked most about his job, his response was simple: "Water." Quick stats: years surfing - 15; years with CSS - 8; years teaching lessons - 5


Gary Michael Smith

Gary first started surfing the Outer Banks in 1968 when his family spent their Easter vacation in Southern Shores. While attending ODU, Gary would make afternoon surf runs to Rudee Inlet in Va Beach and take day trips down to Buxton. Divine intervention occurred when Gary’s future in-laws pioneered their way to the Corolla ‘outback’ and retired in 1975. Nothing is better than having family at the beach. The 80’s & early 90’s corporate travel sent him out to California which meant weekends spent surfing Ventura, Santa Barbara, County Line, Dana Point, Baja and Trestles. In 1995, Gary divorced the corporate life and decided that Corolla would be his home. In 1996, Gary, Laurie and their close friend Bill Freed founded Corolla Surf Shop and The Corolla Surf School. The rest is history with just a dash of urban legend thrown in for good measure. At nights, Gary is the drummer for Soulone. Quick stats: years surfing - 47, years with CSS - 19 (duh, he owns it), years teaching lessons, 19.


Dave Blackwood

Dave remembers buying his first wetsuit from CSS in 1999, when he first started coming to Corolla as a teenager with his family. He was excited to start surfing in the spring with his 9 other siblings. Yup, NINE! (Two of his brothers work for us too.) We got so used to seeing him in the shop that we just went ahead and put him on the payroll three years ago. Growing-up, he split his time between Virginia and Canada, so he's familiar with surf spots all over Virginia Beach and NC, but he's also experienced with cold water Canadian surf breaks. At least, that's what he tells us; the jury is still out though because he's a total wimp when it comes to cold water! ;)  Dave just earned his BA in Spanish and Communications in Montreal, Canada and will be studying jazz guitar and music production for the next three years. This winter, he spent time in Argentina studying Spanish. So really, it's no surprise that his favorite food is Mexican. We think his girlfriend, Adriana, is the bees knees! So we included of pic of them both cuz they're totes adorbs. Quick stats: years surfing - 15, years with CSS - 3, years teaching lessons, 3.


Nate Blackwood

According to Nate, he came to Corolla as "a young whippersnapper" ready to enjoy an unusually warm week in April in 1999. Like his brother and fellow surf instructor, Dave Blackwood, Nate grew up surfing in Va Beach and Nova Scotia. While he's been out in the lineup with a surfboard since 1999ish, he says 2002 is the official year he "stopped getting his butt kicked by the ocean and started riding waves." Also like his brother, this will be his third season teaching surf lessons with us. Nate spent the winter abroad, teaching English in Columbia, and we are glad to have him back. His favorite quote is from fellow instructor, Marshall White: "Paddle hard, it aint a free ride!" In his spare time, he writes Haiku's about Corolla. Quick stats: years surfing - 12 or 15 (depending who you ask), years w/ CSS - 3, years teaching lessons, 3.


Marshall White

Profile and pics coming soon!


Alex Keefe

For a long time, Alex held the Corolla Surf School record for being the youngest surf lesson student we ever had. It was 2004 and he was 7. He had JM as his instructor for his first lesson, and she’s called him her adopted little brother ever since. Alex returned to us the next year for more lessons, and so did his older sister, Julia, and her friend, Marian. And then they came back the next year and the next and the next and when their younger siblings (Tim and Eliza) turned 6 and 7, they took lessons too. So now, here we are, 10 years later, and we look forward to the month of August when the Keefe crew comes to hang with us. And on top of that, we are so proud to have Alex as our very first junior surf instructor (for the second year in a row.) Don’t be fooled by his age, Alex has already traveled to Costa Rica, Florida and Puerto Rico for surf. And, we hear he cooks a terrific omelette. You rock, Alex, keep being you!  Quick stats: years surfing - 11; years with CSS - 3; years teaching lessons - 2.