Welcome to our new series, Driver’s Shred, where we help Luno community members turn everyday cars, vans, and trucks into adventure mobiles. Each Driver’s Shred article will focus on tips, tricks, and gear recommendations that enable you to camp comfortably while crushing a specific sport or activity. Simply put, our mission is to help you camp, shred, and repeat. So grab your pens and pencils, because class is in session—and this time around, our focus is on surfing and paddleboarding.
Beachfront real estate gets pricey–and it gets pricey fast. In fact, the same can be said for lakefront and riverside real estate, too. However, board-brandishing car campers, truck campers, and vanlifers are able to enjoy easy, unbeatable access to waves and waterways for little to no cost.
In this month’s edition of Driver’s Shred, we’re schooling you on everything you need to hit the road on a surf or paddleboard adventure. We’ll touch on pre-trip prep, like smart planning and organized packing, as well as mid-trip maintenance, like safe and secure board storage and on-the-go wetsuit care. Whether you’re familiar with chasing swells and visiting alpine lakes or completely new to surf-centric car camping, read up for tips, tactics, gear recommendations, and more
If you’re planning a road trip centered around surfing or paddleboarding, developing sport-specific fitness ahead of your trip will enable you to enjoy more time in the water–and to do so more safely.
If you live within striking distance of surf, be sure to get as many sessions in as possible leading up to your trip.
If you’re landlocked, be sure to explore other avenues. Don’t be afraid to hit the gym, swim, or even focus on breathwork when you can’t be in the water. Check out land-based surf-specific training programs–this one from Wave Ki is a rad option. Additionally, it can be worth grabbing a surf skate to help you practice and repeat surf motions on concrete.
Research Both Camp and Surf Beta
Timing Your Trip — For the Surfer
Timing a surf trip well requires research. Different breaks work best during different seasons, based on typical swell height, direction, and prevailing winds. Most surf spots have seasons that work best for beginners, and vice versa for advanced surfers. Research and use this general info to plan trips well in advance, then use Surfline to check swell and wind conditions as you get closer to your embarkation date.
Timing Your Trip — For the Paddle-Boarder
If you’re heading to a lake to paddleboard, swell isn’t a factor (unless you’re surfing on the Great Lakes or Lake Tahoe, but that’s a different story). However, if you’re heading to high-elevation locales early in the spring or late in the fall, road closures may be in effect, so it pays to do your research regardless.
If you’re checking out a river wave, be sure to research the ideal flow rate (CFS) and the current flow rate–you don’t want to drive for hours if the wave isn’t working!
Water Temps and Weather
Whether you’re heading to surf in the ocean or paddleboard in an alpine lake, researching water temps ahead of time will influence what wetsuit you bring (if any), and whether or not you need gloves, booties, or a hood. It’ll also determine what temperature wax to bring.
An experienced, lake-bound paddleboarder won’t necessarily need a wetsuit, even if the water is chilly. However, water temps in the ocean will vary significantly from north to south, and from summer to winter. So even if the weather is 75 degrees and sunny, you might still need a 5/4mm wetsuit with booties. Check the forecast–Surfline has a feature that tells you water temperature–and pack accordingly.
Similarly, checking the weather for your destination of choice will help you pack essentials you’ll need out of the water, like sleeping bags and puffy jackets, or sunscreen and sun shirts.
Be sure to do your usual research on campsites ahead of your trip. While we prefer free car camping whenever possible (check out our comprehensive guide to free car camping here), some surf breaks and lakes are best accessed via paid campgrounds.
If you’re going the paid route, some campgrounds accept reservations, while others are first-come, first-serve. If you’re heading out on a busy weekend, make a reservation if possible, or arrive early to give yourself a better chance of beating the crowds at first-come, first-serve sites.
Pack Like a Pro: Always Bring Extras
Packing for a surf or paddleboard trip is just like any car camping adventure–you’ll want to bring plenty of food and water, a comfortable sleep setup (we’re partial to the Luno Air Mattress), and essentials like headlamps and first aid gear, etc.
However, surf and paddleboard trips differ from your standard car camping adventures as you want to be self-sufficient when it comes to your surf and paddleboard gear. Murphy’s Law dictates that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and based on our experience, this law applies heavily to surf trips. That said, we recommend always bringing extra surf gear, like leashes, fins, and even a backup board, in case you break or lose gear miles from civilization.
Pack Like a Pro: Stay Organized
It’s mission-critical that you stay organized while on the road. Here are a few of our favorite organization tools and tricks for surf trips:
- We usually use Luno Seatback Organizers for easy-to-lose essentials, like phones, wallets, keys, headlamps, etc. On a surf trip, we’ll also throw a fin key or two in there, as well as extra wax–we treat these as backups and hope to never use them.
- Store surf gear (leashes, wax, fins, wetsuits, etc) in large plastic tubs, rather than spread randomly throughout the vehicle.
- Use a Luno Cargo Hammock for storing bedding in a convenient, out-of-the-way place so it won’t get sandy or wet during surf missions.
- Use plastic tubs and Luno Mesh Duffel bags to store wet wetsuits and damp gear so that it can drip dry and air out.
For more gear storage tips and organization tricks, check out chapter three in our ultimate guide to car camping!
Choose Your Weapon: Why We Love Durable Decks and Inflatable SUPs
Surfboards can be notoriously fragile and easy to ding, and life on the road can be extremely taxing on surf equipment. As such, we gravitate towards Lib Tech surfboards–the PNW shaper is a pioneer of environmentally friendly, exceptionally durable surfboards that can handle the inevitable bumps in the road.
If you’re traveling solo and have room for a quiver, great. However, if you’re traveling with friends, you may only have room to bring one board. If that’s the case, it’s often better to bring an all-around board that can handle a variety of waves (depending, of course, on the forecast). While your favorite shortboard may perform better in solid surf, it might be preferable to bring a board that has enough foam to give you the paddle power you need to catch sloppier waves. Oftentimes, we’ll travel with a board that can change from a thuster, to a quad, or even a twin fin. These hybrid fin setups will allow you to more easily adapt to unknown conditions.
If you’re going the paddleboard route, inflatable options with collapsible paddles are more road-trip-friendly and easier to transport.
To Rack Or Not To Rack?
Surfboard racks are handy as they keep gear out of the car, freeing up room for extra passengers or clearing out your sleeping area. However, keeping your boards on the roof of your car makes them easier to steal. Plus, surfboard racks make your vehicle less aerodynamic and reduce your miles per gallon. Furthermore, traveling with surfboards on the roof is more punishing on your boards, and can cause unnecessary pressure dings and other wear and tear.
With these pros and cons in mind, we like to reserve surf racks for quick trips–say, driving 15 minutes from camp to a surf break. On longer stints–for example, driving two hours from the coast back to your home–we like to throw boards in the back of the rig.
If you are throwing boards on the roof, park with care and keep an eye on your gear when you stop for a bite. Also, use these locking KanuLock straps–while these wire-lined locking straps won’t stand up to bolt cutters, they will hinder opportunistic thieves.
Pro Tip: If you want to free up space in your car when it’s time for bed and don’t have a surfboard rack, no worries. Store boards underneath your vehicle. While this isn’t a foolproof technique, it does hide your beloved boards from view, making it less likely a thief pays your campsite a visit at night.
Ultra Pro Tip: Stash your board on top of the Cargo Hammock while you sleep. This might not play if you’ve got a heavy longboard, but if you have a lightweight shortboard, it’s a rad use of the Cargo Hammock!
Respect Locals & Practice Surf Etiquette
Disrespecting locals is a fantastic way to end your adventure early with a trip to the hospital or a case of slashed tires. All jokes aside, respecting locals is a must.
Along those lines, only surf within your skill level, as stepping to heavier waves will put you and others in danger. At a crowded, popular, pumping point break, that might mean avoiding the coveted point and settling for a less tantalizing wave down the beach.
If you’re unaware of surf etiquette, familiarize yourself with the basics here.
Wetsuit Care On the Road
One of the hardest aspects of long surf road trips is wetsuit care and maintenance. If you don’t rinse your wetsuit, it can quickly get sandy and stinky, making it a nightmare to manage when car camping. Here are a few wetsuit tips and tricks we’ve found useful on the road:
- Rinse your wetsuit in fresh water whenever possible. This might mean bringing an extra five-gallon water container specifically for rinsing your suit, taking advantage of beach facilities with showers and spigots, or simply dunking your suit in a river or lake after your session.
- Dry your wetsuit–preferably out of direct sunlight. After rinsing your suit, be sure to hang it up to dry, ideally out of direct sunlight so the neoprene or rubber won’t be damaged. We like to bring a simple cord and rig up a clothesline in between trees at camp.
- Don’t pee in your wetsuit. We get it, peeing in your wetsuit is convenient–and pleasantly warm. But if you end up stashing a pissed-in wetsuit in your hot car, your sleep area will soon smell like a urinal. Yuck.
- Use a changing mat. Stepping into your wetsuit can be a pain in the butt–even more so if you’re changing on asphalt or sand. Bring a changing mat to increase the longevity of your wetsuit (and minimize the chances of sand sneaking its way into your suit). Keep an eye out, as we’re in the process of launching an upcycled changing mat crafted from old Luno mattresses!
Enjoy The Ride
While road-tripping to surf or paddleboard can be challenging, the more you do it, the more it becomes second nature. We hope these tips, tricks, and gear recommendations help you hit the road, score some waves, and have the trip of a lifetime.
With that said, be safe, have fun, don’t piss off grumpy locals, and Leave No Trace!
As always, thanks for reading and we’ll see you on the road,
The Luno Crew