If you travel for surf, it’s going to happen eventually—the dreaded skunk. Perhaps the wind goes sour or the weather doesn’t cooperate. Maybe you have booked a trip months ahead of time, but when it comes time to travel, the ocean goes flat.
Or maybe it’s something as simple as a case of the stomach flu, a lost passport, or boards that don’t arrive. Whatever the case, your surf trip is shot, so now it’s up to you to salvage it. Here are a handful of tips for surviving a skunk attack.
Okay, so you aren’t scoring the best waves of your life—but you also aren’t at home, working in an office. Remember that a lot of people don’t get to travel at all, and billions will never know the joy of riding waves, whether at home or abroad. Even on a skunk trip, you are still traveling to someplace exotic and coastal. Things could be a lot worse.
Broaden your Horizons
We surfers tend to be pretty myopic, both while on trips and in our general approach to life. It is easy to get stuck in the rut of only thinking about surfing, but there is a lot more to do in life, especially when you are in a foreign country with a lot to discover.
If the surf fails you, think of it as an opportunity to broaden your horizons and have other adventures and cultural experiences. Seek out hikes, nature reserves, museums—anything that “normal” travellers who aren’t obsessed with surf tend to enjoy. You might just discover that the place you are visiting has more to offer than waves.
Update your Quiver
You may have gone on a trip hoping to score overhead barrels, and instead ended up getting ankle-high dribblers—but that doesn’t mean you can’t surf. Sure, your step-ups might not be ideal for less-than-ideal surf, but with the popularity of water sports these days, there are longboards and SUPs available for rent (or to borrow) in just about every coastal town on the planet.
Find something with a bit of volume, and make the most of the waves that you have.
Chase Good Waves
The thing about wind is that it’s always offshore somewhere. If the zone you came to surf is blown out, don’t sit in your Airbnb grumbling—get out there and find a corner that’s offshore, or at least protected from the wind.
Sure, it might not be the wave you came to surf—but lesser-known spots are usually less crowded, and sometimes more fun than an area’s marquee breaks. Get out of your comfort zone and you might end up scoring after all!
Lend a Hand
There’s a saying in the ski/snowboard world that goes something like “No friends on powder days”—and the same tends to hold true when the waves are pumping. When we score epic waves, we can get a bit selfish and frothed-out, and the chances of making new friends are about as good as the chances of a local surfer gifting us the set of the day. But when things go bad, that’s when we seem to connect.
During disasters, people often set aside their self-concern and reach out to help each other—and what’s a skunk trip if not a mini-disaster? One of the best ways to connect with someone is to do them a favour, and when your travel is derailed by circumstances beyond your control, favours are what end up saving the trip.
Rather than wallowing in grumpy isolation, get out there and help others survive the skunk. Who knows, you could make a friend for life—a friend that knows where you can score on your next surf trip.
Cover image: Waking up on the beach and unfurling canvas to reveal this, is what we all aim for. By Sean Jansen, somewhere in the desert.