Andrew, what attracts a guy from Devon to surf gigantic monster waves?
ANDREW I just always followed what I enjoyed. I grew up at the sea and I always wanted to be a professional surfer. I love the sea, the water. It’s always been an outlet, a good place to be. But I was a terrible contest surfer. Still, I noticed that my strength lay in the big waves. I followed my passion and I didn’t give up.
What does it take to be good in riding big waves?
ANDREW I think it’s the mindset, the way of handling anxiety and fear. I enjoy taking risks and I enjoy succeeding. So, over the years, it just escalated. It started in Hawaii when I was 19 and eventually, I returned to Europe, pioneered spots in Ireland and came to Portugal.
It’s an exceptional sport – difficult, demanding, dangerous. How do you train your body and your mind?
ANDREW Fitness is crucial. The fitter you are the less risk you have to drown. Fortunately, I like hard training. Strength is important, and for cardio I spend a lot of time on my bike. And yoga for holding positions and gaining flexibility. About a decade ago, I started looking into breathing and realized how linked it was to your mind, plus how easy it is to work on it, too. You can control your emotions and anxiety through breath. It’s amazing how more productive and harder you can go. A breath changes everything.
You have been travelling all your life, but you’ve always lived in apartments. Have you never considered a mobile home?
ANDREW To be honest, I never really was into it. I brought my car to Portugal and rented a place. But, of course, you’re moving around hunting the waves as a surfer. You look at the charts and surf reports and then you go to the best spots. When I was set up by Sunlight with a van, I was pretty much hooked within a week! Seriously, it’s just nuts. It’s so good. I would never have thought it would be so comfortable.
Anything in particular you love?
ANDREW Well, surfing is always about the moments. It’s about being flexible and being at the right spots at the right time. You also want to catch the first waves before the crowds get on it. Sleeping comfortably at the beachside, waking up, having breakfast and a coffee, cold milk, using the bathroom, while watching the sea – it really doesn’t get any better.
Oh, and, obviously the heating. I come in turn on the heating and dry my wetsuit within hours. Job down. The V66 also has a huge garage and I can put in my bike as well as the boards.
Your favourite spots:
ANDREW I guess Portugal is probably one of the best countries for camper van life. All along the coast from Porto to Sagres, you find amazing places. I mean standing in Nazaré with your mobile home is nuts. I can’t believe having this allowed. In general, I’m pretty focused on surf spots and therefore probably missing out on a lot. But when my kids came over to Portugal we headed to the mountains and then back to the beach. It’s all so doable and so cost-effective.
Are there any places you’re longing to see?
ANDREW There’s a corner of Galicia, the northwestern part of Spain, that has amazing little bays I really want to check out.
Any recommendations from the freshly converted motorhome lover?
ANDREW The more you do the more you learn. I always check out GoogleMaps now, making sure that the roads are camper friendly. And with a Sunlight van you have to expect visits. It’s crazy. Everyone here comes by, checking out my new home. They go “no way” and are really blown away – and then they ask for a coffee. I’ve turned into the local coffee shop.