Ever since Bruce Brown let loose upon the surf world his “travel documentary” Endless Summer, the idea of travelling around the globe in pursuit of waves has been a much sought-after dream for surfers of all ages. From tiny groms to seasoned old fogeys, the romanticized dream of hopping on an airplane with nothing more than a few surf shorts or bikinis, a bar of wax, and one or two surfboards in tow has been akin to finding the Holy Grail, at least in surfing circles.
The days of Endless Summer’s idealized surf trip pre-requisites of “surfboard, wax, sun screen and passport” are long gone … having given way to multiple airport security screenings, expensive airline fees for oversized luggage, and the sudden boom of surf-related anything all over the world thanks in large part to the multi-billion dollar push from the surf industry moguls.
But have no fear, minor inconveniences will not deter determined surfers from their goal of finding surf nirvana around the globe, it just requires better planning and preparation for what may lie ahead. (There are considerable differences when surfing in warm water and cold climate locations, ranging from the type of wax you will need all the way to the rash guard or wet suit you will wear … so we’ll try to keep that factor in check as we go through the list.)
Outside of doing your usual Google research on visa requirements and entry fees for the countries you are visiting, and making sure your credit cards, passport and driver’s license are up-to-date there are some essential tips to know before embarking on a surf trip. And so, dear kindred spirit of the waves, with a few million miles under our collective surf-travel belts, we have assembled the quintessential surf trip primer for all you travelling surfers:
Surf Camp or Going on your own? This is the mother of all the check list pre-requisites; the one that determines how you will be preparing for the trip from here on in! Your goal will be to get there the easiest, the fastest, and in the most efficient method available to maximize your water time … so an all-inclusive surf camp may be the most beneficial to your budget and timeline. That being said, a surf adventure where you discover your own way and seek out your own waves provides a more rewarding experience for the globe-trotting surfer. Choose wisely so that your ultimate goal of maximum surf time is addressed properly!
Although a slightly more expensive method for surf travel, the surf camp experience traditionally will provide you with almost everything you may need. You can relax knowing things are covered – ranging from accommodations, meals, a local surf guide, transportation to and from various surf breaks (either by land or by boat), surfboards to choose from, wax, leash, repairs … and even facilities to chill or exercise, whatever you may need.
Surf camps generally cater to surfers who want to land at the airport and know that their gear is available and ready to go, just point to the break and they’re off surfing. Set in a setting where you are with other surfers and seasoned staff and surf experts to assist you, this type of surf travel relieves you from some stress. You do not have to pack much of your usual surf gear (especially your surfboards!), and the camp quiver allows you the luxury of avoiding oversized luggage fees and the paranoid fear of someone dinging your board (or worse!) during transport.
Surf Bag or Case. If you choose to bring your own board or a selection from your quiver, be sure to protect your surfboards! In the past, we have gone with surf bags padded with rash guards and towels on the inside, surfboard coffins that held 2 or more boards, and even professionally packed and shipped boards. In that same order, we (meaning us and our boards) suffered from dings and broken surfboard noses, expensive airline luggage fees, and stolen – even oddly replaced with another older – surfboard. But over the years, although the number of airlines have reduced (even removed) routes that allow surfboard travel … some seriously decent board protection has evolved (see Soma), allowing peace of mind for the insistent quiver snob!
Surf Wear. Although most surf camps provide you with all-around-use rash guards or wet suits, they do tend to be used. During our surf travels, we have found it extremely beneficial to have our own surf wear in tow. With the added benefit of wearing your favorite brand or style, SPF protection, and the security of properly fitting wet suits (one’s that are not loosely hanging off our bodies while surfing in cold water!), the packing space is minimal for two or three rash guards or wetties!
Hats and sunglasses are also a must! Whether you are sitting in the line up, at the beach, or in the jacuzzi, proper sun protection allows you to extend your surf time. There can be nothing more frustrating than travelling halfway around the globe and being sidelined from surfing by a bad sunburn!
Surf Gear & Accessories. Yes, you need to bring your first aid kit and a slew of spare or preferred surf goodies like fins and key, leashes (they are either righteously expensive or well worn!), ding repair kit (in water repair kit is better!), surf wax (remember to bring temperature relevant and eco-friendly wax!), and duct tape. We cannot stress the duct tape enough to travelling surfers … it can act as ding repair, leash repair, packing tape, laundry line, well you name it! Another surprise travel item that we found extremely useful is a lock box that we stashed room keys, cash, and credit cards in while surfing. Locked to the car, van, or boat it allowed us to surf freely and return to safely stowed dry cash and cards for the lunch stop or a quick round of drinks at the bar before heading out again.
Dry Bag. Whether it be boat trips or the unexpected downpour, your change of clothes or towel and snacks will thank you for bringing this essential piece of travel gear! Not just for surf travel anymore, a sturdy, waterproof dry bag can protect all of your electronics, surf accessories, and identification cards from the very playground you are floating around in!
Waterproof Camera and memory cards / flash drives. Much like the mythical Wendigo or Bigfoot, no one will blink twice when you wax poetic about “that double overhead left that stayed open after a late drop” if you can’t produce a decent photo. A blurry snapshot of what could be you or Bigfoot on either a knee-high or double overhead wave just cannot cut in on Facebook these days! With a plethora of inexpensive digital cameras with waterproof housings or cases in today’s market – like the Hero Pro or Olympus’ Underwater line – your surf trip will shine brightly with photos to document your journey – since most of us cannot afford to have filmmakers following us around to surf breaks!
Gift Items and Goodies. Here is the key to merry travelling and extremely useful tool for establishing good will: a gift or token of appreciation. More than a cash tip, you can extend friendship and goodwill while surf travelling with some surf-related gift items from your home land. Things like surfboard-shaped keychains or surf t-shirts for your surf guide and surf hosts may ensure that you get the better transport or boat at an earlier time to that secret local spot.
The most important thing to bring above it all is your sense of adventure and wonder! All the preparation and packing will be better complemented by a happy-go-lucky spirit … there are a of of things that will go right, and even a few that may go awry, but through it all make sure you extend that surfer spirit and smile with aloha in your heart!
Rob love surfing, wakeboarding, wakesurfing. He’s writing about them in this blog.