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In the final installment of this mini-series, I wanted to address one of the most important aspects of traveling: safety. This excuse is definitely valid and the worthy of hesitation. No surfing adventure is worth risking your life, but there are countless ways to enjoy a trip without making one of your sightseeing stops the hospital. Traveling alone, especially as a woman, I always get the question, “Isn’t that so dangerous?” Of course, the world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but as long as you use your brain while traveling, you will come home from your trip in one piece.
Surfing-wise, this one’s a no-brainer: KNOW YOUR LIMITS! This is the rule no matter if you are traveling or just at your home break. Only you know exactly where your abilities lie, and if you don’t feel confident paddling out on a big day, it is always best just take it easy and wait for the swell to die down. Although they look gorgeous in photos, if you haven’t been surfing that long, don’t choose to go on a trip to some remote island that only has super fast waves breaking over sharp, shallow reefs. Usually, these types of spots (such as the Mentawais), have some more beginner-friendly options at other camps or islands.
There are definitely countries that, at this point in time, are considerably more risky to travel to than others, and some of these countries happen to have some of the best waves in the world. However, many of the famous surfing locations rely on tourism to fuel their local economies, so there is, for the most part, a much lower rate of violence. Living so close to Mexico, we hear about gang violence and banditos all the time, and while criminal acts toward tourists have lessened in recent years, driving around Mex is still sort of asking for trouble. The good thing is, flying to major hubs like Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas are easier than ever, and from there, a quick drive can get you to some awesome surf destinations. While choosing safer locations doesn’t totally eliminate risk from your vacation, this is a friendly reminder that you are putting yourself at risk anytime you even step out the door and drive to work, so you may as well live life to the fullest!
The most common safety issues on surf trips generally have very little to do with surfing, and a lot to do with alcohol. Whenever I hear of a friend getting injured on a surf trip to Indonesia, my first guess is that they’ve gotten into a scooter accident - and usually, this is the case. The equation is relatively simple. One inexperienced motorbike driver + 10 Bintangs + 1000 other motorbikes on the road = a bad time. For some reason, people often tend to think that abroad, they are invincible, and do all sorts of stuff they would never try at home, such as drunk driving, or getting into fights with Brazilian surfers, or testing the patience of police officers. I’m not going to suggest that you don’t imbibe whilst holidaying, but for your own safety, just try to take it easy. Trust me, you’ll be a lot happier with that choice when you wake up feeling fresh and ready to get the best waves of your life the next day!
I know that I am not the world’s number one expert on surf travel advice, but I have learned a thing or two from my experiences. Since I so often am asked about these topics, I figured I might as well share some of my tips here, and I hope that you have taken at least one pointer away from reading this mini-series! Stay safe out there, and happy travels!