Although hardly a matter of life and death, some sound portable speakers instantly increase stoke levels while abroad. Photo: Gilley

Rob Gilley

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

Last week I updated my list of essential, inexpensive items to bring with you whenever you fly somewhere on a surf trip. This week I thought I would offer some next level stuff: optional items that can upgrade your journey from run-of-the-mill to killing it. These are optional because they can be somewhat expensive, a bit unnecessary, and add some unwanted weight to your luggage. On the other hand, they can also cause fellow travelers to ask you for your autograph.

Noise Canceling Headphones
The technology behind these bad boys is barely believable: by sending out silent-to-the-ear counter-audio signals, they virtually cancel out the obnoxious droning cacophony of a jet engine, and can change flying into a symphonic cloud ride. Suddenly, sleep becomes a possibility. Plus, draped around your neck and paired with a tweed coat, skinny jeans, and some Converse Chuck Taylors, you can change yourself from a regular slob into a post-modern, TMZ cliché.

Approx. cost = $200.00

Waterproof Backpack
This item borderline makes the necessary list. With the possible bulky exception of a Pelican case, there is simply no better way to protect your precious electronic/camera gear during those surf-related boat transfers. These backpacks are a simple addition to your board bag, aren't especially pricey, and are basically a rich man's plastic garbage bag.

Approx. Cost = $100.00

E-Reader/Small Tablet Computer
While surf trips can present welcome opportunities to escape technology, itcan't be denied that having a small tablet computer can be a crucial way of staying in touch with the world and family back home. Although I'm usually an Apple guy, I prefer the multi-use of a Wi-Fi enabled E-reader like the Amazon Kindle Fire or the Nook Color because they mitigate book weight, are relatively inexpensive, have a larger screen than an iPhone or an iTouch, and run Adobe Flash for free surf forecasting sites like

Approx. Cost = $200.00

Monster Wireless FM Transmitter
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this cord-oriented device, it magically allows you to play your portable MP3 player/iPod on your rent-a-car stereo. And given the normal selections available in most foreign countries, this can be a very worthwhile investment. Just plug in this device in to your car's cigarette lighter, dial your stereo to a matching radio station and voila: your pre-surf playlist comes to life.

Approx. cost = $80.00

One of the only things that can ruin the post all-day-surf euphoria on surf trips is desperate hunger, and the further prospect of not being able to get to food for hours. One way to mitigate this is to bring some with you: trail mix and granola bars can be a life saver. Savvy surf travelers have been known to stock up at Trader Joe's and then pull out the pistachios or the Temptation Trail Mix at Beer-Thirty, forever endearing them to their surf companions. And here's an extra tip: try to avoid chocolate snacks unless you wanted a melted, inconsumable mess later in the trip.

Approx. Cost = $20.00

Insignia Travel Speaker/Case
There's nothing like accentuating the post all-day euphoria of a surf trip than with some righteous tunes. The only problem is that most devices (laptops in particular) aren't loud enough, and most travel speakers on offer are too big, heavy, or cord-tangled. However, I'm happy to report that I've recently found the Promised Land: an inexpensive, innovative "case" speaker system from Insignia. This device is a lightweight dual speaker system which simultaneously houses/protects your MP3 device, and pumps your tunes with a surprising amount of volume. A true revelation—don't leave home without one.

Approx. Cost = $15.00

Starbucks Via
With the relatively recent introduction of Via, Starbucks has revolutionized the away-from-civilization experience for quality coffee lovers. These one cup packets of tasty, instant surf fuel will force you to leave the bulky, fragile French press at home, and have been known to single-handedly extend deep Baja trips. Infinitely packable and practical for those longer distance trips as well.

Approx. cost = $10.00 (pack of 12)