The Surf Happens Story
“I’ve always believed that it’s the people in your life that matter most. Being raised, and growing up here in Santa Barbara I have had the pleasure of sharing a lifetime of memories with locals and am lucky enough to call this place, and this incredible community, home. The ocean has always been an integral part of my life, and through surfing I am able to keep a lifelong connection to her magic and wonder, and a means of finding fitness, well being, friendships and fun. And so, sharing surfing with people of all ages and walks of life, and teaching it in a way that emphasizes integrity, personal growth, a connection to the self, our community, and nature has been a dream come true for me.”
– Chris Keet, Surf Happens Founder
The son of two teachers, Surf Happens founder Chris Keet grew up on a boat in the Santa Barbara harbor from the age of 3 until 18 with salt water all but flowing through his veins. His mom Toni, a local music teacher at Crane School until 2013 instilled in Chris the belief that anything was possible if you had passion for it. The dream for a young boy growing up on the sea was ever changing. From swimmer to fisherman as his first passions, to sailor, prankster and martial artist, the ocean was always there for him, but once he found surfing, everything changed. He was hooked and lived and breathed it from adolescence on, pursuing the ultimate dream of becoming a professional surfer. By the end of high school it became clear that although he loved surfing and wanted to be a professional, that icon of the sport was most likely not in the cards so he set forth to college to become a professional in another way.
While earning degrees in English and Communications at UCSB 1993-1998 Chris organized surf contests and fundraisers for the university surf team, winners of 5 consecutive national titles, while competing as an amateur and part time pro surfer. While his role as a contest director continued to grow with the birth of the Santa Barbara Surfing Series in 1997 and the resurrection of the Rincon Classic in 2001, Chris continued to provide a hub for youth to grow, and the evolution of Chris Keet the surf coach blossomed in earnest. When parents of a few promising young surfers in the Santa Barbara area asked Chris to personally coach their children, an idea began to form.
From National Champion to Coach & Mentor
Chris realized he could combine his expertise with the natural teaching talents instilled by his parents to create something markedly more important than his singular pursuit of surf contest glory. And so, in January 2000, Surf Happens was born. Since then, Surf Happens Premier Surf School has contributed to the development of notable top ranked professional surfers including Kilian Garland, Lakey Peterson, Conner and Parker Coffin, 2017 U 10 NSSA National Champion Jak Ziets and current USA Surf Team Member, many top athletes from the region, and students from around the world who come to train with Chris and the Surf Happens team of instructors.
“The connection to the self and nature, breaking away from responsibilities and embracing the freedom of the present promotes health in the mind, body and spirit. Learning something new, and being focused on becoming the best you can be at anything requires commitment, discipline and dedication. Surfing is so much fun and the life lessons never end.”
“ If you have the heart, you have a head start. With hard work, dedication, undying belief in a dream, and a whole lot of determination, you will always get you where you want to go. No one can take away from you what you earn.”
– Chris Keet, Surf Happens Founder
Surf Happens Becomes the Leader
In the last twenty years, Surf Happens has grown into the undisputed top dog of surf schools on the South Coast with a team of world-class instructors – many of whom were once Surf Happens students themselves. In addition to providing the highest quality surf lessons, camps and coaching to locals and visitors in Santa Barbara, Chris and his team have also trained students in Costa Rica, the Philippines, and most recently in China where the Surf Happens method was utilized to start the first youth surfing camps in the country.
His wife Jenny, who also travels the surfer’s path, came on board in 2009, and together, Chris and Jenny formed Surf Happens Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit with a mission to provide scholarships and programs for physically, financially, and emotionally challenged children who need some ocean love. Click here to learn more about the saltwater smiles and self-confidence inspired by Surf Happens Foundation partnerships and special events.
The Keets live in Carpinteria, California with their two sons Jack and Maddox, and are most often found at their surf shop and training center at 3825 Santa Claus Lane, or out surfing as a family at area line ups. Surf Happens continues on the mom and pop tradition offering the local flavor of a family experience with professional results.