What do I need for my surf road trip?

17 Surf road trip essentials &
why you really, really need them

Apart maybe from sipping coconuts with (insert favourite pro surfer name here) on a surf charter boat in the Maldives or Mentawais, there are very few things better than a surf road trip.

Since many of the world’s best overseas surf travel destinations – Bali, Sri Lanka or even Morocco – have entry requirements that seem to change as often as the tide, many frothing European surfers are trading long haul flights and tropical waters for adventures much closer to home. And, why not?!

I mean, Europe has an incredible surfable coastline with waves around almost every corner, a very consistent Atlantic ocean swell, rich and diverse culture and a campervan/road trip culture that would rival the famous Route 66. 

Before you pester your friend that’s got a van, you buy a tent, fling a mattress in your banger and convert your own van or rent a motorhome (insert whichever fits your budget), there are some essential tools you need to get the most out of road tripping through Europe.

Luckily for you guys, I am somewhat of an expert! 80,000 miles on the clock of the T5 between the UK and the Canary Islands, 5 times back and forth turning every stone and searching every corner for epic waves and good times.

Although I’m not going to share every secret surf spot with you, I am going to give you some first hand advice on what you don’t want to miss on your surf road trip of a lifetime. Bon voyage & see you out there!

1 | Pick your travel companions wisely

You are likely to be living in close quarters if not on top of one another. It may sound like a great idea to have all your mates along, keeping costs low and splitting petrol/tolls. BUT you will likely regret this two days in when you need to rearrange the van and move luggage around just to open the glove box.

Also, the bigger crew you have the harder it will be to select surf spots that fit everyone’s surfing level ability and locals are hardly going to roll out the red carpet when you all fall out of the van like a bunch of clowns. 

Road tripping as a couple is great as the tight space just makes it cosy, or a small group of friends ideally around three or four max is the way to go. 

2 | Epic surf road trips need a soundtrack

Smashing those long drives is much more fun when you are blasting pure fire on the speakers. Go premium, skip the ads and get nostalgic with it. Spotify is the way to go. When you hear those songs again they will remind you of that epic road trip scoring some empty barrels in an obscure corner of the Basque country. Priceless.


3 | Waze’s the way to go!

If you don’t use Waze, you need to try it! Recommended to me by some friends who work as transfer drivers, this beauty of an app is an absolute essential for so many reasons. I mount my phone to my dash, stick in the destination which often has surf spots listed and away we go. Cops up ahead? Waze tells me about it. Speed camera in 200m? Waze knows about it. Want to know gas prices at the nearest stations? Waze got you covered. Want to eat a shameful Maccy D’s on route to Portugal and want to know how much of a detour that’s going to be? Yep, you get it. Waze even has a plug in so you can run Spotify through the app and not have to fiddle around with your phone whilst cruising. Epic.

4 | Surf handbook Stormrider Surf Guide

This is your surf bible, coran, torah, Vogue, you get it. You will find much more in depth books about specific areas/regions, but if you’re only going to get one guide, let this be THE ONE. Packed with detailed info and spot guides up and down all of Europe, this is the go-to guide for shaping your road trip. I have two copies: one for regular use and one as a backup hidden in a secret location. (I did not at all think I’d lost my first copy and ordered a new one before finding the first one again.)

What’s super useful about this guide is that the map features allow you to see the variety of waves in certain areas. From there, you can get a good overview of what areas you for sure want to visit; check out what conditions the spots need; read into the background of the surf spot to work out if it is in your ability to surf; help you wire the spot, how to paddle out, what hazards, how crowded it usually is before you even arrive and then choose your next destination accordingly.

You probably don’t want to have this on display in your windscreen as it pretty much screams TOURIST, but you would be more of a kook to travel without it. 

5 | Surf forecast apps are essential. 

You heard that saying, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. Well, on a surf road trip that’s total b******! Yes, there will be amazing sights outside the water: strolling through beautiful foreign streets, eating amazing food, experiencing things for the first time. BUT if you get skunked every spot you pull up, you’re soon going to get frustrated.

Finding good conditions is an art form and requires some work. If I am really going to ‘nerd out’, I probably use four different apps and cross reference them with the Stormrider Surf Guide to determine the next spot to surf and the potential surf conditions. Don’t forget, you’re on wheels so you can literally travel entire regions to find better surf and this can make the whole process of where to go next a little overwhelming.

If you’re not an expert in reading forecasts then I would stick to this simple system: go to regions that have several different spots you can surf in close by proximity and use Magicseaweed. This is by far the most basic approach and although often wrong, the 5 star surf system is at least super easy for any novice to get their head around. The tide times and daylight hours are super useful too. 

If you want to get a better idea of the wind with more accuracy use Windguru and cross reference this with the Stormrider Surf Guide map to make sure you can work out what’s onshore/offshore at each spot.

Windy is another great app and the best feature with this is you can literally zoom out and see how the wind looks for a couple of days in a zoomed out view. So rather than having to check 20 different windguru reports, Windy lets you know if it’s howling onshore in Cantabria but gentle offshore in Hossegor in half a scroll. 

Lastly, for the nerds who have a solid grasp of all those models above, I recommend also using surfforecast.com where you have the ‘wave energy’ which is a great indicator for how heavy the surf may be. 

6 | Know where to camp overnight Camp.

Park4Night is an absolute Gem! This app is great not only for your surf destinations, but for when you want to go check out some cultural sights or enjoy a scenic journey. Part of the joy of van life is that you can park up anywhere and enjoy your surroundings. If you’ve got a kitted out van, you can even wake up to an epic view, make some breakfast and coffee and chill out enjoying being in nature or in the Picos de Europa with stunning views.

Park4Nights is a community-based app, basically a mini Reddit, where people list great parking spots and give them a little description. Not only is this going to lead you to some insanely beautiful and uncrowded parking spots, but can also save you from being moved on by the police or, even worse, being broken into because you parked in a sketchy area.

My usual routine will be to drive until we start to get a little tired or want to explore and my girlfriend, Laura, will hop on Park4Night and read out some spots which we decide upon together. They have a key function so you can search for things pretty quickly, i.e. nature spot, scenic spot, toilet facilities, campsite etc etc. You will be happy to know you can also integrate this with waze!

7 | Surf wetsuit hangers are the surf road trip hack.

Five years ago we hosted the junior GB surf team at our Star Surf Camps in Moliets. The groms came along for coaching and to score some epic French beach break waves, a little outside of the Hossegor crowd. When they left, they bestowed us with some gifts and one gift stood out and has been a staple travel companion since: a surf wetsuit hanger.

There are plenty on the market including electric heater hangers which I personally find a bit too much faff for the price tag. What you want is a decent wetsuit hanger that’s chunky so it’s both durable and lets air flow through your wetsuit. If you don’t want to spend big bucks on a surf wetsuit hanger with a strap then duck tape a few plastic hangers together for a budget option. 

Of course you can just fling your wetsuit over a rail or on some rocks or be a total psychopath and hang it from your van wing mirror. (Please don’t!)

8 | Be kind to your surfboard and get a surfboard bag.

There is a statistic that I’ve just made up and that’s 90% of surfboard dings and scratches come from flinging your surfboard unprotected into the boot of your surf road trip vehicle of choice. Be kind to your surfboard and get a surfboard sock or, better yet, a decent day bag. Our friends from ManGo’s have decent stuff. The last thing you want when you’re deep in the Algarve is to find some local ding repair because you smashed the nose off your surfboard in your van. 

9 | Key lockboxes are lifesavers!

Safety first, always. There will be times you rock up to some remote or unknown areas and the only thing worse than surfing with an uncomfortable car key in your wetsuit is worrying that some car park thief may discover your lame attempt to hide your key in one of 3 obvious and only places to stash it. Oh, look there it is, in the suspension! If you don’t want an epic surf trip to go very south very quickly, then don’t make yourself an easy target. I can recommend this one from FSC.

10 | Keep the smelliness at bay with a wetsuit bucket or dry bag.

When packing for your surf road trip, I highly recommend planning in some space to store your wetsuit. Surfing will be such a big part of your trip, but people often forget the pre and post surf orga.

If you have room for it in your surf road trip vehicle of choice, a bucket works best as it’s easy to stand in and change and keep clean and dry. You can also use it to wash your wetsuit in, which I’d recommend you do every few days.

If you’re limited on space, get a decent bag to keep your suit in. You can either go for a dry bag which you can essentially lock up to stop your van from smelling like pissy wetsuits, but your wetsuit won’t dry one bit in there.

Life hack: One of them epic blue Ikea bags. And grab yourself a 50c/50p veggie hotdog whilst you’re at it. 

11 | Get yourself a robie.

Another essential part of your surf road trip wardrobe. Half towel half gown, there is no substitute for the robie. Out of the surf and into your clothes in a flash without having to explain to the group of giggling girls who you just accidentally flashed that the water is colder than it looks on a fine day in August. Whoops!

The robie is relatively new and the rules of how long and where you can wear it are still not set in stone, so feel free to just chuck it on, stay warm and cosy. I have had my ManGo’s robie for years, still going strong and ultimate comfort and warmth!

12 | Sun cream 

There is no one quite like Baz Luhrmann to explain why “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen”. If you have not seen this, this is worth five minutes of your life. Enjoy and you’re welcome!

13 | Don’t forget surfboard wax.

Storing your surfboard in a van with fluctuating temperatures is going to mean you need much more frequent wax maintenance. Imagine pulling up to a new line up, scoring a bomb and slipping off your surfboard in front of a pack of locals just because you didn’t have enough wax or a decent wax comb with you. Stack up here!

14 | A selection of surfboard fins.

You have to make some tough decisions when packing for a surf road trip. Like which of your 5 surfboards you can bring when your 5’9 fish is your go-to, you need your 5’11 for when it’s pumping, 2x 6’0 shortboards because a backup is always good and your 6’6 is a step up for when your not even going to bother paddling out because it’s too heavy and a longboard “won’t all fit”. It’s a tough lot and sacrifices have to be made.

But having a decent fin selection or at least two sets is a very safe bet as it’s the most space economic way to have a versatile quiver. Your normal shortboard can surf very differently and you will get a lot more control in big surf with some bigger fins.

15 | LEASHes safe lives.

You are going to want at least one backup! Personally, I take three on each trip in a variety of sizes. I love the new FCS range comp leashes as it feels like you’re not riding with a leash at all. And then one thicker bad boy for the bigger surf days as a fail safe.



16 | Don’t forget your Solarez Repair Kit.

Realistically you will end up taking two surfboards max with you on your surf road trip. When the waves are pumping, you don’t want to have to hand your go-to over to a lovely but slightly too laid back ding Dr who tells you your surfboard is ready mañana three manyanas ago. Get a simple repair kit so you can sun cure your mini dings and take care of small dings.

Repairing minor damage is actually much easier than you think with plenty of tutorials online. We’ll be writing about it in an upcoming blog too!

17 | A SexWax air freshener to counter that surfy smell

This is last for a reason, because I want this to stick with you: If it doesn’t then the smell of three pissy, damp wetsuits surely will! Get a couple of them and keep them handy in the glove box and when the inevitable stench of constantly damp wetsuits starts to take over you have the perfect remedy. If you think the sweet smell of grape over the accumulated stench of three surf rats sharing a VW T4 is not worth £3, then you are not welcome on any surf road trip of mine. Better yet, get a three pack off Amazon for £9, bargain.


That’s it from us!  I’ll be leaving you with some snaps from my last surf road trip. Can’t recommend it highly enough. Tag us on your adventures @starsurfcamps, we’d love to see where life takes you ?  ? ?


Take care & stay safe, legends

Sami & the Star Surf Camps Crew