Small Saviors

Keeping track of the little things can make all the difference when surfing abroad. Photo: Gilley

Rob Gilley

Previously in denial about his photographic past, Rob Gilley now rummages through his trove of mediocrity.

For an American surfer, leaving home is a lot harder than it use to be. The dollar is weaker, a passport is required for Mexico and Canada, and security procedures are a huge hassle.

International air travel in particular can be a downright bitch.

The more you travel, though, the more you have a chance to be prepared for your next journey. You can discover the subtleties of counter agent sweet talk, learn how to sniff out the best rent-a-car deals, and explore ways to maximize your surf experience.

Over time, one of the things you realize about surf travel is that small things can make a huge difference. Items that would be just an afterthought at home are precious on the road.

Below you will find six such things that, from my experience, can transform potential surf trip roadblocks into buttery transitions:

1. Working Pen
Approx. Cost=$1.00

They say a pen is mightier than the sword and at no time is that more true than when you've just cleared a long security line and you've got 90 seconds to fill out a customs form. It's simple: you've got a pen that works and you make your connection, or you don't and you sit on your ass in Heathrow for another 17 hours. Your call.

2. Roll of Toilet Paper
Approx. Cost = $1.00

There is perhaps no better advice I can pass along. Putting a roll of toilet paper in your bag is one of the best insurance policies known to man. Whether its constant post nasal drip caused by poor airplane air circulation, or a sketchy bathroom in the middle of the African desert, a roll of toilet paper can be your new best friend. Do yourself a favor: before your next surf trip, squeeze the Charmin and throw it in your carry-on.

3. Headlamp
Approx. Cost = $20.00

Headlamps have become more popular over the last few years, and for good reason. The hands-free nature of these devices make such things such as collecting firewood in a scorpion-infested desert or peeing off a cliff much safer. Using one of these devices to read a book or to find a bathroom instead of turning on a light can save you from a middle-of-the-night beating by a roommate. They are nerdy, but worth the ridicule.

4. Hooded Sweatshirt
Approx. Cost = $25.00

I don't care if you're going to the warmest place on earth, always bring a sweater or jacket with you. Whether it's a freezing airplane, an air-conditioned ferry, or an ice-cold tropical rainstorm, I can't tell you how many times I've wished for something warmer to wear. I prefer a dark hooded sweatshirt because stains are less visible, and the hood can act as a pillow layer and a sound dampener on a flight. Essential, functional white trash fashion.

5. An Extra, Different Brand Credit Card
Approx. Cost = Free

ATMs are everywhere these days, but one thing you might not know is that entire brands of credit cards are barred in certain countries. Also, American banks are notorious for rejecting authorization of purchases in countries outside of normal use. So if you have a Visa Card, bring a Master Card too. Or an American Express. Or both. This can save your ass in an emergency.

6. The Holy Trinity: Throat lozenges, Antacid, and Ibuprofen
Approx. Cost = $10.00

First aid kits are great, but chances are that you'll probably never use one. On the other hand, the odds of you getting a sore throat, stomach ache or a headache on a foreign trip are better than Kelly Slater winning another world title.