How to Plan the Best Summer Surf Road Trip Ever

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An epic summer road trip spent hitting some of your surf bucket-list destinations should be amazing no matter how you go about it. However, planning out your adventure will allow you to spend the majority of your time enjoying the surf instead of worrying about lodging or buying something you forgot to pack.

First, you’ll want to pick your location (or locations) so you can build your trip around surfing the waves you’ve always wanted to surf. Next, make a plan for your transportation and lodging so that you have a reliable ride and places to stay. Mapping your trip will allow you to make a plan for each day in order to maximize your surf time. It will also allow you to make plans for some fun in between your surf destinations. Finally, packing the essentials will ensure you are prepared and not spending a lot of time tying up loose ends while on the road.

Pick a Location (or Locations)

The sheer number of stellar surf locations in the world is overwhelming, so this might be the hardest part of planning your summer surf road trip. You might consider staying close to home, hitting a coastline farther away, or travelling to a new country altogether. New Zealand, El Salvador, the California coast, and Nicaragua all have amazing surf locations, just to name a few.

No matter where you choose, consider your road trip timeline and cluster a few locations close together so you can spend more time surfing and less time travelling. It’ll be easier to pick a few locations on the same coastline, or coastlines that are closer, than it will be to choose five locations across an entire country.

Aerial view of coastline with surfers and parked cars on Maui, Hawaii.

Plan Transportation and Lodging

The next step is to decide what you’re going to drive. You’ll need a vehicle big enough to fit you and whoever else is riding with you, as well as your boards and supplies. Some will choose to bring their own car and transport their boards with their roof rack, which will work just fine. Others may decide on a van or an RV to take care of both their transportation and lodging needs. Either way, the key is finding a ride that’s reliable and big enough for your trip, and some cars are better for surfers than others.

Once you’ve got transportation sorted out, you’ll need to make a plan for your lodgings. Lodging will differ by location and surfer. However, remember to plan for your surf nights as well as your travel nights. If you have an RV, you’re set, though you may want to research RV locations on your route. Those that choose to camp should plan out their camping spots and remember that some nights may call for a hotel, depending on location and weather. Whatever you choose, just make sure you have a plan.

Map Your Road Trip

Making a map and an itinerary will help to eliminate any unknowns and unpreparedness. It’s a vital component in your pre-travel checklist. You don’t have to map out each restaurant and bathroom break, but you might want to plan for each location and lodging choices. This will help you to decide how far to travel on each day, how much money you will be spending, and which days will be spent just surfing.

Mapping your trip can ensure you stick to a solid timeline, and it can also serve as an added safety precaution to have someone at home know your route and timeline in case something bad happens. At the end of the day, a mapped road trip will also ensure that you’re making the most out of your trip. If you run into a roadblock on how to map your trip, look into some road tripping guides and tools you can use to help you plan out your route.

Schedule Some Fun

Surfing is obviously the bulk of the fun in a summer surf road trip. However, make sure that you’re scheduling some fun around the other aspects of your trip as well. If you’re camping or staying in an RV, consider some fun activities to do while you stay overnight, like hiking or making smores. Maybe there’s a surf museum nearby you can check out. Make a road trip playlist that will keep you pumped up and awake for your travels. Try the local food and drinks before or after you ride the local waves. The fun part of your road trip isn’t just the surfing; it’s the entire experience.

Packing the Essentials

Properly packing for your summer surf road trip is really about packing for the entire trip — not just for the time you’ll spend on the waves. Knowing what to pack means creating an entire map of your trip so you know if you should be bringing a tent, outdoor gear, etc. Focus on safety and make sure you’re not overloading your vehicle. However, it’s often better to have too much than not enough. Here are some essentials to remember:

  • Roadside safety equipment: A spare tire, gas can, tools, water, map, etc. so that if you break down or get lost, you have the tools to get help or find your way to safety.
  • First-aid kit/medical supplies: Whether you’re camping, surfing, or hiking, you should have a first-aid kit to help with minor medical issues. This includes bandages, gauze pads, surgical tape, aspirin, antiseptic spray, insect spray, sunscreen, and eye drops.
  • Travel documents: Especially if your road trip takes you out of the country, you’ll need your passport, insurance cards, prescriptions, driver’s license, and any other necessary travel documents.
  • Surf gear: Consider your destination and how the weather will be. Bring your boards, wetsuit, rash guard, leash, wax kit, ding repair kit, fins, fin keys, booties, earplugs, wet bag, and any extras that you can’t live without.
  • Toiletries: Like any other trip, remember a toothbrush, deodorant, soap, towels, shampoo, conditioner, floss, toilet paper, etc. You might need some extras if you’re staying in an RV or camping.
  • Outdoor gear: Spending time outside or lodging outside will require more gear. This might include a tent, mattress pad, sleeping bag, pillow, wood, mallet, cooking utensils, and so on. Make sure you’re always warm and dry.
  • Weather prep: You might need a tarp or a rain poncho if you’re staying in a wet area, or you may need sunscreen and extra water if you’re expecting a lot of heat. Make sure you’re prepared for the elements whether you’re surfing in them or sleeping outside in them. Checking weather conditions is always a good idea in order to surf safely.
  • Miscellaneous: All of your own personal extras. Clothes, a camera, hat, flip flops, water bottle, phone charger, knife, flashlight, a book, or some fishing gear may come in handy.

Planning the best summer surf road trip means deciding what you want your road trip to look like. Maybe you’re headed to one location and camping on the beach for the whole trip. Maybe you’re hitting five locations down the coast and staying in a local Airbnb each night. You might mix in some hiking and visiting friends while surfing here and there. Maybe you’re driving in an RV and staying on the road whenever you get too tired to drive. The key is building a trip around what’s important to you and being prepared and staying safe in the process. Just be sure to make a plan and schedule in some extra fun.