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PLAN YOUR ULTIMATE SURF ADVENTURE

Words and Photography: Alan Van Gysen

Globe-trotting surf photographer Alan van Gysen imparts some hard-won wisdom on planning and packing for your dream surf trip.

1. Plan where

The first step is the most important. Once you’ve made the decision, get searching and familiarise yourself with the destination. Google Earth the coastline, check swell history and monitor a few reliable surf forecasters. Identify potential locations by comparing swell strength, swell direction and wind direction. Mark them down on a map and save the coordinates.

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2. PLAN WHEN

Over the course of a year, figure out your best window of opportunity – when are conditions most consistent with optimal wave size and wind direction? If you have the time, book a month and wait for a swell. If you have the budget, wait and chase a swell. 

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3. PLAN RIGHT

Be sure to identify the closest town or village for supplies, and check access by road, boat or plane. Back-track from the destination to home and plan an itinerary. Confirm currency in use, and be prepared for cash, card or both, depending on the destination. Set aside a budget and confirm the average cost of daily living expenses. 

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4. PLAN WHO

Pick the right travel partner/s. Select someone who you get along with, and who is level-headed and will support you when the going gets tough, because eventually it always does. 

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5. PACK RIGHT

Check the climate and pack sensibly. Depending on the destination, these are some must-haves: a rain and wind-proof jacket, warm top, beanie, sunhat, buff, pants, socks, shirts, comfortable travel shoes and/or sandals (Crocs for weight and cleaning), wetsuit or shorts, camera equipment or surf equipment, towel, sleeping bag, travel pillow, sunscreen, sunglasses, torch, batteries, rehydration powder, basic medical supplies, non-perishable energy snacks, toiletries and toilet paper. Two spares you can never do without: another towel and more socks! Lay everything out on your bed or floor and take a quick mental photograph – this helps a lot. When packing, figure out a unique home for every item in order to find it quickly. This will also save you from losing something. 

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6. PACK LIGHT

Most airline companies have restricted travellers to one check-in bag and one standard overhead carry-on. Try pack everything to be checked in into one bag under 20kg to be safe and for ease of travel. Keep valuables and essential items separate for carry-on. Unfortunately surfboards don’t fit in the overhead compartments, more’s the pity. 

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7. PHONE IN

Contact your medical insurance company or take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance. It seems an unnecessary expense until it isn’t and you’re stuck in an airport without a flight home, or injure yourself and need a helicopter evacuation. The small expense is worth the peace of mind. Also contact your local bank and inform them of the possible use of your credit card outside of the country, and have some local currency in hand just in case. 

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8. PACK THE MEDS

Make sure you’ve packed and have had appropriate medical treatment. Malaria, yellow fever, typhoid, hepatitis, diarrhea and dehydration are not to be taken lightly, especially in third-world countries. Contact your local visa company or an embassy to confirm medical requirements, get the injections and pack the pills. No one wants to get sick while travelling and waste valuable time. Lastly, be sure to take some hand sanitiser for third-world handshakes and money handling. This is the front-line of defence against most nasty stomach bugs. 

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9. PACK CORE GEAR

Whether for surf or photography, make sure you have the important core items packed. Wax, spare leashes, fins, basic surfboard repair kit etc. Camera, lenses, battery chargers, phone chargers, map, pen, paper. 

10. BE OPEN

Never go in with too much expectation. The more you expect, the less you get. Go in with a completely open mind and you’ll never be disappointed. Remember, every experience is an adventure, good or bad, and living and traveling with this outlook will only ever reward you, leaving you with memories and experience you’ll never forget.

 

The ultimate surf adventure is out there. Go discover yours. 

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