There was a time, back in the day, when sleeping in your car was the done thing.
We thought nothing of rocking a down the Welsh coast for a surf, having a good session, then getting out at sun down before heading in to town to get fish’n’chips and a few tinnies of whatever Spar had on spesh for the evening.
After the deep-fried, fat-injection we’d truck back to the beach, watch the last wisps of the sun go down over a few cold ones and talk story. As the dusk turned to night we’d still be there, talking crap, drinking, by now slightly tepid beer, and chewing over the day’s rides. At some point, generally when the beer was all gone and the regulation Austin Power’s style overly-long slash had been unleashed, we’d assume our positions.
Sleeping in a small car is not ideal. Especially when there are four of you, the car involved is a very compact, glorified shopping cart Peugeot and it’s just started raining.
Some people, like Tim Nunn, can sleep anywhere. Many times we’ve been stuck in some exotic ferry port or grime-laden airport and he’s literally just laid down on the concrete, face-down on a towel and been snoring within a few minutes. It’s an impressive super-power, which makes your surfing life so much easier. Batty is the same, towel, floor, snooze.
For those of us not blessed with slumbertastic skill, us regular Joes, it goes something like this: get into car (cursing under your breath if you’re the unlucky fecker that drove and hence has to put up with the steering wheel and pedals) get awkwardly comfortable, put on a thousand-yard stare, wish you were home in your nice comfy bed and wait.
If, like your correspondent, sleeping in a sitting upright position is all but impossible this wait goes on most of the night. Yep. Can’t sleep on planes, trains or automobiles.
So. You grit your teeth, curse, fidget and generally wonder if this surfing lark is really worth such discomfort; whilst wishing a plague of nose-dives, drop-ins and nasty board-up-the-rectum style accidents on the snoring happy-campers around you. The smug bastards. Cosy as baby field mice they are, wrapped in sleeping bags with damp towels for pillows, they’re all firmly asleep, they’re all snoring and each corpulent body is intermittently letting off the ghostly gaseous remains of the deep-fried muck that masquerades for English cuisine.
In your wired, half-awake state you’ll swear each little parp is preceded by the faintest of smirks, hard to tell in the half light, but even in sleep they mock you, your nostrils and your unwelcome awakeness.
The hours pass. The car windows become a smear of condensation. You wonder if the judge would be lenient when you appear before the bench on three charges of murder.
After all, with everyone else asleep it would be easy. There’s just cause, not only are they all taunting you, smugly resting their surf tired limbs, but the straps tying the boards down, or to be more precise, the strap over your head only, is dripping rain water on your head … Chinese water torture, Welsh style.
A plan forms, smother the buggers in their sleep with your wet, stinky towel, chuck the bodies in the fierce rip at Fresh, drive home several boards richer and dive straight into the heavenly confines of your shower then bed. The bodies would be long gone, off into the deep Atlantic, pecked to bits by fish, seagulls and, if the salty old sea-dog fisherman down the quay is to be believed, sharks. One way of reducing the crowd at least.
The rain stops, and in time the drip stops harassing you, the grey light of pre-dawn gives the world ghostly definition. Still awake, but in some kind of ultra-tired trance, everything seems peaceful. You reflect on the guffing, snoring, bodies around you, stifle a chuckle at the faces people make when they’re asleep and watch almost hypnotised by the gravity defying bead of dribble hanging from the side of your co-pilot’s mouth.
As dawn struggles into the world you can just start to make out lines, the swell has picked up from the evening before; the wind is faultlessly offshore. Sneaky thoughts of slipping out of the man-stench pit for a crafty early surf cross your mind. Could get the whole place to yourself, whilst Team Snuggles snore on, dreaming they’re JOB dropping into Backdoor.
The choice is thus: a warm, but uncomfortable, smelly, damp car, versus getting into an extremely wet, overly sandy, painfully cold and down right nasty wetsuit. A tough choice.
You decide to wait a bit, let some more light creep across the land and maybe get half an hours shut-eye. Now that it’s nearly light your body relents … fitful sleep takes over.
You wake with a start, simultaneously banging your head on the window and stubbing your toe into the pedals. Drool is plastered through your stubble; it’s a winning look. Your brain synapses try to get going but keep misfiring, you try to move and ‘Ow! Shit, what the?’ your neck is locked in a spasm, due to sleeping in such awkward manner. Great. What a way to start the day. No coffee and a screwed neck. At least it’s time for a surf, as you gingerly turn round it becomes apparent Team Fart Squad have nicked off for the early.
Setting a new world record for the amount of times one person can swear in five minutes you suit up, cursing your mates, the world, your neck and the seagulls. The first hit of pure, green Atlantic snaps you out of the frenzy. The first duckdive washes away the sleep grime and bad mood. Rhythmically stroking out to the peak you see one of your so-called mates take off and pull into a feisty little keg, he plunges an arm into the face, stalling, gives you a fruity little wave from the tube with the other hand. You reply with a swift, but cheery, single finger salute and keep paddling.
Once out back your mates are in good spirits, they slept for eight hours, why wouldn’t they be? They didn’t wake you because you looked so peaceful, and we know it’s hard for you to sleep in the car.
Next set, the first wave is yours, snapping to your feet the neck spasm arcs pain through your whole body. Surfing like someone that can’t move his or her neck you gingerly trim down the line. The wave starts to bowl and double up, it’s gonna shack, you try and bend to duck into the tube but can’t. The lip hits you square in the side of the head and you get worked.
When getting mowed by a healthy chunk of Atlantic there is time for reflection, as you bounce off the sandbar you forgive your mates, your neck frees up and you look forward to another day of waves and good times.
As you get older sleeping in your car seems a bit undignified. You feel you need, or deserve, a B&B, hell a boutique coastal hotel that are all the rage these days.
That is, of course, crap.
As you get older, you get wiser, you also get a bigger car. Or a van. Plenty of room to stretch out in the back…
Words & Photos Sharpy