Plenty of people move into their vans lately, but few do it to explore some of the coldest places on Earth. Ian Battrick outfitted his rig to withstand arctic temperatures and now he’s driving around testing out coldwater surf gear that he’s making with some buddies back in Jersey. Here he talks with us about the joy of waking up “at home” in a new place every day, how far wetsuit have come since he started surfing coldwater, and what some of these icy places look like from the windshield of a Ford Transit.
How long did it take you to convert your van? Where did you start?
Seven years ago, I bought a Ford Transit works van, must-sell that day for cash-in-hand deal. The test drive was straight off a building site with a cement mixer still rolling around in the back. The idea I had in mind was to kit it up for cold water exploration/living for months at a time, as far as Iceland, Norway, Scotland, etc. and for charging through freezing conditions.
One test drive and three days of flat-out work later, two friends and I had converted/butchered it into a fully insulated, kitted out mobile home. With everything needed to survive, surf and explore. A great swell was headed for Scotland right after finishing my van conversion, so I booked it on the ferry and headed to Scotland solo for a few months to test it out.
What materials and tools did you use?
Whatever I could borrow or get my hands on toolwise. We basically just insulated the walls and roof with Kingspan, followed by ply wooding it, with van wall carpet over that. I have a leisure battery wired up in there for power, can fit seven boards in a board storage area under the bed, which has a pop-up table with a two-benches option to it. It’s all I need.
What is the make and model of your rig?
Ford Transit 2000
Why did you decide to move into your van?
Having done numerous trips for weeks at a time to places like Iceland, Norway, Scotland and all around Europe over the years I know exactly how expensive car rental, living and accommodation gets in these places! Then add in the factor that you may cover so much coastline daily from one spot to the next, it isn’t logical or cost effective to be anything else but nomadic. The van allows you total freedom and to have your home, plus everything you need with you wherever you are. I also like that you can wake up “at home” in a new location each day, or even a new country if you wanted, in Europe.
Living the cheap and simple life from day to day – surfing, seeking a bit of solitude and exploring new areas/waves. Be it at the beach waking up to surf one day, to amongst the beauty of the fjords the next.
You mentioned that you’re traveling around Scotland to test out new gear. What are you stoked on most?
I am really stoked on the Lunasurf wetsuits I’m making now. No jokes, the most I wear even in mid-winter Iceland now is an “all 4mm hooded wetsuit” and surfing twice a day no worries, as if it’s a 2mm, zero restriction, light, loose.
Whereas beforehand in years gone by, wintersuits at 6mm felt more like 8mm, along with being restrictive, heavy. I’ve surfed so much cold water over the years, I know what makes for a good wetsuit, and hands down these are the best I’ve worn. It’s also the suit I’m wearing in this Scotland video.
Lunasurf is a company I recently started with two friends back in Jersey. Apart from my boards, I design, test and ride all my own products now from leashes to full traction to wetsuits. I was never a fan of wax and boots, so Im pretty stoked on going full traction these days too. Plus it is less hassle, mess, way easier for travel, and to just grab your board, go surf.
We are a small independent company, and stoked to have the support from all sorts of guys you may have heard of, who have been riding for us in the way of some products or another. Like Timmy Turner, Ryan Turner, Hugues Oyarzabal, Phil Goodrich, Amy Kotch, Chris Noble, Joss Ash, Reubyn Ash, Eric Ramsey, Cain Kilcullen, Liam Murray Strout, and Matt Capel to name a few.
What does Scotland look like by van?
Scotland is an amazing place, and being in the van is great to really see the country and the elements. I really like being in the van getting battered by the weather, wind and rain at night too, it makes for a great night’s sleep. This last trip there were several amazing nights of the Northern Lights. Surfing all day, then cooking up a meal in the van in the dark, watching the Northern Lights until you fall asleep is pretty special.
Do you ever pay to park for the night? What do you look for in a sleep spot?
No I would never pay to park at night, that’s half the reason I live in the van, to save money, lasting longer on trips. I would keep driving and find somewhere else if that was the case. For a sleep spot, it depends where I am, what’s going on at the time and the next day. I don’t really plan that. Just wherever at the time I want to sleep really. My van is pretty low key, it looks more like a builders van than a traveling surfer, so I can even park it on the middle of a main street, climb in the back and go to sleep without any bother.
Any plans to take your van beyond Scotland?
The van has done Scotland four times now, along with a lot of Europe numerous times over. The furthest road trip being: from Jersey, the ferry to St. Malo, followed by driving through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden to Norway. This was followed by four months of scouring the Norwegian coastline, all the way up hundreds of miles above the Arctic Circle.
To see more from Battrick and his Lunasurf brand, check him here: