After years of surfing the world and living out of a suitcase, pro surfers have more than a few handy tips about travelling to foreign countries and avoiding awkward scrapes along the way…
From Joel Parkinson’s tips on ordering beer abroad to Dean Morrison’s brush with customs officials after a rogue vagina appeared on his passport, there’s more than a handful of sound advice in here.
Yes it still happens. Surfers still sometimes think an extra €100 for travel insurance is better spent on duty free, or a night out.
Then, in the blink of an eye, you are in hospital in a foreign country, facing a medical bill that means you’ll never go on holiday again.
“On my first trip to the States, I broke my leg surfing 50 Foot Ghost Trees,” said Aussie hellman Justin “Jughead” Allport. “Luckily I was insured, the bill for helicopter and hospital came to $US350,000. If I hadn’t, I would have been bankrupt for life.”
“You are better off without a girlfriend if you are seriously on the road,” advises uber travel big wave expert Ian Walsh. “Don’t get me wrong, girlfriends are great, but if you are traveling it’s probably best to be flexible and free. That way no one gets hurt.”
“YOU ARE BETTER OFF WITHOUT A GIRLFRIEND IF YOU ARE SERIOUSLY ON THE ROAD.”
Controversial, although being a highly paid professional surfer might make single life a little easier.
Nothing worse than being the right place, but with the wrong boards. Why go to all the effort but then have equipment that doesn’t do you, or the wave, justice.
“ A fish, or a quad, a high performance thruster from a shaper your trust, and a slightly bigger board with a good glass job will get you out of trouble in most parts of the world,” says Matt “Wilko” Wilkinson. “All though I usually take about six boards, so why would you listen to me?”
“More and more you need a really versatile quiver,” says multi-talented hipster Harrison Roach.
“I’ll have a quad fin for barrels, a big old single-fin or logger for cruising in small waves and a thruster for doing airs and turns. I swear having different boards for different conditions will make your surf trip so much more fun.”
There’s nothing like partying hard with hot girls and new friends in a beautiful part of the world.
Now often drugs might come in to this fun equation. The question you will have to ask yourself is this: is the risk greater than reward? 99 per cent of the time, especially in Asia, the answer is no.
A life banged up in a stinking Asian prison, or a night on the local beers? The choice, as always, is yours.
5) First Aid Kit
“It’s the first thing I always pack, I’m slightly anal, but I love checking my first aid kit, making sure everything I need for small emergencies is in there. It gives me piece of mind.” So says Pipe Master Kieren Perrow and now ASP Commissioner.
Of course, the way he attacks ten foot closeouts at Off The Wall, it’s no wonder a first aid kit is the first thing he packs. Still, he has a point. It might just be the best £40 you spend on the entire trip.
In travel as in life, less is more, reckons Ian Walsh who last year alone made 65 individual flights.
“An iPod and a Kindle has music and books covered and an iPhone will do for camera and video,” he says. “That just leaves boards and wetsuits, the rest, well the rest is easy.”
“I use the two rule. Two jeans, two shorts, two shirts, two pair of pants. Then its one waterproof jacket, one pair of shoes, one first aid kit.”
Walsh’s tips are all about keeping your gear down to the bare minimum. Keep it light, keep it simple and make excess baggage a thing for the heavyweight losers of the world.
Look, a word of advice here. No one really, really, gives a fuck about the tagine you ate in Morocco, or the bus ride from hell you are currently experiencing in Mexico.
“NO ONE REALLY, REALLY, GIVES A FUCK ABOUT THE TAGINE YOU ATE IN MOROCCO.”
Why spend an hour a day uploading your words and images, when you could be downloading some real time life experiences?
Live your travel for yourself, live for now. This is your own personal experience, and unless you are Kelly Slater, no one, with the exception of your mum, really cares.
Of course, Instagram shots of the perfect waves you scored that morning are an absolute given.
“I always try for an upgrade, every time, ‘cause you just never know,” says big wave rider Mark Mathews, who circumnavigates the world for a living.
“Sleeping tablets work on long hauls, booze never works at all. Podcasts are also the go and make flights go so much quicker.”
“I always go the window seat, so I get up when I want to and not when some other joker needs to go to the toilet.”
“Oh and leave the armrest as neutral territory, but if someone tries to take control, go in hard and early and own that thing,” says Mark.
9) Customs Officials
“I got to the customs officer at Los Angeles Airport and could hear Parko and Fanning sniggering,” says Dean “Dingo” Morrison, a pro surfer from Australia.
“I gave the dude my passport and could see him first shocked and then really angry. It turns out whilst I was asleep on the plane, those two clowns had cut out a picture of a vagina from a porn mag and glued it over my passport photo.
“I had an extra three hours sorting out the mess and was lucky not to get deported. My advice is to treat Customs Officials with respect as they hold the power and not have friends who are dickheads.”
Wherever you go try to make a half decent attempt to learn the language.
It gives you a sense of satisfaction as you actually learn something, but also has the benefit of engaging with the locals and the land with which they are sharing with you.
A goodbye, a hello, or a nice to meet you can even be enough to get you out of a scrape, or into a new friendship.
“My language skills are pretty poor,” admits former World Champion Joel Parkinson. “But in each place I visit I always the learn the term for ‘one more please’. That way at least I can always get another beer.”