Planning a surf charter with your friends is one of the most exciting things you could do. Choosing the location and boat, looking at all the videos of the waves you will surf, the new places you will visit and the surfboard quiver you will need, is extremely exciting.

But there are some serious things you really need to properly plan before you leave home. I have been on a lot of surf charters over the last 20 years and lucky for me most of my charters have resulted in a safe trip with great waves. However I do know of some friends that didn’t have such luck and became seriously injured, having to be evacuated from very remote places.

planning a surf charter
A typical surf charter boat in the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia. PC Dave Saprkes

Below I have listed my 5 most important tips when planning a surf charter.

1. TRAVEL INSURANCE

Obtaining travel insurance is the single most thing to purchase before your trip. There are many reasons to get travel insurance including refunds on cancelled flights, delayed travel and stolen or lost goods.

When planning a surf charter the single most important factor is to cover yourself in the event of serious injury. Hospital bills can be incredibly expensive overseas and if you have to be evacuated from remote locations, the cost of air lifting will run well over $100,000. Not to mention having good travel insurance will get you help at the very best hospitals.

Below are the main features you should look for in a good travel insurance policy:

Overseas medical expenses – covers all medical expenses in case of emergency

Additional accommodation and travel expenses – covers expenses for a travel companion or relative who needs to be with you in the event of illness to assist.

Medical evacuation and repatriation – covers for medical evacuation costs and repatriation back to your home country.

Cancellation costs – If you’re forced to cancel your trip due to unforeseen circumstances, covers all cancellation fees and deposits already paid.

Lost, stolen and damaged luggage – If your luggage or personal items are lost, stolen or damaged on your trip, covers the cost of their repair or replacement.

Personal liability – If, as the result of a negligent act during your journey, you’re responsible for injuring someone else or damaging their property, this benefit covers your legal liability cover.

Loss of Income – This benefit provides cover if you sustain an injury during your trip and are unable to go back to work when you return to Australia.

2/7 emergency assistance – hotline that can be contacted from anywhere in the world to organize evacuations

Credit cards and money – covers the theft of cash and credit cards during your trip, including protection if you become a victim of credit card fraud.

Permanent disability – lump sum payout if you become totally and permanently disabled as a result of an accidental injury during your trip.

2. EVACUATION PLAN

When planning a surf charter, knowing the evacuation plan before you travel could be the difference in saving your life or someone else. In the event on an emergency, the quicker you can get to medical help, the better the chances are of survival.

Knowing who to call in the event of an emergency, how to stabilize and transport an injured person to the best hospital, are all things that should be planned out prior to jumping on a surf charter.

Many of the surf charters should have their own evacuation plans. It is however worth asking prior to the trip what their plans are. Once on the boat get the captain to go through the plan with everyone. The plans for each surfing area maybe different, so make sure the captain is clear on his instructions. In the event of an emergency you will need a coordinated response from everyone on board to assist in the evacuation.

planning a surf charter
Using maps to plot the course for the next islands. It is always good to know the evacuation plan for each surfing sot. PC Dave Sparkes

It is also very important before you leave to make sure you know what condition the first aid kit is in on the boat and what products are in the kit. I have been on many surf charters and lot of the first aid kits have been very limited and with products passed their used by dates. Make sure also your travel insurance covers all evacuation costs including helicopter and plane transport.

Some of the surf breaks can be over 3 days sail from any help, so knowing how to evacuate an injured person quickly and in the correct manner can save someone’s life.

3. BOAT SAFETY

planing a surf charter
The wheel house and safety instruments onboard a surf charter. PC Dave Sparkes

Knowing the safety and condition of the boat is very important before leaving port. Make sure the boat is in seaworthy condition and that you have an experienced captain who has spent many hours navigating the waters you are about to surf.

Get the surf charter to send you a list of all the safety instruments and their condition on board the boat, including, satellite systems, weather radars, GPS, flares, emergency beacons, fire extinguishers, defibrillator, marine radio’s, life jackets and emergency boats.

Once on the boat, get the captain to go through the evacuation drill in the case of an emergency and everyone has to evacuate the boat. It is important to know these steps and what to do once you have evacuated the boat.

4. MEDICAL KIT

The surf charter should have an extensive medical kit, but you should take your own just in case they don’t. Medical kits should have enough supplies to treat someone who has been injured or suddenly becomes sick. They should always be kept in a cool and dry place.

A basic first aid kit should include;

  • Antiseptic
  • Painkillers
  • Wound-cleaning gauze
  • Sterile dressings
  • Bandage tape
  • Plasters
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Thermometer
  • Antihistamines
  • Sunburn treatment
  • Insect repellent
  • Latex gloves
  • Hydration tablets
  • Sea sick tablets
  • Gastro tablets
  • Ice pack
  • Rescue blanket for shock
  • Saline solution
  • Epipen

On top of bringing a medical kit, doing a CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) course prior to your trip is a great idea. Being a surfer you will be the first respondent in any emergency and knowing how to apply CPR can save someone’s life.

5. ITEMS TO BRING

When planning a surf charter there are a few important items to bring;

SURFBOARD QUIVER

Make sure you research the waves you will be surfing and check the forecast 10 days prior to going.

Know your surfing ability and pack a surfboard quiver which firstly suits your surfing ability and then the waves you will be surfing. I would always bring at least 3 boards, if you can. There is nothing worse then paying good money on a surf charter, but you break all your boards with 4 days to go.

planning a surf charter
Nathan Hedge displaying his surfboard quiver before a trip. PC Dave Sparkes

Bring the board you mostly surf at home and a back up board which has similar dimensions. Also bring a board which is about 3 inches longer to use when the waves get bigger.

Make sure you pack the boards in a quality board bag which will protect them from any damage and sun during travel. Throw in a few leashes , extra set of fins and some wax for the water temperature you will be surfing in.

CLOTHING

Most surf charters are in the tropics, so take a good pair board shorts or swimwear for surfing, rash top for sun protection and warmth on windy days, surfing hat to stop the glare in the water, booties in case you end up wiping out onto shallow reef, long pants and t-shirts to product from mosquitoes on dusk and dawn and just general tropical clothing like singlets, shorts, bikini, thongs etc.

REPAIR KIT

Bring a good repair kit in case you damage or break your boards. A good repair kit should have the following items:

  • Fiberglass cloth (at least 4oz)
  • Resin ( set the fiberglass to the board and fill holes)
  • Solarcure ( for smaller dings. Sets in 10 minutes)
  • Poly filler (fill large holes before applying fiberglass)
  • Scissors (cut fiberglass)
  • Razor ( trim sharp edges once fiberglass is set)
  • Sandpaper (sand back excess fiberglass once set and clean board)
  • Wooden stick and plastic cup (to mix resin and apply on board)
  • Spare fin plugs (in case you rip any out.)

CASH/CREDIT CARDS

Make sure you contact the surf charter and see what cash you need to bring and what items you need to purchase on board. Many items like beer, chocolate bars, soft drinks and extra water (usually allocated 1 water a day) you will have to pay extra for and this will be charged once you leave the boat.

Most times they only accept cash. Make sure you have enough cash or money on your credit card to cover an extra few nights just in case you are delayed or have an emergency.

planning a surf charter
Lunch time view from the charter while perfect waves break unridden. This is living!! PC Dave Sparkes

When planning a surf charter always plan properly as it can save you money and also your life. Being stuck in a remote location 3 days from any help, with inadequate medical supplies, no travel insurance or evacuation plan could make your dream trip become your worst nightmare. It could also change the course of your life. By just following the proper planning above you can avoid the nightmare, reduce your risk and enjoy your surf charter much more.

 

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Macca
Author

My travels as a professional surfer have taken me from my little home on the South Coast of N.S.W, Australia to over 40+ countries worldwide and counting. Surfing some of the most famous and remote waves in the world. I have had many highlights in my career, winning Australian titles, coming 5th on the ASP ( now known as the WSL) World Tour in 2005, numerous wins and finals, and beating some of the best surfers in the world including Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning and Andy Irons. Surfing and traveling is all I have known since I was 13 years old.

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