It’s kind of the ultimate tool for all professional windsurfers, the surf bus, or surf van, or whatever you want to call it. Over the past ten years I’ve had two vans and both have seen me maliciously abuse their guts, stripping them out, re-fitting, trying every possible surfrack vs bed combo. The two essentials right, get the gear in, make a small coffin sized space for sleeping.
Well these last weeks I’ve had a bit of time to finally tune my van the way I wanted. I spent months building up a catalogue of inspiring images over the winter and went from wanting a modern sophisticated vehicle to actually stepping back a little and finding myself super attracted to these more wooden based fit-outs.
So it wasn’t exactly a blank canvas; a couple years before I fitted the insulation, ply-lining and carpeting. I installed a bed, far too high, but myself and a friend were carrying A LOT of gear at the time. One year ago I fitted a kitchen unit and the two rear windows. For my estimated costs scroll down.
Fitting Side Windows
First job: Tint and fit two side windows. It’s surprisingly easy, you need the following; soapy water (for applying the tint), a squeegy thing (for squeezing out the soapy water from the tint), drill, metal drill bit, electric jigsaw (or similar with metal cutting blades), sandpaper, adhesive, duck tape and those glass sucker things.
Bed Positioning and Removing Old Fittings
Next up we lowered and changed the bed position. Instead of sleeping lengthways, we will sleep across the van. I’m 188cm, the width is about 178cm, solution: to give much more room for everything else in the van I will sleep diagonally in the bed, tried and tested and it worked absolutely fine.
Next job, we stripped out the old fittings, basically this whole unit behind the driver’s seat, it stored the spare wheel, a bunch of tools and random stuff.
Installed a box, it can store up to 6 windsurf boards and sails/masts around it. I carry four boards with two surf boards, 10 sails, 6 masts and so on. Booms are on the other side along with a couple more surf boards, kites and the spare wheel. We will also put a fridge in there.
Although I was keen for a lot of wood I know it’s good to save a bit of weight where possible so we got hold of a wood vinyl and put this around the box and other bits for some detailing.
Work then began on the seating.
First up, I installed the new L shaped seating, 35cm height, later about 42cm with the cushions.
We then recycled some 30 year old fencing wood. Taking the sander to it, the wood came up super nice and we used it everywhere we could. Note the windowsill, the top of the box and you’ll see where else later.
It took some serious sanding!
Back to the seating area. There’s a top opening storage locker, which now houses the 1000w inverter and some electrics as well as tools. The whole area was carpeted to match the walls. Ah and the second compartment was built to perfectly fit my drone box, it fits perfectly. Under the corner is the leisure battery and all the wiring, accessed from behind the drivers seat. Tips for carpeting; put the carpet on the ground, coat with spray on adhesive, wait 30 seconds and press the wood onto the carpet, cut out the excess trim, jobs done.
Cushions and Curtains
We picked up some curtains from a nearby homeware shop, where we also bought a €29 kids mattress for the seat cushions. The curtains were trimmed to size, curtain wires put in place and small clips attached to each curtain and hung in place.
The cushions were cut to size with a bread knife and then hand made covers were produced by my girlfriend, #sewingskills.
My first idea was to have a table that slid out from the kit storage box but then whilst walking around the builders market/shop/thing we came across the perfect hinges. So cut up two more pieces of wood, screwed them in place and now we can have just a small coffee table or space for 2 with full legroom underneath. The hinges just swing up and gravity locks them in place. I actually leave the tables up whilst driving so they don’t rattle (I know, loads of useful info here right).
We got inspired by a shelving unit we saw in Ikea (well similar to Ikea), it had steps in the shelving and held these boxes that we now have in place. So more wood and this time using bamboo for the uprights, I measured around the boxes and secured the shelving in. It’s fastened to the bed surround, which we also fitted from the old fencing wood (same on the other side of the bed when you open the back doors). Plenty of bolts used and brackets to the wall so it will stay in place in case someone decides to drive into the back of us. NB. Bamboo is super difficult to deal with, it splits super easy, so basically ended up using a lot of bolts and cables. There are still more cables to go in.
Note: At first I wanted to use metal table legs for the uprights, super happy I didn’t as I think the bamboo looks a hundred times better.
Dropdown Film Watching Shelf
I had pretty grand images of a projector in the back with a pull down screen and so on, but it’s just not practical. The next best thing, and actually now we have tried and tested it, it’s perfect, is a drop down shelf situated at the end of the bed. I’d seen some ideas of a hanging shelf on Pinterest, but that was also impractical, so I met half way as I really wanted to use this type of rope in the van. It’s a fairly self explanatory build, I’ll let you work it out from the pics.
Actually when you start working it out, there’s quite a lot to carry in the van so we used some of the leftover wood and rope and made two more cupboards above the cab area. The cupboards fold up towards the roof to reveal an area for all our clothes/towels and a few other bits and pieces.
I forgot to get a good photo of this but I just put two hinges on each bit of wood, drilled a hole for the handle and tied the rope through it. You can see it at the back of this shot.
Other additions include a box extension lead, it’s in the corner by the window in one of the next shots (contains four sockets and 2 USB sockets). The portable speaker is ideal. A solar panel is to come as well as the fridge. I’ll fit some small pockets above the bed for the laptops and some steps up to the bed. Lastly, some 12v strip lighting around the bed area. This last paragraph may be more a to do note for me than anything else. I’ll update this article as thing are done.
Reason for the van work: it’s home from now until October. I’ll be video blogging from it all over Europe as I pick up where I left off in Cape Town. If you don’t follow the Vlogs then check them out on my youtube channel and please subscribe: youtube.com/c/AdamSims. Check a quick video walk through on the next vlog of the van.
I will travel from the UK to Germany, Austria, quick stop back in the UK, down through France and Spain to Tarifa, across to the Canary Islands, then back and all the way through Europe (Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy) to the Greek Islands where I will take the van to Naxos and on to Kos, then back North, potentially to the Arctic Circle in Norway again (like I did last year), then Holland and finally back to the UK.
Supported by: ProWind92 Fuerteventura, Patrik Diethelm, Sailloft Hamburg
– Initial build (insulation*, ply lining, carpet, flooring, roofing) – about £650 (*= three layers of insulation; layer 1 = bubble wrap, layer 2 = thin foam, layer 3 = bubble wrap)
– Bed – £20 (mostly recycled wood)
– Racking – £60 (I removed all this now)
– Electrics (leisure battery, split relay, wiring, switches, 12v cigarette lighter plug, 1000W inverter, extension cube/box, lights) – £450
– Kitchen unit (came as one piece: double gas cooker and sink with electric pump and drainage plus shelving and 12v socket) – £900 + £140 fuel to collect!
– Shelving/seating/fittings/cushions/curtains/co2 detector/battery charger/tools = £350
– Additional help/wood/tools – priceless
– Build Time – 2 weeks solid if you do it on your own.
*Photos Copyright – Adam Sims