How To Plan Your First Surf Trip Abroad
Bored of your home break? Time to embark on your first surf in foreign waters
Sick of cold water and small waves? If you've only ever surfed in the UK, you're going to eventually want something more than frozen feet on a windswept Cornish beach.
No doubt, you were sold on the idea of surfing because of those magazine ads with azure seas and surfers not wearing wetsuits. Am I right?
Summer is just around the corner, so it's time to get organising that first trip away. This really is a guide for first-timers who are looking to branch out from the UK and find surf somewhere else in Europe. Sound right up your street? Here is how to do it...
[part title="Where to go on your first surf trip"]
Summer isn't known for being the best time for surfing in the northern hemisphere. So your best bet is to book a trip in September when the water is still warm, but the autumn swell is starting to build.
South-west France, Portugal, northern Spain, the Canary Islands and the south-west of England are known for being the best places to ride waves in Europe.
If you've got cash to spare, then make your way to the southern hemisphere meccas of Bali, Sri Lanka, Australia to catch the pumping winter surf from May to September.
[part title="Who to go with on your first surf trip?"]
This might seem like the easiest step. For many, it will be. Choose a bad travel companion, however, and it could be the end of your friendship as you know it.
Make sure your travel mate knows what they're in for. If they are an uber-keen surfer like yourself, then you've little to worry about. Arguments arise when trip-goers want different things. Talk about this before you go. Same goes for travel budget.
Keep a chill attitude. Things will go wrong. You will get flat tyres/have your wallet stolen/get a ding in your board. You've just got to stay positive, accept that life is sometimes shit and get on with enjoying the journey.
[part title="Should you try a surf camp or go solo?"]
Next step: how are you going to make your trip happen? You've basically got three options....
The Surf Camp
If you like the idea of having all your meals cooked for you, guides to take you to the best surf spots, evening yoga classes and an instant group of mates, then you'll probably like the surf camp approach. There are dozens of camps out there offering some great no-hassle, package deals for a week or two away. Our mates at Surf Europe have a few of their favourites listed here.
Book an apartment
You might want a bit more luxury or private time, particularly if you're bringing a non-surfer with you. Hotels are just too expensive for a two-week + trip, so get yourself a self-catered apartment overlooking the beach and you'll be livin' the high life! We're massive fans of Airbnb - they've got dozens of places across the world for very reasonable prices.
Want to do a trip on the cheap? Pack up your car, grab a tent plus a few mates and head for the horizon. The good thing about camping along the coastline is you can choose exactly where you go and how long you stay. It's definitely the cheapest way to travel, so you can avoid returning home for waay longer than you would staying in a surf camp.
If you don't have a car, Wicked Campers do some excellent deals on van hire across Europe with beds, cookers, cooking tools, the lot.
[part title="Booking flights for your first surf trip"]
If you're not driving out, then you'll need to get booking those flights ASAP.
As with all holidays, avoid school summer holiday months. Flight prices sky-rocket around these times. I'm a big fan of Sky Scanner, as you can search for flights across a whole month period and see which date is the cheapest to fly.
There's plenty of low-cost airlines out there to book through, but check the sports equipment fees first. Cheeky airlines like Ryan Air will charge you a whopping £50 one way for a surfboard. It may make that cheap as chips flight not so appealing...
Also invest in one of these luggage scales to avoid wearing all your clothes/wetsuit on the plane, instead of paying the excess baggages charges.
[part title="What to bring with you on your first surf trip"]
Now it's time to make the epic packing checklist. As a general rule, the less you bring, the happier you will be. You don't need ten t-shirts and that lucky Chinese cat your gran gave you for Christmas.
Obviously there are some things you can't do without...
It's likely you'll want to bring with a couple of boards. Don't go without buying a decent padded board bag. You don't want your board arriving at the baggage reclaim in two pieces. Ocean & Earth do a great range, as do Dakine. We'd also recommend a good bit of bubble wrap and pad the edges with t-shirts.
Don't count on your destination having spare leashes/wax/fins. If you need it to surf, bring it.
However, if you've just started surfing, you may not mind renting when you get there - provided there's a hire available.
Wetsuit wise, it totally depends on the water temperature. Here is where Google becomes your friend. If we're going with Europe in summer, a decent 3/2 will be enough to keep you warm for hours. Hell, if you go far enough south, you won't need a wetsuit at all (but it's good to bring one, just in case).
You'll also need: a guide book (try The Stormrider's Guide To Europe), lots of suncream, a ding repair kit, a First Aid kit, camera, and a fat roll of duct tape for last minute repairs!