How to Build a Surf Van

Many surfers – especially those of us on the west coast – often dream of life on the road.

All your worldly possessions and needs stored neatly inside a van with the freedom to travel from one surf destination to the next in search of perfect, empty waves all year long.

Building your own surf van – whether you want to dive into a life on wheels or you’re looking for something for your weekend getaways – is actually not too difficult.

Obviously, you can go as simple or complex as you want to when designing and building a surfer’s van. This page will provide some tips and resources to help you get started.

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Steps involved for a Surf Van Conversion

Before you get started, it’s important to take a step back and map out your surf van conversion project.

Here are the steps involved in building a surf van:

  • Plan your design and sketch it out. This will serve as handy blueprints along the way.
  • Get the right van to start with.
  • Gather your tools, materials, and supplies for the build.
  • Start stripping out want you won’t be keeping.
  • Insulate the floor, ceiling, and walls.
  • Install electrical, lighting, and any plumbing/water supplies.
  • Frame the interior.
  • Install the floor, ceiling, and wall paneling.
  • Frame out the cabinets, counters, bed, and storage.
  • Complete your finishing work on the wood surfaces.
  • Begin organizing your supplies, gear, and equipment.
  • Start your adventure.

The best tip for a successful surf van build is to have a plan and stay organized through the process.

Be cognizant of the weight of your build and opt for building materials that will save weight and space.

Best Vans to Turn into a Camper Van for Surfing

The first step to any surf van conversion is choosing a good starter van.

Some of the best surf vans include:

If you really want to build something unique you can also opt to start with an old school bus or ambulance.

What Should You Include in your Surf Van?

As stated above, the possibilities for your surf van are endless. You can go a tricked out or as simple as you want, but there are some essentials that every surf van should have.

Most surf vans should include:

  • Insulated walls, floor, and ceiling.
    • EPS foam insulation is a good choice here. This will help regulate the van’s temperature whether it’s hot or cold so you don’t have to worry about heating and AC.
  • Framing and paneling for the ceiling, walls, and floor.
    • This is a good place to opt for a light material. Some good options here include bamboo, redwood, spruce, and pine. Anything light is a good idea.
  • Counter space and cabinets for cooking, working, and storage.
    • Plywood is a decent option here.
  • Storage space for your surfboards (this is the whole reason you’re building the van).
  • A mattress and sleeping area.
  • Solar power unit or electrical system.
  • Kitchen and food storage space.
  • Water storage solution.

Before you start designing and buying things for your van, you really need to determine how you’ll be using it:

  • If it’s a long-term living space, you’re going to want to cover everything from full kitchen and ample storage to possible a portable bathroom.
  • How much stuff you need to travel with will determine how much storage space you should design for.

Tools & Materials Needed to Build a Surf Camper

Having the right tools (along with some patience) is your first step to a successful van build. Here are some of the tools and equipment you’ll need:

Some materials you’ll want to keep extra of include:

  • Wood glue.
  • Screws.
  • Nails.
  • Sandpaper.

You’ll want to use some PPE while you build the van including eye protection and a respirator mask.

Useful Products for your Surf Van

Here are some things that make van life a little easier regardless of how complex or simple your build:

With all this, you’ll be ready to start building your surf van!

Start with a plan, gather your materials, measure twice, cut once, and get to work.

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