there’s a captivating allure around van life, especially for surfers who have a growing urge to take their surfboard, hop in a van, and find the perfect destination for catching waves. and the truth is, surfing and van life go hand in hand.
traveling by van allows you to conveniently bring all your surfing equipment and gives you the freedom to stay near the beach. waking up at sunrise to catch the morning surf has never been easier. additionally, when you get tired, you can pop back to your van for a couple of hours to rest until it’s time to get back out there at sunset.
not to mention the convenience of moving freely in your van, chasing waves up and down the coast. as you can see, there are many advantages to living the surfer van life.
in this article, we’ll discuss surf van options, highlight some surf destinations on the west coast of the United States, and provide tips for living the surfer van life.
types of surfing vans
the first step to starting the surfer van life is choosing the right surf van or making adjustments to your current van so it can accommodate your surfboard. next, you’ll need to consider your budget, the number of people you’ll travel with, and other uses for the van.
there are several options to consider as a starting point:
campervan - a comfortable and basic van that provides you with everything you need for a surf trip. Pre-outfitted with amenities, campervans can typically accommodate a family or small group of people.
diy campervan - a comfortable and customizable experience that’s perfect for do-it-yourselfers. (conversions can also be professionally built.) They have everything you need for a surf trip and can even be specifically designed for surfing. Also, they’re great for practicing stealth camping.
RV/motorhome - a large vehicle that can accommodate groups. They’re suitable for surf trips but not for stealth camping.
once you research the type of van you want, it’s time to purchase, rent, or outfit your van. esplori can help with this step. we specialize in outfitting Mercedes Sprinter vans and can help you with the conversion. see our interior kits page for more information.
surfing destinations - California
California is famous for its surf all up and down the coast. check out some of these destinations for great surfing, local culture, and beautiful beaches. some beaches can get pretty crowded in the summertime, so arrive early. here you can find some more information on surf etiquette in California.
Cardiff - set up your van oceanside at this local beach community north of San Diego in Encinitas, a charming and relaxed surf town. then, head to San Elijo to find a beach-front campground where you can park overnight.
Oceanside - this surfing beach has over 3 miles of coastline. head over to the Oceanside Harbor for consistent waves for all skill levels. there are several campgrounds and parking lots nearby where you can pay to park your van overnight.
Malibu - this is an iconic surf spot in California suitable for beginners and intermediate surfers. located 30 minutes north of Los Angeles, you can find a bunch of campgrounds near the Malibu beaches, including the Malibu Creek State Park.
Carpinteria - discover Carpinteria’s beaches suitable for all levels of surf. also home to a beautiful state park, this town in Santa Barbara is full of great surf spots and places to park your van for overnight camping. start by checking out Carpinteria State Park for a spot.
Pismo - located on California’s Central Coast, all abilities are welcome at Pismo beach. first, stay overnight in your van at the Pismo State Beach campgrounds. then, head to nearby beaches such as Jalama Beach and Morro Bay for some more sick surf spots.
surfing destinations - Oregon
the farther up the west coast, the colder the water gets. so, for surfing in Oregon, be sure to have the proper protective gear like booties, gloves, and a head covering, even in summer. though you might have to bundle up, the beaches are less crowded, and the views are spectacular. here are some destinations to check out on your next surf trip in Oregon.
Coos Bay - a popular surf destination on the southern part of Oregon’s coast. you can park your van overnight at Sunset Bay State Park. enjoy spectacular views of the rugged cliffs towering over the beaches.
Agate Beach - another popular surfing destination in the south of Oregon is Agate Beach. it has fairly consistent waves for surfing. you can park overnight and van camp at the Agate Beach Campground.
Manzanita - Manzanita Beach has reasonably consistent surf year round. it’s one of the less crowded beaches for surfing. there are campgrounds nearby, and you can camp at the Nehalem State Park just south of the beach.
Cannon Beach - a small coastal town great for surfing and other outdoor activities. the waves are suitable for all levels. there are many campgrounds in this area to stay in your van overnight.
Pacific City Beach - head up to surf at Pacific City beach near Washington. you can even spend the night in Salmon Creek, which has various campgrounds. near the coast, several state parks allow van camping.
surfer van life tips
before hitting the road, you’ll want to review these quick tips for living the surfer van life.
be aware of primitive camping laws and find out where you can park your van legally overnight. campgrounds are a great option and sometimes cheaper in the off-season.
review the rules of each campsite - some may have fire bans or a maximum stay.
practice no trace principles. always pick up your garbage, avoid making a lot of noise, and leave the area cleaner than you found it.
look up campsite amenities beforehand - some may not have showers or electrical hookups.
be flexible - mentally prepare yourself for a change in plans. the weather can be unpredictable, and sometimes you’ll want to make extra, unplanned stops. but don’t worry - it’s all part of the van life fun!
pack light, organize your van well, and keep it tidy. the last thing you want is to return to a messy van after a long day of surfing.
stock up on supplies - food, water, sunscreen, etc. - so you don’t have to make extra trips into town.
now you’re ready for your surf adventure! and if you’re not quite there yet, talk to us at esplori and see how we can help outfit your van for surfing.