Throwing back to a more carefree time in my life, a rather hazy summer stint happened upon me, by relative accident. Heading North in my noble, yet rather expensive to run, Toyota Hiace (used more oil than diesel) and hot off the back of a trip driving arguably too deep into Africa. My surfboard, minimal supplies and not enough paperwork (another story), I promised I would spend one night when passing the little town on my way back through Europe, one night only.
A fair few months and a shake of the head later I emerge wondering what the hell just happened. Living and working within the fort walls of Lagos, Portugal certainly isn't your average 9-5.
Here we catch up with Dan Bill. A fellow I frequented at one of the more established watering holes within the blurry microclimate of the famed town. His knowledge of said town is matched only by his gumption for hunting waves off the beaten track on this lesser known, yet historical and wave rich Atlantic-facing stretch of coast.
Firstly. Sagres or Super bock?
SAGRES everyday. Super bock is too sweet, more sugar, more hangover!
Who are you, where was home? Where is home? What the hell is going on you van dog?
I’m a 29 year old work dodging over frothing van pig, basically I was raised in a suburb of Brum, it seemed I had a thing with the ocean so as soon as I could, I headed South, but I landed lucky as my parents headed South before me, so I followed. I guess my home is now Praa Sands, South West Cornwall- well my parents home anyway.
My home is a 2003 Renault work horse, born to carry old folk back and forth to hospitals and now reborn as an adventure mobile and home since April.
I met you as a sun-drenched salty surf guide who frequented the bar regularly. I just so happened to work in said establishment which allowed me to indulge my selfish need for waves and scratch the itch for our fair share of hazy nights. Where is this town I speak of and why haven't you really left?
Hahaha yeah, the hazy nights, if I remember rightly you taught me the term ‘turbo c@#ted’ which has sat in my mind since. Lagos is the town you speak of, this town is a vortex, you enter, you never grow old and you just want more of it every time. Me though, I have left, a half hour drive north west of that demonic town, I do occasionally indulge myself in some Lagos mayhem though.
I remember having to get out of Lagos. A genuine health choice. Why does that town, more than any other I've ever been to have the rep of writing myself and others off in that fashion?
Lagos like I said is a vortex, once entered your in for fuckin' roller coaster of emotions, the ups are incredible but the downs, the downs are just as gnarly. If you don’t find a balance in Lagos your in for it. You were a bar seasonal worker, you guys went the hardest, I can gladly hold my hands up and say I couldn’t work a season in the bars, I was lucky I had my escape during the day I guess, you punks were on it 24/7!
What makes Lagos so famous for nights out? What is the history of the place and why are so many travellers from down under?
From what i've been told Lagos has been a party place since the 90's for the Portuguese, then slowly the travellers started to get involved and it’s basically held a reputation as a crazy place since, I would say the Aussies have created that reputation. Other than Australian seasonal workers which seem to come in hordes, the Aussies often do a European tour and Lagos is generally the last stop, so these last stops are happening on a weekly basis- It’s like it’s their last chance of freedom, so they go wild.
Explain Lagos darts please.
If I remember rightly, grab a dart, throw it, drink and repeat.
You used to live within the fort walls. Half hour to the West for daily waves, often less of a drive if its got a bit of south in the swell. Why the need for a van if the rent is so cheap and waves seemingly so accessible?
I wanted to live out west, living in Lagos is great but I want to be able to surf when I want to and not drive 30-40 minutes for a wrong tide, this coastline is fickle you have be on the beach at the right time to catch those good days or good hours.
The waves? Why Portugal, why the Algarve? Why not France? Or Spain? Or Norway?
I think I just like this place, I’m comfy here, I know the waves, love the people and food. The Algarve as a whole feels lawless and free. You can surf alone regular and on those 'good hours' it’s as good as anywhere in the world.
Do you mix it up or are you a full blown van lifer? You got a proper digs too with a roof and a couch?
Haha nahhhhh mate, I’m a full blown van lifer, but a respectful one, too many van lifers down here are getting a bad rep due to a couple of dirty fuckers polluting the area with rubbish! Bastards.
But yeah I shower everyday with my solar shower and do everything as I would in a house just a little customised.
You recently did a stint in the UK converting vans. T5's more specifically. How did cutting your teeth in those trenches lead to your current set up and a bigger van. Any inspiration from others? Where did you find the ideas? Did you convert it yourself?
Yeah man, I worked for Dirty Weekender Van Conversions, I’d go as far as saying they are the best in the business as far as bespoke T5/6 conversions go. I learnt a lot from a lot of experienced van converters, I did have a T5 but it was just too small for my needs. I left the VW world and went French.
As far as my conversion goes I went rustic as I loved the rustic look we did at work. Mine is all built from an old boat that had been dry for years, a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into the build, I still look at it now and feel proud hahaha.
How are you sustaining your life? Wheres the cheddar coming from? Work?
I’m on the surf instructor tools this season, but I’m occasionally helping people convert little parts of vans, building beds, helping with 12v electrics, anything i'm capable of really.
Full time van-lifer is the dream for many. Now that you've got a fair bit of time under your belt in the van is it a dream or is it genuinely sustainable?
It really depends who you are, I’m very much a 'lifestyle over salary' person, so i'm happy with what I have, but vanlife isn’t all rainbows and perfect Instagram shots. It has its downs, breakdowns and is almost a constant mess, it's all part of the journey. I think it’s sustainable for many but not all.
What are the plans for the winter and the next few years for Dan?
Next few years is a big question, but the next couple of months is pretty set in place, me and a few mates are heading North back to Cornwall over a month, hopefully scoring waves all the way up, North Portugal, Spain and France and then I’m doing a Cornish winter. Then...fuck knows. Maybe I’ll have to grow up.
When are you gonna come up here to the Basque and get some waves with me you Portuguese hound?
See you November.
Cheers mate. DAN