Tripping through Europe: A bodyboarder’s guide.
If you’re planning on surfing some of Europe’s finest spots, or just hopping between cities with a couple of friends, forget your hostels or bus tours, a Van trip is the answer. While hostels may appear to be a cheap way to jump from place to place, the money spent per night as well as moving between places can jump into the thousands of euros before you know it. There is little online for younger tourists planning to do so, most forums are written by 60-somethings, for 60-somethings. So as a way of paying it forward, here are Movement’s tips for a bodyboarding van trip through Europe.
We settled for a 4 person motorhome, and the toilet was quickly converted to a board/wetty room. Buying a van is easiest in England because of the language, but we heard that lots of people were buying vans in Germany because registration is easy to organize. We opted for a 1980 model that we paid £1500 for. I must advise that if you are buying a van either this old, or this cheap, a trip to the mechanic before buying is a must. This brings me onto one of the hardest parts of our trip, finding a company that will insure you for a reasonable price. Some sites weren’t willing to insure us at all because we were under 25 and not British. Others were nice enough to give us quotes of 4-5 times the price of the van. Our best quote was with Down Under Insurance, for £400. At the risk of sounding like a danoz direct infomercial, if you are in the UK looking for insurance, go with Down Under because they give you a reasonable quote, and you can insure for periods of time that suit you, like 4-6 months at a time. Before you set off, take your new baby for a service to get her running smoothly and you’re good to go.
Once all the tedious stuff is taken care of, you’re free to hit the road. The first thing that hits you is just how independent you are… If you see a nice little beachie that you think might be on in the next couple of days, you can park essentially anywhere (in France, Spain or Portugal) and at worst you’ll get a policeman asking you to move. We stayed for 3 weeks in the main street of Hossegor, on the south west coast of France. Soon becoming those washed up Australians to all the locals. Again, if you look at the forecast and see that not much is happening for a week or so, you can go inland, to a city near-by, to a music festival, food festival, surf festival, (I think you get the point that Europe has a lot going on all the time.) Depending on what time of year you are surfing, Europeans will tell you that for waves, winter/spring are the best, but you’ll need an appropriate wetty. 4/3 in the cooler months, a springy is fine for summer/early autumn. The whole ‘Locals only’ deal was worst in Spain… But having said that we had little trouble, respect is key; You know those guys who fit 4 people and boards into a Juicy camper and park at your local spot? That’s going to be you, so don’t expect to own the lineup on your first session.
My friends and I were all of the opinion that caravan parks were a once every fortnight kind of deal, a chance to clean the van, wash our clothes and soak up all the luxury that 20 euro a night can buy. We even stayed in hostels occasionally as a reward, and yes, a hostel and all that comes with it is a massive reward after being in a van with 3-4 other people. That is one thing that you’ll need to be prepared for, living in close quarters like a van, you will need some damn good friends who are just as stoked as you to maintain the energy through the trip, negative energy spreads like wildfire and can have people on a plane home early. On the topic of petrol, pace your drive quite slowly and take the coastal route. You’ll see more beautiful towns and scenery, encounter a lot less Policia and of course, get to suss out some of the wave set ups.
Security, the word that you suddenly care about when all your worldly possessions are in a metal box sitting on the sand while you’re hundreds of meters away in the water. We were actually broken into in Peniche, Portugal. The farmers told us they were gypsies, notorious for that kind of stuff. We did get incredibly lucky because they only took about €80 of cash and weren’t interested in our clothes, probably because of the smell. Security is a must on a van, make sure the locks are working and organize some secret spots to stash things like wallets, passports and phones.
Once you’ve surfed all you can, sampled all the local waves, alcohol, food and hospitality and you’re ready to end the trip, take some nice photos of the van, throw it all up online on Gumtree or Ebay. We had warnings about selling after peak season in England, but in under a day we had a guy kicking the tires and handing us £1200 in cash. So all you mathematicians, 4-ways we paid £300 for accommodation over the space of 4 months. As far as affordable ways to travel in an independent way, a van trip is by far the only feasible option. I must warn you, this is not a guaranteed trouble-free holiday… When you get involved with an old piece of machinery things can go wrong, but luckily for us it didn’t.