Lazy Days in paradise! A slightly below average week here in the Maldives has got me thinking about the other side of Surf travel – the fact that no matter how meticulously you plan your trip and how experienced your surf guide, there’s always the possibility that mother nature is not going to cooperate. With this in mind it’s a good idea to have a couple of plan B’s up your sleeve (or in your board bag) so you can still make the most of every moment! Travelling ultra light is a great idea if you are backpacking around Asia - hoping off and on trains and busses carrying everything you own, but if you are on the sort of holiday that sees you picked up from the Airport and whisked off to a nice comfortable boat or surf camp then there’s no harm in adding a couple extra Kg’s of fun to your luggage. Here are a few suggestions that can really make a trip!
1: Mask and Fins. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, but this is number one on the essential list if you’re travelling in the tropics. Flat days are dive days so take a deep breath and go check out the reef you’re going to be surfing over once the swell pulses. While you’re at it see point 2!
2: Spear gun. Mark Healey says that he actually looks forward to flat days when he’s on surf trips so that he can go spear fishing. Deep within so many of us lies The Hunter just waiting to prove his worth by bringing home dinner for the clan. Slip beneath the surface with spear gun in hand and feel the transformation - it’s a deeply primal urge. Go with it, but be selective – remember fish tend to look bigger underwater and no one’s impressed if you kill needlessly. Speak to the boat crew about local fishing laws and the best fish to target and make sure you can recognize any protected or pregnant species. It’s almost as addictive as surfing and possibly the best breath hold training there is. (Side note : If your destination is the Maldives, don’t pack one as its illegal to spearfish in the Maldives)
3: Fishing gear. The quality of fishing gear these days is mind blowing. Tropical reef fish on a light braid set up can be really exciting, so travelling with a mid weight/length casting rod and a selection of lures in your board bag opens up a whole new level of fun. Enjoy a lazy sunset cruise casting along the drop off with a couple cold ones, or an early morning chucking poppers for GT off the reef. Good times in amazing locations! Have a look around and take in where you are!
4: Running/Hiking shoes. See that hill over there? Why not go ashore and climb up it? That cliff trail might lead to a hidden beachie with some fun wedges. Personally, I think the worst thing to do on a flat day is to sit inside and watch movies but going for a good walk and exploring a foreign land is one of the best!
5: Yoga mat/Exercise ball. There is something about having your own mat that seems to help motivation so it is well worth packing one (great extra padding for your boards too). The thing to remember about yoga or any sort of exercise is that the hardest part is getting your session started. Once you start a session you get into it almost instantly, and when the surf does pick up you’re going to feel loose and ready to go. There are some great apps out there you can download to help the motivation process start, one of my favorites is Yoga Studio for ipads or iphones as it is an actual virtual yoga studio with full videos (total beginners to advanced) and nice music.
6: Camera. Listen to John John talk about his love of photography, and how rewarding and satisfying it can be, how it has opened his eyes to the world away from surfing. Everyone wants to be John John these days so grab your camera, get out there and get creative! A flat day is the time to go for a walk around that local village and take some cool shots for your Insta feed (far more interesting than shots of drunken hair cuts btw)
7: Notebook. There’s something about putting pen to paper that is lost when tapping keys, so slip an empty notebook in your bag and see what’s in it by the end of your trip… Even if you just use it to keep score of who owes what after the nightly poker game you’ll be surprised how useful it is. I remember back when Kelly and his Momentum generation mentioned their habit of keeping journals of their experiences and ideas while on surf trips. They were immediately and comprehensively roasted by an entire nation of surfers who called them soft for wasting valuable drinking time on writing about their ‘feelings’. Of course they turned out OK and Kelly developed into the greatest analytical mind in Surfing. Apparently along with his ‘feelings’ he kept notes on each wave he surfed, which boards worked the best, and how he would like to change his boards for future trips….. along with how much he’d won at Poker!
8: Of course a flat day can be a real blessing if your body is beat and you really just want to give yourself a good rest before that next swell hits. Perfect opportunity to start that book you’ve always meant to read. Challenge yourself. Pack a classic. There’s nothing quite like being somewhere with no commitments or distractions to help with the total immersion into a good book.
9: If none of the above sound appealing then I guess you really should pack a good quality Hard Drive loaded with quality movies and TV series so you can lounge around in the AC with the Flat screen while your mates realize very quickly that they are not Mark Healey!!!! Charter boats and Surf camps are notorious for having amazing selections of Indo knock off DVD’s that let you get ¾ of the way into a movie before skipping out and refusing to go any further, so avoid the frustration and BYO!
10: A gift. I love seeing how generous many travelling surfers can be - it really stokes me out big time! Got a board lying around that you never use? If you have the space slip it in your bag for a local kid. That old raincoat buried in your closet would be a highly prized possession for a local fisherman out in a small boat during the Monsoon. Those old school books might inspire a young child to learn English and open up a world of possibility. So have a think about it. There’s something deeply satisfying about giving and it sure helps to have a few points in the Karma bank when you’re on the road!
by Richard Kotch