How to plan a surf trip
No matter what his or her skill level, there comes a time in every surfer's journey when visions of foreign beaches, new faces, and the promise of strange and exciting waves makes taking their passion out on the open road a "why didn't I do this sooner" inevitability.
Every mile covered is one mile closer to discovering a wealth of surf possibility, and to putting your chops to the test outside the comfort of your home breaks.
And while it's tempting to pack it all up and put pedal to metal in as carefree a manner as you wish to continue, it does pay to have a pre-trip strategy in place to cover your ass when things go a bit pear-shaped (and, oh, how they will). So read up, surf buddies, and then get moving.
The basics. You can only get as far as your resources will allow, so what do you have to keep you going out there? Some money saved up is ideal, and will give you an idea of how far you can get. Consider where you will sleep and what comforts you cannot go without. A blanket in the back of your truck will save you a lot of money on hotels, but creatures of comfort might balk at the prospect.
Camping is a good alternative, but prices can range greatly depending on how basic the site is. It's worth considering, too, local laws, as shacking up on certain beaches can get you hauled to jail and slapped with a hefty fine (read: no good for the wallet).
You're going to need to eat, too, so factor in where your daily grub will come from, and how much of it you're likely to need. What can you bring along (energy bars, canned foods, beef jerky…), and what will need to be purchased fresh? Keep in mind how much energy surfing requires and don't skimp on nutrition.
Making it a group adventure can ease the financial burden. Burdensome costs such as petrol can be shared, making a massive difference to spend on the road. Resourceful types might even, in the right circumstances, cook up ways to keep the wheels rolling despite tight or non-existent monetary situations.
Entertaining skills such as playing music for crowds (busking), juggling or breakdancing for a little extra cash can help out a lot if one or a few in the group are willing to put themselves out there.
Similarly, offering your services at hostels or beach bars - to clean, cook, give lessons to groms, or anything else, really - can potentially earn you a hot meal, shower, or bed to sleep in for the night.
Remember that the ethics of the original surf communities were inherently supportive, and that, for many today, those ideals still remain. Give and you shall receive.
Gear assessment. What gear are you bringing and what shape is it in? Which types of waves are you seeking, and which are you likely to find along the way? It's best to travel light, so bringing two boards - typically a short board and a fish - will be likely to get you the most waves in lots of different conditions. Every surfer is different, however, so bring along the boards you are most comfortable with.
Make sure your boards are in good nick, and that you have a good supply of wax, comb, a spare leash, and a ding repair kit ready to roll. Ensure board bags are up to scratch, and inspect roof racks and tie-downs for signs of wear or instability. Replace or repair any dodgy parts before you go.
Your vehicle is part of your gear, too. Standard road trip procedures apply, and should include at least a tune-up, oil change, and tire rotation and inspection. Refill all fluids and check all lights and moving parts, such as wiper blades. Bring a spare tire, jack, and kit for changing a tire. If you have auto insurance, make sure it's up-to-date, along with no-brainers, such as valid license and vehicle registration, taxes, etc. If you are traveling internationally, you won't get anywhere without valid passports and relative visas.
Don't go without adequate health/travel insurance cover.
Doing your research. Once all the physical elements are in good shape and ready to go, it's time to do some homework. Get together with your travel crew (or your lonesome, if that's how you're rolling) and work out a rough route. Compromise is key. Try to construct a trail that lets everyone involved surf a spot they really want to.
Try to get as much information as possible about each place as you can before you go. Talk to local surfers who've traveled. Look up surf spots online. Know your stuff about dangers and annoyances; in the water and out. What are the local crew like? Where can you find lodging and food?
If your trip involves travel to other countries, bone up on laws relevant to the types of activities you're likely to be pursuing. These include rules of the road, drug and alcohol policies, camping regulations, permissible beach activity (sleeping, nudity, fires, etc), and what your rights are in the event of trouble with local authorities.
When you're almost ready to go, keep in mind...
Leave your ego at home. You're going to be a guest everywhere you go, so act like one.
Get to know the locals.
Stay positive in frustrating situations - after all, it's an adventure!
Share. Food, water, sunscreen, wax, stories, jokes, beers, tips, whatever. Sharing is what makes the surf communities of the world what they are, and keeps them strong for future generations of water men and women.
If luck is on your side, and you've gone with the spirit of open, respectful adventure which surfing is all about, you might even find a spot no one but the locals know about. Either way, you'll come home with stories to last a lifetime, and memories to keep you jonesed for the next big adventure.