Shreddin’ the gnarl in California with a surf legend

Every day I eagerly anticipate the arrival of’s “Unpacked” e-newsletter, showcasing a single brilliant destination or product you absolutely must know about. A service that complements your experience, Unpacked entices you to “Travel smarter with our daily insider tips on hotels, hot spots, gear, and more,” and their methods are effective. I’ve added at least 30 things to my bucket list since I signed up for this, from riding the revitalized Orient Express, which appears to take you on a magical, champagne-drenched ride through Narnia, to driving cross country in my top-of-the-line Eddie Bauer Airstreamer and unloading my kayak at every opportunity.

Without doing any research, I’d say that at least half of Unpacked’s daily features are hotels and their various packages offered. As a PR professional specializing in hospitality and travel, I’ve even pitched Concierge a package or two. (They were respectfully declined, not being high-end enough I’m guessing.) Usually I quickly skim and delete these emails because my budget wouldn’t exactly cover a suite in Dubai. Plus, to be honest, they are boring.


This blew me out of the water, so to speak.

Subject: Shreddin’ the gnarl in California with a surf legend

Here’s the Deal

Tuesday, April 19

Endless Summer Ultimate Surf Package, Laguna Beach, California

The Pacific Edge Hotel’s new Endless Summer Ultimate Surf Package channels the spirit of the seminal 1960s travel and surf documentary by pairing you up with one of its stars, Robert August (pictured back in the day, far right), for a one-on-one day of surfing, searching out perfect breaks along SoCal’s storied coast.

It don’t matter if you’re grom, random stander, or bona fide railer, you’ll also get a place to crash overlooking Laguna Beach in the 129-room, brightly painted boutique property. Also provided: Endless Summer swag, including a six-pack of lager and a DVD box set. Plus, after a day in the waves, you’re invited to chillax with August and his surfer son Sam over sundowners and appetizers on the beach. Righteous!

Endless Summer Ultimate Surf Package available April 19, 2011 through March 31, 2012; starts at $5,200 (must book 21 days in advance)”

And here’s the package described on the hotel’s website (Unpacked gives it to you much more eloquently and uses the appropriate lingo like “grom” and my fave “chillax”):

The “Endless Summer” Ultimate Surf Experience

Endless Summer Ultimate Surf Experience

The iconic surf documentary The Endless Summer® follows two young surfers around the world in search of the perfect wave, giving birth to the “surf and travel” culture. Pacific Edge Hotel, Joie de Vivre’s official Endless Summer® hotel located in the heart of Laguna Beach, is celebrating the spirit of the film by creating something extra special for guests in search of the perfect wave… and the perfect travel experience. Starting Now through March 31, 2012, when guests purchase a comfortable and cool Beachfront Room they can truly live The Endless Summer® and embark on a one day, one-on-one surf adventure with Robert August, one of the stars of the film and a world-renowned surfer. After catching waves with August at Southern California’s most legendary breaks, the guest will have the opportunity to sit down and chat with him and his son, surfer Sam August, over cocktails and appetizers on the beach. The package also includes Bruce Brown’s “‘The Ultimate Summer’ DVD set” and a six-pack of Karl Strauss’ Endless Summer Lager. Guests also have the option to add on one of August’s custom made “What I Ride” surfboards (boards start at $870). Package cost starts at $5,200. Must book 21 days in advance.

Offer valid March 31, 2011 – March 31, 2012. Twenty One (21) days advance purchase required. Rates subject to space availability and minimum night stay requirements. Taxes and gratuities not included. Surf lesson included for Two (2) Persons, additional lessons can be added at an additional fee.

Obviously, what makes this the ultimate ($5K) travel experience isn’t the DVD set, Endless Summer Lager, staying in a luxe Beachfront Room or even surf lessons, but the opportunity to share the stoke with a true surf legend. To hang out with Robert August, who surfed previously unsurfed, pristine waves around the world in The Endless Summer, is probably as close the average guy with $5,200 burning a hole in his pocket can get to imitating the global surf experience. Especially because you’d have to go back to the 60’s to even come close.

Here’s what I’ve been trying to get to all along, though: $5,200 could have taken August and Michael Hynson on their epic tour thrice over. (Again, no research done here. I just wanted to say thrice.) Aside from their plane tickets, it didn’t appear that they spent much on food, lodging and transportation. They once spent a whopping $30 for a luxury hotel room in South Africa, and a few bucks on gas, but otherwise expenses didn’t figure prominently in the film. After all, surfers are known for having low-maintenance, frugal lifestyles.

So. Is it really “celebrating the spirit of the film” if you’re essentially buying time with someone who you’d otherwise never meet? Plus–I wince just imagining it–what if you were to drop in on his wave or smack him with your board after you wipe out? Paranoid hypotheticals aside, I just don’t really get it. On the surface it’s a really neat concept, and of course I would jump at this opportunity under a different context, but this package reads like a Make a Wish Foundation opportunity, one that costs you $5,200 plus applicable taxes and fees.

I think I’ll just get a six-pack of my choice, forgo the special edition box set to watch the film streaming on Netflix, and shred some gnarly whitewater. Maybe someday, when I’m a world-renowned surfer, Mr. August and I will chillax without money changing hands. If either of us are still alive by then.