The Coast News Group
My favorite surf car with my two of my favorite boards inside. Photo by Chris Ahrens
Columns Waterspot

Waterspot: My favorite surf car

Big-wave riding records were broken early this year as an extended period of above average-sized surf creased the shores from Oahu to Mavericks to Northern Baja.

Our local breaks were not exempt with waves up to 10 feet giving kids of all ages both a scare and a thrill.

For those holed up at home, please note that there is still life to be had at the edge of the earth wherever sand meets saltwater.

While being in the right spot accounts for rush, getting to the right spot can be a challenge.

Whether by boat, plane or automobile, you need a reliable vehicle rugged enough to withstand the slings and arrows of blowing sand and lingering salt crystals and big enough to accommodate several anxious and often wet bodies.

While I have never owned a woody, a panel truck or a Sprinter Van, I have had four VW buses, two American-made vans, a truck with a camper attached and three station wagons during the past half century.

While the VWs were great for camping, they were sluggish and tended to overheat, as evidenced by two of them blending into the Baja desert after they collapsed on the side of the road decades ago.

At least the other two had the decency to blow on this side of the border. While they rarely overheated, my American vans had problems of their own. The station wagons were the best of the bunch with low wind resistance and good sleeping capacity.

Tip: When looking for a surf van find something out of fashion. In the early ’60s, woodies could be purchased for the cost of a pair of Air Jordans, but now bring many times that amount.  VW vans are as cool as ever, more expensive than ever and still blow up easily. (A conversion to electric via Michael Bream’s EV West might be in order.)

If I were looking for a great surf vehicle at a low price I would look no further than a minivan owned by some attentive soccer mom. Currently they offer the most metal for the money.

But I am not looking for a surf car; I have everything I need in my 2005 Honda Element even thought it has nearly 200,000 miles on it.

That green machine never breaks down, fits boards up to 9 feet long inside, the back seats are removable and the rubber flooring is strong enough to withstand abuse from even the most determined gremmies.

I have never verified this, but I am told that the Element was designed partially by surfers, for surfers. Others who benefit from this design are campers and day-trippers since the spare tire cover converts into a picnic table and a nylon tent easily attaches to the rear hatch. 

The downside is gas mileage, which is only around 20 mpg because of poor aerodynamics due to the car’s boxy exterior.

Most people don’t sell their Elements but when they do you can find them for a decent price (I recommend buying one with a manual shift since they get better mileage and are less expensive since few new drivers know how to shift gears using a clutch).

Anyway, the Element has been a great surf car for me, and I don’t anticipate updating my transportation mode anytime soon. I’d like to hear about your favorite.

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