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Tips for You, Your Surf Vehicle and Your Trip to the Beach

In surfing, your car is almost as important a vehicle as your board. Because of the constantly changing waves and conditions (even in the most wave-rich locales), if you want to score, you have to drive. Here's how to make sure your ride is ready for the road.

For the Drive
  • A compact mp3 player is vital for your listening pleasure and your sanity on extended journeys. No need to bring bundles of cumbersome CD sleeves and risk having your music library lost or stolen. This small music machine stores thousands of songs, not to mention audio books, podcasts, and movies (depending on the model). Alternative View: Bag mp3 players. Radio is the fun of long trips, hearing different local stations from someplace other than home. And I do NOT mean that satellite radio idiocy. Listen to something new, not the crap that you always listen to. You know how the noise you hear on surf vids always sounds the same? Right. Want a real kick? Take along a little shortwave radio, listen to the BBC news. Another Alternative View: "or listen to RUSH LIMBAUGH." Let's be fair and not put subliminal messages in this “Tips” write up.  ;) 
    • Hint: Be sure to lock it up in the glove box or hide it well, because small electronic devices are prime targets for sneaky, miserable thieves.
    • With a water proof housing and headphones the same MP3 player can be used while surfing. Alternative View: But, DON'T DO IT! Pay attention to what is going on around you. On the other hand, sounds from shore are great!
  • Keep your windows clean so they don't fog with all the extra moisture in the car from your surf gear.
  • Surf racks?
    • Hard Racks. Installation and proper fit is a must. More secure, lockable, attachments for other items when surf isn't so good. Quiet ride, cost$$$, permanent (mostly). Comment: My hard racks work on all three vehicles and are removed for fuel economy after the surf trip. 
      • As far as quiet ride both Thule and Yakima make fairings will reduce the noise of the cross bar.
      • Security Option: Lock your boards either with the RV Inno Boardlocker or Steel Core Security Straps. 
      • Note: Pads and straps are being stolen off racks as these have become a bit pricey.
    • Soft Racks. Cost less, are easily transferable from car-to-car, are very portable for use on surfing trip rental cars. Negatives: Can be noisy, are not super secure for your boards, can easily be stolen, and they carry fewer boards.
    • Long straps: Buckle quality is pretty much the biggie, followed by strap quality -- heavier is better for both. Nylon or nylon-poly blend are best.
    • Bungees. Something NOT to have, especially for tying down anything valuable. One of the many bummers of the bungee is that you can't tell when they are worn out or old and about to go... until you see your board wafting to earth in front of  the oncoming semi. The black rubber gizmos that perform a similar task are just as bad. Take a walk alongside a fairly busy highway and see just how many dead bungees and black rubber tiedowns you see. Ah huh, wonder why that is?
Have on Hand
  • A continuous supply of bottled water, energy bars, and other assorted beverages and snacks are essential for any surf mobile-especially on those desolate hauls. Alternative View: Bag bottled water and zippety-zing bars too. It's for twits. Eat food. Calorie per calorie, energy bars are a ripoff. Fresh fruit, one of the great road foods. Cheap, tasty, rehydrates you too. And it has the slow-release sugars you want. Supermarket ginger ale is usually about half the price of bottled water, really. And it has some flavor, some sugars for energy and it's made from water at least as good as the city water system your favorite brand of bottled water comes from. If you don't wanna drink ginger ale, how about fruit juice? Rehydration, energy, lots of nifty antioxidants in some of them, and STILL cheaper than that idiotic bottled water. And even better, you can freeze it and use the frozen juice instead of ice in your ice chest, no wasted space.
  • A soap caddy is perfect for storing wax-it's much better kept there than forever embedded in your upholstery.
    • Hint: Break bars in half for a perfect fit. Or use a small Tupperware container for a larger assortment of warm and coldwater wax.
    • Many of the wax manufacturers make a handy box which usually has a wax comb attached to it. No more searching for your wax comb because it is already on the box.
  • Ever see those accordion-like multiple file folder thingies, made of fairly heavy plastic, that every office seems to replace twice a year? Ah huh, wax, fins, leash, parts and pieces. And it can fit in your board bag.
  • About that sand... keep a whiskbroom or similar brush handy.
  • Save a Surf Trip Kit: Secure extra keys, a spare leash, a spare string that attaches the leash to the board (2 is better), spare fin screws, an extra set of fins, spare board shorts and a rash guard.
  • A good first aid kit... with a multi-purpose knife, eye wash, and if going far off the beaten path, meds such as zepax (anti-bacteria); an antihistamine such as diphenhydraminethe (trade name is benadryl); cold meds; pepto tablets;  immodium; and, rolaids. (See the Traveling Surfer's Supply List and the First Aid Kit for Traveling Wave Riders, both by Doc and Rod, at http://www.rodndtube.com/surf/info/WaveRidersPage.shtml.)
  • A good toolbox, complete with extra oil, jumper cables and wrenches and screwdrivers and such, gotta have it. Be smart, pack extra bulbs for the lights. When the cop pulls you over for a dead bulb, ask him to hold his flashight on the spot while you fix it. For some reason, that makes them go away instantly.
  • A duffle bag to organize your gear. The bag should have two main comparments, one for wet gear and the other for dry gear, and pockets on the ends as well.
  • A key warmer. This is for people who surf very cold climes where the air temp is far less than the water temp. You can return from a session only to find that ice has covered or blocked the car lock. In the past I have been unable to get into my car, when air temps hover around 20F and it is snowing. Or previously melted ice seeps into the lock only to freeze solid during your session. The key warmer takes care of this problem. Don't surf the Northwoods without one, Newfoundland, Maine or
    MN.
  • Duct tape. If you don't already have some, consider travelling with more experienced people 'til you do have some and understand why. Alternative View for dings: Advise surf stickers for easy repair of boards rather than duct tape (tape is not 100% water proof). Better yes, use solar fired ding kits. However, that duct tape will come in use for more than just dings!
  • Extra Board straps for the car, extra long. Heavy duty, at least 1" cam buckles, buckle pads to protect your board, and neoprene buckle housings are recommended.
For Pre-Surf
  • Binoculars. Amazingly useful things. Good ones, 'cos cheezy ones will drive you nuts. On the other hand, older Japan-made binoculars, bought used for peanuts, can be excellent if not ruined by some idiot dropping them. Which also means handle them with care.  However, you may not want to leave them in the car unless you're willing to lose 'em (that goes for any and all valuables including flip-flops, t-shirts, etc.).
  • Accessories for that long trip to the beach.
For Post-Surf
  • Saltwater, sand, dirt, wax-these are things that can wreak havoc on your automobile's health. You don't have to be an anal-retentive car geek about it, though; a few simple items will help protect your car from the elements.
    • Pick up a rectangular rubber tub for containing your wetsuit and other waterlogged gear. This will easily separate your wet and dry stuff; not to mention, you'll avoid musty (and smelly) carpets from the water and interior erosion from the salt.
      • Rubbermaid tubs come in many sizes, are light and inexpensive
      • A medium-sized cooler is a wonderful thing for gear stowage, food, liquids, what have ya. Also keeps hot things hot. Have several (for example, it keeps those hot water jugs mentioned below in a state of hotness).
      • Combo wet & dry bags work well for stashing your wet gear and protecting the dry gear from the wet stuff.
  • A small utility mat will come in handy when changing roadside, minimizing the amount of dirt you'll track into the car. Remember to shake it out before putting it back, and vacuum it out every once in a while. Alternative View: Be a bit more economical and use the car's mat ("Buy a utility mat so my wittle bitty cutesy-poo car won't get sandy? Don't make me laugh. Floormat or doormat, doesn't matter to me. It's a car, not my d*ck.I'm from the Right Coast, okay? I don't confuse the two. I like my d*ck, far more than any car I ever had.")
    • Hint: If your board isn't in a bag, while in transit, set the mat underneath your board's fins; this will protect the rug from tears and snags. Alternative View: "Don't worry about screwing up your carpet with your fins. Any time your fins are pushed down hard enough to cut carpet, worry about your fin(s) and fin box(es) or plugs or whatever. If you are that worried about a stinkin' car, give up surfing and become a car freak." Of course, some car fabrics such as leather may be vulnerable from sharp fins and a pile of boards.
    • Your board bag can also be used for a changing mat. Destination bags come with a changing mat attached to the board bag.
  • A large jug with fresh, warm water is endlessly awesome. Use it for rinsing off after a session (almost as good as a shower) and flushing out your wetsuit (which definitely adds to its life span). This also minimizes the grime that enters your car with you.
  • Those simple, easy, cheap solar showers are an amazing thing. If left on a dashboard ( with some forethought ) on an even partly sunny day they get very warm indeed.
  • Stash some cheap stadium blankets, made of fleece, that are great for warming up after a cold water surf.
  • When you put your (terry cloth) board sock back on the board, rest the end of the board on your flip flops so it doesn't scrape the pavement.
  • Surfers have a bad reputation for just ripping off their board shorts or wetsuit and then getting dressed. At least one of my favorite spots is almost impossible to get to because of laws that have been passed to stop this. Be considerate, wrap a towel around yourself while changing, I don’t want to see your junk and neither does anyone else around. Also, there are plastic clips that do a great job holding the towel on you. In the colder months I use a large hooded pullover that comes down to my knees, not only am I not showing any shrinkage, but it is warm also.
  • You'd be amazed how nice it can be to have a little liquid-fuel backpacker stove along. Heat up a can of stew or soup, when out in the tail end of nowhere, truly amazing just how good that is. I like my Svea. It fits in my pocket, runs on wee drops of fuel, it's kinda fun.
  • Travelling with lots of people? Okay, either Weber kettles or hibachis or the ubiquitous square looking little gas grills, cook for a bunch. You can put a griddle on top of the gas grills, make breakfast.
  • Camping food... well, look, you don't want it, okay? You're not hauling it up the side of Mount Kilimanjaro, you're going along in something with a motor that weighs over half a ton all by itself. Don't worry about the weight, a few stinkin' pounds won't matter.. Chuck some steaks in the cooler, cold milk, frozen veggies, you know, real food. You'll thank me for this later.
  • Don’t forget to give your gear a good freshwater rinse. Even better is to wash with wetsuit shampoo or a mild detergent. The wetsuit shampoo not only cleans, but also lubricates the neoprene, which will extend the life of the wetsuit.  Air dry the gear out of the sun and away from ozone generating devices, i.e., water heaters, breaker panels.  If you will be using the gear soon, start drying it inside out, so that the part that is against your skin is drier when you put it back on.
Keeping Stuff Secure
  • Put local stickers all over your car and never wash it, unless you want your car ripped off. Make it look as bad as possible and don't even try to keep it clean inside. The scuzzier, the better. If it is bad enough, leave the windows open in the sense of "I dare you."
  • Wear your car key on a clip and clip it to your suit top, or clip it inside your shorts if you are a guy. However, do not trust the pocket in your suit! Be sure to string a loop through the key and wrap it around your neck. Then you can put in your wetsuit pocket. "Trust me, I've stood shivering on the side of the road in early March, waiting for my buddy to pick me up with some extra clothes, after having my key ripped from my wetsuit pocket in the cold rinse cycle of an Atlantic winter."
  • Waterproof pack, such as an Aquapac case, for those all-in-one rental car keys and your key valuables such as license, credit card and some cash.

Contributors: 
  • Mike Fish, Transworld Surf, "How To: Surf Out Your Whip," posted June 25, 2007
  • Doc Milliken, Cape Cod
  • Alexandria Niewijk, Hawaii
  • Randy "rOnDeL" Myer, DelMarVa
  • Rod Rodgers, DelMarVa
  • Neal Carver, DelMarVa
  • Mike McDowell, DelMarVa
  • Craig Kemnitz, Great Lakes
  • Chris "Gearhead" Smith, DelMarVa
  • Michael Gemelli, New Jersey


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Last updated on: 10/25/07