A Surf Camp on Wheels

A British surfer is currently re-defining the surf camp experience by converting a 7.5 ton removals truck into the raddest surf van out there.

Matt Gough from Devon, an ex-BASE jumper (full story here) and avid surfer, launches Wagon Surf Camp, the first ever mobile surf camp to roam the coasts of Europe. With good friend and talented photographer/traveller Matt H Blankey, they plan to make you discover the beautiful waves of Portugal and Morocco this Winter.

We hooked up with Matt to find out more…

Love the project, what was the motivation behind the Wagon Surf Camp?

I've been travelling in my van, surfing the European and Moroccan coast for the past 3 years now. During that time, I've also worked in a number of surf camps and hostels. I've always thought it's a shame for the guys and girls that are spending all their hard earned cash, and using their precious holiday time, to have the restrictions of the camps and hostels.

Don't get me wrong, there are lots of great things about these places, they're super luxurious sometimes and often in great locations, BUT... When there's no swell about, you're stuffed.

Also, your time in the water is restricted by the timings for the camp/hostel (based on breakfast and dinner time etc), rather than on the tides and other conditions. I figured it would be a great idea to bring the luxury and atmosphere of a camp/hostel, but also have the flexibility (and thus wave quality!) and surf culture side of van life.

From here the idea of the Wagon Surf Camp was born.


What are some of the best surf spots you've visited over the years?

I've been fortunate enough to have some of the great spots at the ideal times. Being the first one in at amazing points like SuperTubos or Anchor Point, when conditions are nice (sometimes it's worth paddling out before the sun gets up!), but I most prefer stumbling across seemingly untouched breaks that can produce fantastic waves with zero crowds. I've found this down the Moroccan coast, even just driving an hour or two from the highly popular (and populated!) Taghazout.

 I see you used to go quite heavy on the BASE jumping. What's the common ground between that and surfing?

Yep, BASE jumping was my real passion before I got my teeth stuck into surfing. There are some real similarities between the two, in that both use the power of nature and both can leave me with body shakes after a good ride. My perspective of their relationship to nature was different though. With BASE, I always felt like I was in competition with nature, but with surfing I feel like I'm in tune with it. One question I'm often asked is which was the most powerful experience, my first BASE jump (or first wingsuit BASE jump) or my first barrel. It's a tough call, but I'd have to go with barrel.

Back to the van, removal trucks are quite a rare sight on the surfing scene. What made you think that was the one to go for?

The initial plan was for a horse box truck, since they already have the rear ramp, windows and accommodation quarters etc. The issue with horse boxes are that they can often be quite badly corroded (years of horse pee does that), stinky and fairly beaten up. I was then drawn towards the removal truck because it's really a blank canvas. I got to design the full interior and decide exactly where windows, roof lights, water tanks, etc goes. This enabled me to make a pretty epic layout, perfect for its use.

 Have you had much experience in van conversions or any DIY before that?

Not too much. I've converted two vans in the past, but nowhere near this spec. Then I was just putting in a bed and some shelves, now it's 700Lr fresh water, boiler, shower, full kitchen, six bunk beds, alarmed board storage area, windows, roof lights, you name it. It's been a steep learning curve, but I've certainly shocked myself at how well it's going. I've been lucky enough to have plenty of advice from experienced heads along the way. Every local carpenter and boat maker seems intrigued and keeps sticking their head through the door to have a look.

Love the inside decor, what inspired you to use pallets and up-cycled coffee bean bags? You also mentioned something about greener oils and other eco initiatives. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

I love drift wood decor. It can be hard to come by though. Found myself hauling some pallets onto a fire, helping a friend on a farm and suddenly it clicked. Heaps of people chuck out pallets and it's damn good timber. If you just have the time a patients to strip the pallets and plane and sand the wood, it's incredible how good it is. So happy I decided to go with pallet wood, the mixture of wood colours looks insane. Really nice. Coffee sacks was also one I stumbled on. I was worried about the upholstery before, that kind of thing isn't my forte at all and it can be super expensive to get made professionally. My parents love fresh coffee and when I went to get them some coffee beans, the package had a photo of a proper coffee sack. A quick google search found my local coffee refinery and I gave them a call. They were happy to throw some my way and fortunately my lovely girlfriend has the skills to turn them into really cool looking seats.

 Now for the itinerary, are you mainly sticking to Portugal and Morocco or will you broaden the horizon in the future?

I may well broaden my horizons, but for now it's just Portugal and Morocco. I want to be sure that I give my customers the awesome vacation that I promise and I know I can do that on those two coasts, I know them pretty well now. Also, Portugal and Morocco are by far the easiest countries for van life and being able to pull up and sleep directly at the break.

We know you’ve got a crowdfunding campaign on the go, can you tell us how the money raised will help the wagon surf camp project?

Yep, we have a crowd funding page with IndieGoGo. I'm aiming to raise €3000. Until now the whole project has been self funded, but I knew I'd need this extra amount. I had a loan offer from the bank, but a friend persuaded me to try a crowd funding campaign, pre-selling packages at an introductory rate, in the hope to avoid being caned by the bank.

The funds will go towards getting us finished, getting the rad ramp/terrace made and fitted, getting a log burner, bedding, kitchen, appliances etc etc.

The support so far has been great both on an individual and organisational level. We're hugely grateful for all the support.

People can check out our campaign here: http://igg.me/at/wagon-surf-camp
and follow our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/wagonsurfcamp

Gordon Fontaine
Gordon Fontaine


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