5 Ways for Surfers to Save Gas Money

With gas prices exploding, there are a number of simple ways to save money – and the planet – by cutting your fuel costs in order to continue commuting to the beach.

With gas at an average of $4.71 a gallon in San Diego County, commuters, and especially surfers, are scrambling to reduce their fuel consumption.

Surfers waste gas while driving non-stop coastal loops in search of the best waves and let their vehicle idle endlessly during street end or beach parking lot surf checks.

Surfers love their gas guzzling, bro-dude monster surf mobiles that boost macho core-scores, but put a strain on bank accounts and produce smog alerts.

A fair share of surfers pack their quiver in the back of a lifted 4x4 F-350 crew cab, which makes sense when hauling a trailer filled with sand toys to the desert, but not so much when it comes to driving a mile to the beach.

There are, however, some creative and innovative ways to save fuel, the planet and money in order to arrive at the beach for a surf.

Although for some conservatives "conservation" is a dirty word, for this old-school cheapo, anything that directs less of my paycheck to the monolithic retrograde oil industry and all the dictators who love to sell us petroleum (e.g. Hugo Chavez), it's a good thing.

Trade in Your Gas Guzzler

For everyone who bought their mega-truck on zero percent financing and now pays $170 to fill the gas tank, run to your nearest auto dealer and trade it in for a hybrid or electric vehicle. My Honda hybrid averages about 40 MPG and it fits four groms. With the money I save on gas, I can afford to buy the groms tacos at Rubio's after a run to Black's. If the groms don't like your new wheels with less leg room, make them hitchhike.


You know that really mean and grumpy silverback who screams at you everyday in the lineup even though you’ve surfed together for more than 20 years and live down the street from him? Well, next time he lovingly blasts you with an insult, pitch him on a carpool.

As in, “Hey bro—look I know surfing makes you incomprehensibly angry, but why don’t I ease your pain by joining you on the beach commute and we’ll share some tasty waves together?”

Paint a picture of all the fun you’ll have and even offer to let him slap you around in front of his crew for spilling Yerba Mate on his ride. So make some new friends, save some money and bring peace and joy to your spot by bringing carpooling to your lineup.

Recover a Bike from the Trash and Ride it to the Beach

I come from a long-line of hardened dumpster divers, or what eco-hipsters now call “freegans.” As a grom, my crew and I roamed the streets salvaging bikes, surfboards, wetsuits and anything else that could propel us to the beach and in the water (no one in IB had any money in the 70s).

I continue that tradition with my kids and often depend on the largesse of my 80-year old immigrant father—the Freegan King of California—for a parade of old bicycles we’ve cobbled together as urban surf machines (my kids' first line of bikes proudly emerged from a dumpster run—we fixed them up together).

I’m currently cruising a 80s’ Schwinn 10-speed girl’s beach cruiser that my father either liberated from the street or found very cheap at a garage sale that I’ve outfitted with Carver Surf Racks (that cost more than all of our bikes combined), and a big basket. 

No more parking problems, and I burn a few more calories during my daily surf commute. The Trestles locals are the fittest surfers in California and seem to have bike rack and trailer systems down. I have noticed more people switching to bike surf commutes in the past month than ever before.

So search the streets and alleys of your local millionaire laden beach town (La Jolla is gold) and enjoy the gifts of our throwaway consumer society in order to save money, get in shape and improve air quality.

Take the Bus

The Southern California coastal region is chock filled with trolleys, trains and buses. A monthly pass costs anywhere from $72 for adults to $18 for seniors. So go ahead and make a few friends while swinging your longboard around the bus during the morning beach commute. Last year my kids and their friend Jake caught the ferry, two buses and the Coaster from Imperial Beach to San Clemente in order to spend a few days surfing Lowers, and it only took five hours one way. Time is money and since no one seems to have any money, spend your time wisely, meet new people, and cruise to the waves in our wonderful transit system.

Stop Surfing

Your significant other and mom are correct—surfing in an incredibly selfish and self-centered sport that accomplishes very little and interferes with your job, life and relationships. So nix surfing, reduce your overhead, and spend more time at home with your spouse and children. Who knows, they might even remember who you are.

Whether or not you're a surfer, what do you do to avoid high gas costs? Please share in comments.

Serge Dedina is executive director of WiLDCOAST, an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. He is the author of Wild Sea and Saving the Gray Whale.

North County Transit District October 10, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Don't forget the COASTER and SPRINTER - for just $2 surfers can travel from Escondido to Oceanside (across the street from the Pier) and COASTER stops at some of the best breaks along the coast. GoNCTD.com
Zach Plopper October 10, 2012 at 06:03 PM
I stick to the "one in the hand is worth two in bush" motto. It is probably the best advice I have ever received (from a die-hard forest dwelling Big Sur local). Too many times I have checked a spot, then checked a million other spots, and ended up where I began. If it looks fun, go out.
Emily Young October 10, 2012 at 07:51 PM
As a wife and mother of surfers, I love the idea of seeking out great waves in a way that saves gas and money. And who knew that surfers could be at the cutting edge of the freegan movement?
Dante Pamintuan October 10, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Thank you Serge for a fun look at the surfer mindset and resourcefulness. I was laughing hard throughout my reading of your article. I still remember when I lived at the apartments on Caspian Way back in 1990 and how I would jog with my wetsuit on and my board under my arms for an early session. It was my way if staying in shape when I was in the Marine Corps. Love your articles Serge. We are blessed to have you as part of our Imperial Beach community. Btw...diving for loose change under the seats and between all of the burrito wrappers often got us enough gas to make it from PB and North Park back in the day. May God continue to bless you and your family. To God be the glory.
Stephanie Batt October 10, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Well said! I think everyone should should jump on board with this, non-surfers and all! Time for me to trade in my gas guzzler!
Rick Wilson October 10, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Serge - All good suggestions except #5. In the famous words of John McEnroe, "You cannot be serious!"
Wildcoast October 10, 2012 at 11:23 PM
No need to nix surfing to reduce your overhead, just pace yourself and always no matter what, make time to enjoy your spouse and children. Surfing seems to be good for the body and soul!
Serge Dedina October 11, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Thanks everyone for your comments and feedback. And Dante your diving for loose change comment brought back memories of making everyone pay a buck to get a ride in my '64 Volvo to go on surf trips to Baja and how sometimes quite a few of the crew didn't even have a dollar for gas. Scrounging seemed to be a word we used a lot back then....
Rich October 11, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Dude, carpooling is a great idea. You might also try a good fuel additive (there are some that DO work) to boost MPG a few points. Check out www.SaveOnFuel.info ...
Ben McCue October 11, 2012 at 05:21 PM
The key is getting an alley bike that is so hideous that you never have to lock it up. The only upgrades should be rust and duct tape...wobbly wheels help too
Ed Teel October 12, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Nice job Serge, Q: If I trade in my work truck for a "Smart car (?)", do you know where I will be able to dispose of the batteries that have been designated as hazardous waste? The Haz-mat fees and replacement cost for a new set of batteries will make a gallon of gasoline seen like a real value.
Serge Dedina October 14, 2012 at 12:16 AM
Hi Ed: Not sure on battery issue--the other alternative to hybrid/electric vehicles are the super efficient TDI VWs--superb gas mileage and great performance. They are pricey though. The irony is that Europe is chock full of gas and diesel vehicles that are way more efficient than our hybrids. Not sure why we can't make those here..
Lydia October 26, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Thanks Serge for your story! Another green idea is to recycle and repair our wetsuits instead of buying all-new neoprene almost every season. Thrift stores and garage sales have great deals, and if one searches "wetsuit repair" online, a host of local shops come up. Great way to turn an old full suit into a spring suit, or repair what you have and keep it going a few more seasons...
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Factorw12 November 21, 2012 at 06:10 PM
you can always check a free forecast website like http://www.solspot.com, they have a combination of forecasts and live HD cameras (all for free). You can get a quick scan of your favorite beach and then make the call if you think it is worth driving (saving time/money/gas/relationships)


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