I’m entering my second decade as a surfer, and I certainly look the part: crow’s feet around the eyes from too many hours spent squinting at the sun, longish hair, ocean-themed tattoos on my ankle and right bicep, and a rig that fits the lifestyle – a 2002 Xterra with a surfboard rack and the ever-present old milk crate stuffed with wetsuits and gear in the cargo space. The SUV has served me well; I can haul two boards on the roof, and if it’s just me, two more inside the cab. I’ve driven it the length of the Pacific Coast Highway and down into Baja in search of waves, and it’s got the scars to prove it. It’s also worked out great as a dadmobile: big enough to haul my two kids and my dog comfortably. Would I ever get a minivan? Time was I’d laugh at the mere thought of it. Has there ever been a car as emasculating as a minivan?
As it turns out, we dads may have gotten the minivan thing completely wrong. Oh, I’d heard for years that the minivan was the vehicle of choice for surfers up in Oregon and even Washington, for one simple reason: you can get in and out of your wetsuit in warm, dry comfort, the van serving as a dressing room on cold Pacific Northwest mornings. Still, that was never something I needed to worry about down here in sunny southern California. But as Rob Gilley writes in his Surfer magazine blog, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The minivan is, in fact, the Ultimate Surfmobile.
Gilley spoke with veteran big-wave surfing legend Grant Washburn about the mini-van, and why every surfer should drive one. Among its virtues, cites Washburn: it’s a mobile changing/motel room (perfect for multi-day surf trips), and its board-hauling capacity is formidable (room for at least three, and Washburn claims to be able to put a “stack of 10-footers” inside, with space remaining for passengers). Another bonus: when you’re away from the van, your mind is at ease, knowing that your boards and gear are safely stowed and locked away inside. (During my days driving a pickup, I had one backpack and one wetsuit swiped from the open bed while I was off doing something else for a few moments.)
Washburn calls himself a “passionate devotee” of the mini-van, and his arguments are compelling; he notes that many of the surfers at northern California’s Maverick’s (one of the world’s biggest and most dangerous waves) drive mini-vans, and so there’s not as much stigma as one might think. Coupled with the decent gas mileage most mini-vans get, I can (swallows pride) easily see myself trading in the SUV for, say, a new Honda Odyssey. Soccer Mom, meet Surfer Dad.
Ready to take the plunge? Check out Babble’s Best Minivans for 2011!