Today is the last day of an 8-week surf trip in my hometown, which happens to be Capbreton, SW France. I haven’t been more than 7 km from my ends, other than a day trip up the hills for a hike, which wasn’t my idea, and wasn’t as much fun as advertised (too much driving). Other than that, I’ve kept it very local. While my conscious mind has expanded in every direction and my third eye never been so far-sighted, it’s the least amount of physical displacement I’ve done since… well March/April 2020. This time, though, it was by choice.
It might well be the best surf trip I’ve ever done.
Mostly, I’ve seen a different side of the very familiar. Like a less (-ish) creepy form of voyeurism watching yourself bathe, or sniffing your own bicycle saddle. I’ve been moved on by the filth (but not fined) once, puked once (it was the same night, they stepped in it), did the show up hungry, half an hour before dinner and act innocent/surprised rotation between friends for an unbroken week long stretch, but most of all just gained a different perspective.
The main plus of my staycay was simply appreciating just how enjoyable the waveforms and semi obscure corners of my everyday environs can be.
You know how it always looks amazing when you see someone driving, particularly parking, your car? Well that.
I’ve surfed more than ever, bodywhomped, sailed, seen dolphins dead (one) and alive (six). I’ve surfed in biblical crowds, and surfed alone. Saw a booted eagle and 3 bitterns (both firsts), been bitten by horseflies, stung on the eyebrow by a jelly fish, had a bramble splinter that turned into a blister that I popped at the table at one of the aforementioned uninvited dinners, the juice landing on a plate of melon and jambon de Bayonne (karma, swine guzzlers).
Turns out, all we really need to be happy is food, clothing, shelter, electricity and Internet.
This guide is for staycays in van/car or even tent (but not on a campsite) form. If you’re staycaying in an Air BnB or hotel, well let’s assume you can muddle through that experience without counsel from your favourite reader supported independently published surf magazine.
From very early on in your staycay, your number one priority will be a no. 2, perhaps the anti freecamping lobby’s most reasonable argument against. You’ll need to establish a toileting protocol that is in rhythm with your body’s needs, but sensitive to others. Flick through Foster Huntington’s Home Is Where You Park It and you’ll see profile upon profile of the cute to the cool of all things van; what you won’t see is 3 metres of loo roll strewn around waist height in a gorse thicket, marking off a faecal crime scene. Or worst yet, entire clearings that have served as plop lairs, with a dozen of the above. Easily the worst thing about vanlife is bum life, and the great plop paradox; where there are vans, there is human shit. Kepa Acero, who knows a thing or two about van life, having driven his from Bilbao to Guinea recently took to promoting a portable toiletting device.
WL’s official stance on lineup releases is, fantastic.
Sleeping in your vehicle, whether a well appointed van or tiny 2 door hatchback, is a time honoured surfing tradition not readily associated with many other sports. “Remember that cricket trip when we slept in the car for 2 weeks?” said no one ever.
From delightful clifftop vantage points over the swash zone, to forest bathing verdure and bird song wakeups, vehicle sleeping can offer the best bedroom views in the surf world, for free. Do consider some kind of curtain/towel arrangement for privacy though, and do consider the tolerance or otherwise of the authorities; the only thing better than being allowed to sleep where you like is not being allowed to, but getting away with it. It goes without saying that the restfulness of your sleep will depend on the shape and size of vehicle. I once had a £300 Volvo 740 GL estate whose back seats clicked down flat for a supreme horizontal experience, which went some way to offset the pitiful miles per gallon return.
The key to vehicular comfort is not overloading with humans or boards.
Resisting the urge not to bring too many boards, freed of the shackles of airline (remember them?) baggage hassles is vital to the success of your staycay.
Now this will be largely determined by vehicle type, and thus your ability to accommodate boards in safety and moderate temperatures. Never underestimate the power of the boardbag, which can serve as ground mat/mattress/dog shelter on hot beach days, or sleeping bag in extreme circumstances. After much research, the ideal number of boards to bring has been calculated as 1.6, plus a set of swim fins.
Boom / Bust
The major false economy of living in car/tent/sleeping in a ditch is that you can overcompensate your diurnal frugality on profilgate evening dining/drinking, possibly spending more hard earns than if you’d rented an apartment and cooked. You spend all day in a Lidl carpark pasta self denial, then spunk your gains on a round of Moscow Mules in copper tankards because the barperson smiled at you (and had cartoon palm tree tricep tatt). There isn’t really a way around this. Rather than being seen as a pitfall, just look at it as a brilliant representation of the general futility of the human condition.
Bring Your Bike
Rather than the chic 2020 twin fin, the best board in your staycay quiver featuring two symmetrical propulsion devices is a probably a bicycle. If you can fit one in the van or on your car, do so. The main thing I noticed early on in my staycay in a campervan, was how much fecking driving you do all day, when you don’t have a specific base. Parking up and biking around is as liberating as resurfacing after that first duck dive on a freshly-arrived swell, a cool drink of water compared to the total pain in the shaft constant driving the bus around belching out particulates and contributing to ice cap melt.