Six Travel Essentials You Didn't Know You Needed

Matt Rode

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Updated 103d ago

When we chase waves, our minds naturally focus on the fun our coming trips have in store for us. Weeks before departure we have already figured out what boards we want to take, bought temperature-appropriate wax, and ensured our wetsuits and leashes are all up to snuff. Packing for a surf trip isn’t hard, because for the most part we are dealing with things we love to touch and look at and think about anyway.

But there are a number of less-exciting items that are often left at home—and these just happen to be items that could make or break a trip, especially if things were to go a little awry while traveling. Once you have your board bag stuffed and your sunscreen packed, remember these six items as well.

Forecast: UK weekend outlook

You wanna get to far flung places? Get some straps, just in case.

The one piece of surf equipment that is most often forgotten when packing for a trip is a set of straps. While the majority of your travel will hopefully be done in one long, continuous, convenient trip, you never know when you might end up needing to strap your boards to the roof of a random van, taxi, or other form of conveyance. Especially when traveling alone, or when traveling in a country that isn’t accustomed to surf tourism, a solid set of Baja straps can mean the difference between getting to where you want to go and getting landlocked in a dirty, crowded capital city.

A quiver of apps

Upgraded to MSW Pro yet? If you're travelling, it's handy to have extended forecasts, ad-free webcams and more.

Upgraded to MSW Pro yet? If you're travelling, it's handy to have extended forecasts, ad-free webcams and more.

Two decades ago it was normal to wander through foreign lands with only the clothes on your back, the boards in your bag, and a hand drawn map in your pocket. Today it is certainly still possible to travel old school style—but in the age of smartphones there’s absolutely no reason to do so.

Having the internet at your fingertips makes travel safer and more convenient in so many ways that for many it has become the most important tool in their travel kits. With a smartphone you can check magicseaweed (of course), book Ubers, Airbnbs, and plane tickets, use Google Earth, Google Maps, pay credit cards and move money through online banking, keep up with work, stay in touch with family and friends, and even use the Find My Phone tool to get out of trouble. Just make sure you have all of the essential mobile apps downloaded before you leave home—or risk incurring some hefty data bills.

Hand sanitiser

Pull into anywhere, you're greeted with this and you're too ill? Don't take the chance.

The only thing worse than getting skunked on a trip is scoring waves but being too sick to enjoy them. Airplanes and other forms of public transportation are veritable petri dishes of bacteria and viruses, and the chances of being exposed to a nasty bug when surrounded by hundreds of other people are pretty high.

You can help lower those chances by keeping your hands clean with hand sanitiser or alcohol wipes, as hand-to-mouth transmission is the single most common way that sickness is spread. Also consider packing a simple face mask if you are concerned about airborne illnesses.

Power adapter
This one should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people forget their power adapter at home, or forget to buy one altogether. Different regions tend to share common power plugs, so research the area you are visiting before you leave and make sure you have the right adapters packed.

Forecast: SoCal

Cold-water accoutrements

Wetsuits being what they are these days, we are just as likely to travel to the Arctic as we are to the equator. When surfing cold-water destinations, bring along an easily collapsible bag to hold post-surf wetsuits. When not keeping your urine-soaked rubber from polluting the car, this bag can serve any number of other uses

When not keeping your urine-soaked rubber from polluting the car, this bag can serve any number of other uses. Also make sure to bring along a handful of smaller plastic bags, which can double as trash receptacles and aids for pulling damp wetsuits over your feet. An insulated thermos is a great way to have hot water waiting for you after your frigid session—which you will obviously pour down the chest of your wettie.

As a bonus, you can use the thermos for drinking while on flights, so you don’t have to contribute to the growing garbage problem by receiving your water in single-use plastic cups.

Warm-water extras

When surfing in the tropics, temperature regulation isn’t as important as sun protection. While hats and sunglasses built for surfing typically look ridiculous, they can literally save your trip—particularly if you score as hard as you are hoping, and need to surf 10 hours per day, multiple days in a row.

Roasted eyeballs have led to many missed barrels in the past, and will continue to do so as long as perfect conditions grace equatorial climes. Lubricating eye drops will help with recovery, so make sure to have those packed as well—but the best option is to avoid burning your retinas in the first place.

Speaking of lube, cavorting in board shorts in foreign environs has been known to lead to rashes in the most sensitive of areas. A bit of Vaseline can mean the difference between riding all day and limping home with that dry, sandpapery feeling.

Cover shot by XL Swell