A cautionary surf trip tale
“Shit we’ve been robbed”. The phrase uttered by one of our crew when the realisation dawned on us that our car had been broken into and we had been royally done over.
Picture the scene…four Brit surfers on day one of their surf trip to Portugal return to their hire car to find that they have collectively lost:
3 x mobile phones
1x video camera
2x digital cameras
And around 400 Euros in cash
Gutted. The perfect word to describe how we felt at that point in time.
We were on a brief four day surf trip to Peniche in celebration of James ‘Sharkbait‘ Onslow’s 40th birthday. There were four of us in total – myself and James, plus Rob and Jon – all local surfers from the Brighton area.
The victims (l-r): the author, Jon, Rob, Birthday Boy, brand new car hire that’s easy to break into
And yes I know what you’re thinking, “why take all that stuff with you in the car?”. Well the simple answer is habit. We’d surfed in the morning of our first day in the area at Almagreira, a spot just north of Peniche.
After lunch and a recharge at the house we were staying in, we returned to the same spot for the afternoon’s pushing tide.
If any of you know the area, you will know that Almagreira is located in the middle of nowhere. It’s up a dusty, rutted track and you park at the top of the red cliffs then scramble down to surf.
The scene of the crime…good waves though!
So on leaving the house I had done the natural thing I always do, grab my wallet and phone and stick them in my pockets. The schoolboy errors of course were that: a) I didn’t actually need my wallet or the 250 Euros in it and b) I didn’t need my phone. But I guess I didn’t think. It was just an instinctive thing and even if I had thought about it, I still would have probably thought “well it will be safe in the car anyway”.
And in theory it should have been the case with all our stuff. We didn’t leave it on display and locked everything in the boot of our brand new Ford Focus hire car. But all it took, as we discovered afterwards on returning to the car, was a quick screwdriver into the passenger door and the boot catch to be popped.
To be fair to the thieving scum, they did only take the cash and left all my cards in my wallet. And my phone was insured too (as was the stuff from the other boys). However it was the hassle of having to go to the local Policia and fill in lots of paperwork (and deal with holiday/mobile phone insurance people on our return to the UK).
Naturally we were all a bit fed up for a few hours, but by the evening and the first ice cold Sagres, we had all realised that it could have been worse, the waves were good and it was James birthday!
Drowning our sorrows in Tres As, Peniche
I guess the moral of the story is: “only take with you what you ACTUALLY need”. You can’t avoid your car or van being broken into (as alarms probably won’t stop them if they are desperate), especially somewhere remote, but you can minimise what they can take.
One note here is that I’ve been to Portugal around eight times and have never experienced any theft from cars. It’s a problem that’s not just prevalent in this area, but everywhere across the globe. Surfers (and their shiny hire cars) are easy targets in a way, as the thieves can watch you paddle out then know they have time on their side.
I was prompted to retell this story as I’m just a few weeks away from making a return to Peniche again. This time I get to share my trip with my girlfriend and introduce her to the delights Portugal and the Silver Coast have to offer.
Also it’s a surf trip with a difference in that the main reason is to check out the Rip Curl Pro , plus potentially catch a few waves myself.
I’ve seen really good Brit surfers rip it up here, plus locals in the US, Spain, France and Portugal surf their local breaks, but the chance to see the top 34 surf one of the world’s best waves is too good an opportunity to miss.
And judging by the current rankings (depending on how the Quik Pro in France goes), my girlfriend (who is well and truly #TeamFanno) could be over the moon.