How NOT to Do Surf Camp in Fuerteventura

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Some trips turn out perfectly, everything goes as planned. Better than planned. You discover jaw-dropping scenery and magical places off the beaten track, make local friends who introduce you to delicious authentic local dishes. Come home with a tan, great photos, and a renewed energy and perspective on your life.

Some trips don’t go as planned at all.

My trip to Fuerteventura was one of the latter.

View across the barren hills of Fuerteventura.

Inspired by this post by Spencer over at Whisky Tango Globetrot, I headed to Spain’s Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands to try surfing. I’d fallen in love with sailing and figured this passion would naturally spill over to other watersports, so I booked myself some lessons at Aloha Surf Academy and planned to island hop before flying back from Gran Canaria.

Related read: Where to Find the Unspoilt Fuerteventura

THIS IS NOT WHAT TRAVEL MOJO LOOKS LIKE

Mistake #1 LOSING MY PASSPORT

There are some people who plan as if every disaster is going to happen to them. Not me. I was damned surprised to discover that my passport was gone. And a bit flummoxed because, to be honest, I hadn’t given much thought to such a scenario. It probably involves embassies, right? But what if you’re on an island? And you have no money? I had no idea (mistake #1a).

My flight had been diverted to Lisbon thanks to a broken toilet. A couple I met on the plane kindly gave me a lift to Corralejo, the town I was staying in, as the last bus had long since gone.

Soon after, I realised the absence of my wallet containing my bank cards and passport (rookie mistake! #1b), although thankfully not my small wad of spare cash. Hopefully the wallet had fallen out of my bag in the back of the car, however, I hadn’t thought to take the Kind Couple’s contact details.

A fraught day of face-palming ensued.

Thankfully the travel gods were smiling upon me that day. Just as I was preparing to knock on the door of every villa on the island, I saw them marching down the street towards me—passport in hand!

I was lucky.

By this point, though, I’d already cancelled my bank cards. My budget had just got substantially smaller.

Mistake #2 NOT WEARING SUNCREAM

Passport safely locked away, cortisol levels returning to normal, I knocked back a piña colada and promptly fell asleep on the beach. With no suncream on.

Hey, at least I blended in with my fellow Brits abroad.

Boat on a beach, Isla des Lobos, Fuerteventura

Mistake #3 INFLATED EXPECTATIONS

The expectation

I’ll be honest, getting to know Fuerteventura wasn’t my top priority. It was the end of winter and I was in search of sunshine and #surflife.

I had envisaged an incredible week catching my first waves, feeling close to nature, taking yoga classes on the beach, drinking smoothies, and chilling out around campfires with new friends. Isn’t that what surfers do? I even compiled an amazing playlist.

Tiny wave at Corralejo, Fuerteventura

The reality

Everyone in the surf lodge just wanted to talk about surfing and go to bed early, which is kind of boring if you don’t catch the bug. There was no drinking, no campfire, no music. I had a few lonely wanders in search of smoothies and other things I could no longer justify buying.

The yoga sessions all seemed to involve unrealistically early mornings. I was so beat from the waves and the wind and the sunburn that I didn’t feel remotely healthy. All I wanted was beer and a sofa and my pyjamas.

Surfboards on the beach, Fuerteventura

Mistake #4 NOT TRYING SURFING BEFORE I BOOKED SURF CAMP

Now, Whisky Tango Globetrot did make this sensible recommendation, but I didn’t want a little thing like inexperience to get in between me and #surflife.

If I had tried surfing beforehand would I have signed up for a camp? Maybe not.

Surfing is HARD. It’s exhausting being pummelled by waves all day. It’s nothing like sailing, where you sit around on a boat a lot of the time, sometimes with a beer.

Aloha surf camp van, Fuerteventura

Mistake #5 BOOKING ACCOMMODATION AND LESSONS SEPARATELY

I chose to stay at Billabong Beach House as it had dorm rooms right on Waikiki Beach, but I took my lessons with Aloha. With hindsight, it would have been a more sociable experience if I’d booked accommodation and lessons with the same outfit.

Sensibly though, I had only booked 2 days of lessons in advance rather than a whole week, planning to extend if I enjoyed it.

(Not that I would have been able to pay for extra lessons anyway without my bank cards. Oooops.)

This turned out to be a wise move, because . . .

READER, I QUIT

I’d love for this story to end with my triumphant first wave, but it doesn’t.

After the first day, I consigned myself to bodyboarding (which is fun!).

After the second day, I gave up. Let’s just say I’m not structurally built for surfing. Plus, I was really sunburnt.

This is no reflection on Aloha, I was impressed with the quality of instruction, but ultimately surfing was not for me. I’m not afraid to change my plans, and I wanted to make the most of my remaining time and money.

Time to tap back into my modus operandi—cheese-exploring, tiny islands, hammock-time, cheap sangria, ancient civilisations, abandoned convents, and long winding bus journeys with a driver intent on teaching me the Spanish names for every animal that we pass. Not wanting to aggravate my sunburn, I bought a hat and hit the road.

#stephlife, not #surflife!

I was just getting into the groove of this weird and intriguing island when I started to seriously worry about my lack of money. Then somehow I managed to score a last-minute €20 flight home. How often does that happen?

So last minute, in fact, that my name wasn’t on the flight list when I turned up at the airport. I got home in the end, but my plans to island-hop in the Canaries will have to wait for another time.

But I might skip the surfing.

On the road in Fuerteventura

HOW TO AVOID A PASSPORT PANIC

  1. Travel with more than one set of bank cards, stashed in different places, plus emergency cash, spare passport photos, and a photocopy of your passport
  2. If you do lose your passport, find the number for your consulate in the country that you’re in
  3. File a police report
  4. Use your backup card/emergency cash to get to your nearest consulate (in this case, Las Palmas on Gran Canaria)
  5. Apply for an emergency travel document

Have you also tried—and sucked at—surfing? Tell me I’m not the only one. Should I give it another go?

Fancy yourself as a surfer? That time I quit surf camp in Fuerteventura in Spain's Canary Islands, and what I did on the island instead.
Fancy yourself as a surfer? That time I quit surf camp in Fuerteventura in Spain's Canary Islands, and what I did on the island instead.

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