The forecast was spot on, for a change! The waves were perfect longboard conditions. Rolling in beautifully with a period of 12 seconds, which is really rare for us. The wind was coming from the East which is ideal for most spots on the West facing Welsh coast! I had managed to get in at first light walking through frosty pebbles on the beach to get in.
After the session, it was great fun getting out of a wetsuit!! I was freezing and I think these two lads couldn't help but take pity on me. They popped their heads out of the sliding door on their van, and shouted over, "Mate, you fancy a brew to warm up?" Even though i’m not a keen tea/coffee drinker, I couldn't resist! I walked up to the burgundy van that had a spare wheel, longboards and a few surf/skate stickers in the tinted windows. If I hadn't seen this van a few times at the beach before this day, I honestly would’ve thought I was going to be abducted!
I stepped inside and I was instantly impressed. It was incredible. Enough room for all of us with a spare seat. It was warm and had all the amenities; fridge, hob and a sink, all fitted. I watched a perfectly orchestrated sequence and I had a warm tea in my hands within seconds. We started chatting about the surf and how brilliant it had been. Then we went on to all the obvious questions about where we're from, etc. These guys had done some travelling in this van to chase the swell. I wondered what it would be like to stay in the van; probably cramped, damp and cold.
A couple of months later I had a message in the group chat, that we had all formed, asking if anyone would be up for a trip south to chase the swell! Everyone else had work commitments or events to be at, but I had nothing in particular going on. So after asking the wife nicely and getting the green light, I jumped at the chance. We decided to split the cost down the middle for fuel and food which was only fair. I love camping and thought how bad would it be to stay in a van in below zero temperatures.
We arrived just gone midnight in North Devon. I learnt quite quickly that when you travel in this van, it’s a very relaxed process. Hills - you have to make sure you take a run up for. Motorways - you have to be prepared to let lorries pass you. It gives you a lot more time to take in the scenery and it feels like there is no rush, which is nice in the current world where everything moves so quickly.
We parked the van up and I was shown how to set up the van for a night’s sleep. Within less than a minute we had a bed that we would sleep us both, top to toe. I hoped I could manage a surf after spending a night spooning another grown man’s feet, but it was all part of the fun. Before we went to sleep I was asked to press a button that I could reach whilst tucked into my sleeping bag. I pressed it and it was like a mini jet engine starting up! The button had set the diesel heater for an 8 hour stint. Lovely!
Morning broke and it was like a home away from home. I was comfortable all night, not cold once, and woke up to some of the best views. Waves peeling and the sun shining through the tinted windows. We surfed all morning and returned to the van for breakfast and to warm up, ready for a second session. We prepared bacon and egg sandwiches with ease as everything we needed was within reaching distance.
I understand why they chase the swell in this van and why it is part of the life that almost all surfers take. I am without a doubt hooked to surf trips and spending time with positive people that share the same passion for waves as I do.
And it all started by two guys watching a grown man shiver after a winter session!