I guarantee this is the least rock n’ roll thing you’ll read today. For lots, this article will be instantly dismissed in favour of more footage from those fearlessly charging Nazaré giants. A few, will digest what is written, and vow never to allow their search for waves to be compromised in such a manner. But hopefully, for some, it will resonate; a familiar struggle in the constant quest to combine surf trip, and family vacation.
Introducing the next generation of wave riders to the world means that the nomadic days of exploration probably need to take a back seat for a while. Priorities change, destinations need reconsidering. The nearest doctor becomes more important than the proximity of the ding repair shop. Noisy bars are to be avoided, rather than courted. And accommodation needs to have air-con more urgently than a mini-bar. With this in mind, can a family holiday ever include meaningful surf sessions?
I think so… maybe.
The first thing that became instantly apparent to me when I embarked on my first surf-trip-cum-family-trip was that there was going to have to be a massive readjustment of expectations regarding the amount of time spent in the water. On a solo trip, I’d be disappointed not to have at least two solid sessions in one day, with the kids in tow, the realistic scenario became one decent session every 24 hours… if I was lucky. And if for any reason I didn’t get in the water, then so be it, there’s always tomorrow. I also discovered that being flexible with timings was essential; waiting for the perfect tide is a luxury not afforded to those with a narrow window of opportunity, if there’s a chance to get wet, grab it, before that window is closed firmly shut by an uncompromising infant.
The location of accommodation became more crucial than ever. The very best surf spots are often in the remotest of places. Just arriving at these secluded waves can be a mission in itself, ruling isolated tropical reef breaks out to all but the bravest family adventurers. Yet no family friendly resort is positioned right on a peak. Trying to pick somewhere close enough to the trappings of your usual family holiday, while at the same time allowing the option for a rapid dash to the water, involves lots of time on Google maps, carefully triangulating distances between the accommodation and the essential places of interest (both surf and family orientated.) And while isolation is a perfect pre-family ideal, there’s nothing worse than being stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to entertain the kids apart from stories of the morning’s epic swell. The romantic cliff top retreats – with balconies gently reaching out to meet the horizon – cease to be the ultimate place for the nightly sundown cocktails, and instead silently scream two words: trap & death… not necessarily in that order.
It didn’t take me long to realise that escaping with my board was going to be much easier if there was something for my deserted loved ones to be doing while I was experiencing the Mr. Hyde element of our adventure. Even if it was just breakfast somewhere, the guilt (and animosity) were greatly reduced if I snuck off while everyone was busy. Cheerily stating: “Daddy’s off surfing”, and expecting everyone to share in your excitement while merrily wave you off, then have everyone wait longingly by the door for your triumphant return, is a mistake I won’t be repeating.
New parents will be advised to avoid sleep deprivation by following the advice: ‘when they sleep, you sleep.’ However, after entering the wonderful world of fatherhood, my new mantra quickly became: “when they sleep, you surf”. Sneaking off at dawn, during the mid-morning power-nap, or while the afternoon siesta is taking place means that little quality family time is wasted, and everyone is reinvigorated one way or another.
However, surfing doesn’t need to be a purely selfish pursuit. Without doubt the highlight of my limited experience of ‘family getaway with integrated surf trip’ is sharing the simple joys of riding a wave. I recently conveyed my difficulties using a Go-Pro to document my surfing. But since taking my son into the waves, I (almost) retract the negative sentiment. Endless shots of him grinning from ear-to-ear as he’s swept along, front down, on a board three times his height, are recorded over and over again, perfect for digging out of the archive when he’s world champ’ in 2023.
So apologies, not words that are lewd, risqué, or dangerously straddling the boundaries of decency… but we can’t live life on the edge the entire time.