A human experiment on wheels, a van surf trip can provide memories for a lifetime. Or nightmares for an eternity.
Look, here at Tracks we aren’t ones to get all on board the whole #Vanlife instagram trip. We ain’t talking about waking up in a vegemite powered combo and taking a photo of your long limbed companion with your 50s Leica as he, or she, eats an organic mango on top of the balsa wood twin hulled fish. However, it’s a fact. There is no better surf trip than one involving mates and a Van.
Forget the Mentawai’s boat trip, the Fijian surf camp or the Byron Bay Airbnb; a van surf trip is about being the master of your own destiny. It’s about immersing you balls deep in the local culture. It’s about driving into a bright future that involves horrific smells, intense friendship, smoky claustrophobic highs and clutch failure lows. A van trip is a goddamn mobile human experiment run on fossil fuels that has underpinned the whole surfing movement since the ‘50s. But what are the key ingredients? How can you get it right, and wrong. Fear not, Tracks can show you the way.
Whose going to make the trip? There are many variations, all with endless permutations, positives and pitfalls. From the three best mates from school, to the boyfriend, girlfriend and spare wheel (who secretly loves the girl or the guy), to the three strangers that met on crapvansforsale.com, to the surfie couple with six kids.
For us though while all these permutations are viable, if it’s waves you want and fun times you crave, the ideal situation will be three or four mates. This collective should be all of similar age, surfing and fiscal status and be unencumbered by work, family, responsibilities, deadlines and personal hygiene. Get that right and nothing can go wrong, maybe.
This tends to be more of an organic process. Within days, nay almost hours of the trip, roles will be magically assigned. There will be the driver/mechanic, the navigator, the cook and the dude that can’t do any of the above. Be careful of the last member who tends to fill his duty vacuum by taking on the roles of DJ and jointbuilder. Important roles to be sure, but not standalone responsibilities.
Once the roles are assigned it’s simply a matter of pointing the hood in the direction of the coast and putting the foot down. The very fact that your mode of transport is also your home gives you a freedom from decision making that is an all too rare pleasure in this world.
It Will Go Wrong
Given the above you’d think it’s actually pretty hard to fuck this up. It is simply a matter of driving to where the best waves are and finding a place to park whose incline gradient is less than 25%. Of course, the beauty of the van trip is that most surfers somehow do manage to fuck it up.
It doesn’t matter if the journey is from Hossegor to Peniche, Sydney to Byron, Margies to the Bluff, or Santa Cruz to Mexico, the same variables will turn up to try and distract surfers from this simple game plan.
Girls with short dresses and thick accents, boys on a Gap year, a clogged toilet, a broken muffler, a total disregard for all normal forms of acceptable hygiene, three months of wet wetsuits, police, excessive alcohol, flat spells and mutating inter van relationships will inevitably cause you at some stage to go, literally, off track. There will be a time when you think this is, literally, the worst time you’ve had in your life.
But That’s Okay
The beautiful thing is; it doesn’t matter. One day you will wake (either from the navigator’s fart, or the “DJs” snoring) and outside your van, the surf will be absolutely smoking. You’ll have a day of epic waves, surfed with mates whose friendship, like soldiers in the trenches, has been forged by close confines and hard times. You’ll watch the sunset, flushed with tinned food and cheap booze and toast each other with salt-encrusted smiles. You are a surfer, you have a van, you can go anywhere the fuck you want, this, right now, is the time of your life.