The Surf Happens Team
Our expert team of instructors is unparalleled in experience and expertise and enjoys sharing our love of the ocean almost as much as riding waves ourselves. For us, surfing is not a sport, but a lifestyle, a tool to teach passion, fitness, the ocean, life, love, and the pursuit of dreams.
Each Surf Happens instructor and team member is hand-picked for their expertise, passion, and ability to translate experiences and points of focus to clients. Led by Surf Happens founder Chris Keet, our team is built on integrity, respect, discipline, and experience. We practice what we preach and are proud of the quality of our professional team. From Association Of Surfing Professionals (ASP) judges and top competitive standouts to fitness professionals, and accredited teachers, our team follows the path of the surfer with unparalleled education and experience in their focal points.
CHRIS KEET – Founder/Advanced coach
The son of two teachers, Surf Happens founder and 3x National Champion, 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. 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. 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 into Surf Happens.
“ 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
BRANDON BENJAMIN – Advanced Surf Instructor
Brandon Benjamin is from Cape Town, South Africa. He has been surfing and competing from a young age, competing in the WSL QS. In 2017 he became the first person of color and youngest to win the open men’s South African National Title. He also landed the cover of South Africa’s biggest surfing magazine, ZigZag. Through his career he’s been sponsored by a variety of brands including Quiksilver and Rip Curl and now represents a local clothing brand, Ruett.
He now resides in Santa Barbara with his wife. He loves teaching, working with, and forming relationships with the next generation of surfers.
ALLY BORTOLAZZO – Surf Instructor
Born and raised in Santa Barbara CA, Ally Bortolazzo learned to surf through Surf Happens, attending their very first summer camp back in 2000. She has been an avid surfer ever since and has a hard time imagining life without the sport. Some of her happiest childhood moments were as a camper at Surf Happens and she is overjoyed to be back with them as an instructor. Ally particularly loves the moment when a student’s face lights up after getting a fun wave. She feels honored to share her love of surfing and the ocean with students of all ages.
Her favorite local surf spots are Rincon and Hammonds. Ally has many hobbies (probably too many), which include drawing, sculpture, sewing weird stuffed animals, string instrument repair, and training her dogs Tuna and Odin.
NATHAN ASARO – Surf Instructor
I am from Santa Barbara California. As a child I saw the ocean as a scary, cold place. My best friend convinced me to take a life guarding summer camp when I was 10 years old. Part of becoming a lifeguard, is learning to surf. I was terrified but my instructor pushed me into a wave and the feeling I got from just that one wave motivated me to overcome my fear of the ocean.
My favorite surf spot is Ventura Harbor.
I have a lot of hobbies outside of surfing, which include tennis, rock climbing, snowboarding, soccer, disc golf, ping pong, board games, and video games. One of my dreams as a surfer is to win a surf contest.
I enjoy being a surf instructor because I get to help others overcome their fear of the ocean and educate them on how to have fun while being safe in the ocean.
JADE PERKINS – Surf Instructor
My name is Jade and I was born and raised on the Mesa in Santa Barbara. Growing up on the Mesa my love for the ocean started as a little kid, I would ride waves with my dad on his board and would spend most my childhood days surfing with friends at Leadbetter. It was the best way to grow up! My favorite surf spot is probably La Lancha in Nayarit, Mex. I love traveling and meeting people around the world that share the same love for exploring new places.
Being a surf instructor means I get to meet new people of all ages and all different walks of life right here at home and bond over a mutual love for the ocean and surfing, which makes being a surf instructor the best job in the world.
MARKUS KIRSH – Surf Instructor
I grew up in a small town in Germany with swimming on lakes In the summer and ice hockey in the winter. Absolutely loved growing up there but couldn’t wait to move to a bigger city when I was 18. I started taking surf trips to France, Portugal, Fuerteventura and Peru around the same time.
Outside of surfing I enjoy skateboarding, working out, and watching documentaries. My biggest dream is to start living full time in a converted school bus. Hopefully soon.
I worked my whole life as a teacher and working with Surf Happens allows me to still be around kids and pass on the stoke of surfing. And I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would live in California and work as a surf instructor!
ERIN MCGEOY – Surf Instructor
I was born and raised in Santa Barbara and have been swimming, surfing, and playing water polo for the majority of my life. I learned to surf when I was 5 and grew up surfing at local spots like Leadbetter and Miramar with my dad.
I received a scholarship to play Division 1 water polo at George Washington University in Washington, DC, where I studied Marketing and Sustainability. While in DC, I worked for the World Wildlife Fund, a nonprofit focused on wildlife conservation. I also started a business in college that helps restaurants fight food waste by offering their surplus meals to hungry college students like myself for a discount.
I am very passionate about sustainability and conservation and I attribute a lot of this passion to my love for the ocean. Being a surfer and out in nature a lot, you experience so much beauty, but also the potential for destruction that humans have. It is my goal to educate and inspire our next generation to appreciate and protect all the natural beauty our Earth has to offer!
My favorite part of being a surf instructor is watching students progress and get stoked- there really is no feeling in this world like matching the energy of a wave and gliding across the ocean, and I love sharing that ethereal experience with others.
JADE BLAIR – Surf Instructor
My name is Jade Blair and I am a 17 year old surfer from Santa Barbara, CA. At the age of 6, I had severe anxiety with a limited ability to “release” my stress and avoid prominent triggers. This release, however, came in the form of surfing. The ocean was a place where, as soon I paddled out, all my stress began to drift away.
My passion for surfing was greater than the extent of my anxiety, enabling a period of relief that allowed me to progress and seek out my passion for the sport. My first attempts at surfing occurred at Surf Happens, releasing a “domino effect” that would lead to my continued progression and an even greater love for the sport. Outside of surfing, I enjoy spending time with my best friends (many of which I met through the sport) and going on family hikes or bike rides.
My future goals, as a current junior in high school, include the pursuit of a premed major with a focus in neuroscience (specifically neurosurgery), as both my parents are in the medical field. I enjoy being a surf instructor because of how much the sport of surfing has taught me and the opputnities it has given me! I want to share the stoke with the future generations of local groms
AUDREY MEIMAN – Surf Instructor
Hello! My name is Audrey and I am from Pacifica, CA. I’ve been extremely lucky to live near the ocean my entire life, and always thought that the surfers looked so cool out in the water while I played on the sand. I caught my first wave on my own in seventh grade, and haven’t gotten out of the water since.
The coolest wave I’ve ever surfed is a point break in Chile called Punta de Lobos, and I need to go back!
Outside of surfing, I love playing music with friends and camping. Being a surf instructor is super fun because I get to be in the water and share the stoke of the ocean with whoever comes to the beach that day.
OULANA DOBRIN – Surf Instructor
My name is Oulana and I grew up in Marin County and moved to Santa Barbara for college about 4 years ago. I’ve always had a fascination with the ocean when I was younger, so I tried to surf for the first time when I was 12 at a surf camp. That experience shaped my life as I became obsessed with the ocean, which led me to study marine biology in college. My favorite surf spot is a 2 minute walk from my house in Isla Vista and it’s called Dreamies where my friends and I love to surf together.
Besides surfing, I love to scuba and free dive, rock climb, do yoga, and hike around the area. My goal is to be one of those scientists on Shark week who gets to travel and swim with sharks!
Being a surf instructor has brought me so much joy because surfing has saved me from some hard times and has given me my favorite memories. Sharing my love of the ocean with people of all ages never gets old and often it inspires me and others to take action on protecting our beautiful oceans so that everyone can enjoy it.
CHLOE BROWN – Surf Instructor
Hello! I am always excited to share my love of surfing with anyone and everyone. I was born and raised right here in SB, living in Carpinteria for most of my life. My father was a longtime professional surfer, fisherman, and overall waterman, and so I was introduced to surfing at a very young age. Although I never had the competitive spirit in me, I did love the ocean and spending time with him doing what we both loved. I found that the lessons I learned in surfing served as the perfect framework to learn the greater lessons of life and I am very grateful to have been raised in this way.
Until middle school, the only knowledge and experience I had of surfing came to me through my Dad. In 7th grade, our very own founder Chris Keet served as the coach for my school’s surf team. While my abilities have vastly improved since those days, the stoke for the sport he perpetuates has remained constant!
In addition to surfing, I have a burning passion for the arts and sciences. I studied Neuroscience and studio art at USC, surfing along the PCH while in school. Surfing has shaped who I am as a person and the relationship I’ve built with the ocean continues to feed my soul every day!
JENNY KEET – Office Manager
Jenny Keet is a native to the central coast of California and has effectively managed business operations in various forms since 2003. Specializing in the surf and action sports industries, Jenny is an ocean and outdoor enthusiast and has been dedicated to sharing this passion with others.
Since 2008, Jenny has served as Business Manager for Surf Happens Surf School and responsible for the creation of the Surf Happens Foundation. Jenny has an Associates Degree in Film Production from Santa Barbara City College and uses her video editing to tell inspiring stories. In 2009 Jenny made a short film about plastic pollution in the ocean and solutions we can each take. The film was shown in local schools and launched the ocean stewardship portion of the foundation.
Jenny resides in Carpinteria CA with her husband, Surf Happens founder Chris Keet, and two children.
Safety is our Priority!
At Surf Happens, we are very proactive with our safety to make sure accidents are next to impossible. But just because they are super rare doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare for them. All instructors are certified in first aid, CPR, and have also participated in the Surf Happens Ocean Rescue and Surfing First Aid course which is the only of its kind in our region.
Our Ocean Rescue and Surfing First Aid course is mandatory for all instructors and is designed to prepare them for ocean-centric emergency situations through practice, preparation, and repetitions. In case of emergency, our instructors are to act as first responders, providing initial first aid, stabilizing victims, and if necessary, activating the Emergency Action Plan (EAP).
From one-on-one instruction to surf camps and large group outings, we have you covered. First aid kits are on hand for all programs.
Ocean Rescue and Surfing First Aid Course Highlights:
Ocean rescue for conscious and unconscious victimsOcean rescue and spine stabilization for neck and back injuries
How to remain calm, collected, and confident in all situations and techniques for keeping victims calm
First aid for cuts, bruises, sprains, and breaks
How to create a soft splint for the neck, leg, or any broken or severely sprained appendage
Creating a pressure bandage to stop bleeding
Creating a sling for breaks and sprains
First aid for bites and stings